Heartburn Hangover – Why Alcohol Causes Heartburn
Most of us have had the not-so-great experience of waking one morning to a pounding headache and nausea, realizing that that we could have stopped a few drinks short of this misery. Excessive alcohol consumption can have a triple-impacting effect on the digestive system that leads to nausea, indigestion, and what we know as a “heartburn hangover”.
Just like a hangover headache, a heartburn hangover is an unfortunate effect of drinking too much alcohol. This is actually the result of a few different mechanisms at work and the ingredients in most alcoholic beverages.
Heartburn, and heartburn hangover, is the result of acid reflux. Acid reflux is a condition in which the natural acids in the stomach rise up into the esophagus causing the irritation. Most people will experience acid reflux and heartburn a few times through their life.
Heartburn after drinking alcohol happens because of alcohols effect on the body’s physical functions, as well as the chemical reactions that happen in the stomach. These reactions can be a result of the alcohol itself or something the alcohol has been mixed with, as we will explore below.
How Alcohol Affects the Digestive System
Normally, a round muscle known as the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) is closed and the acid is prevented from entering the base of the wind pipe. When we drink alcohol, the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes and allows that acid to enter the tube. Once the LES is open, we are vulnerable to a number of the other effects of these beverages.
Not only does alcohol cause the LES barrier to malfunction, it is a depressant and makes most of us want to go to sleep when we reach a certain threshold of intoxication. Add to this that we often drink alcohol in the evening and go to sleep with alcohol still in the stomach, and we have another recipe for heartburn.
Laying down can cause stomach acids to move toward the esophagus and if we lie down shortly after drinking alcohol, there might be a large amount of liquid ready to flow into it. Additionally, laying down causes the organs in the body cavity to shift slight, this increases gastric pressure. Gastric pressure can force liquids from the stomach into the esophagus. Many people with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) experience heartburn in the middle of the night for this reason.
The Role of Alcohol Mixers in a Heartburn Hangover
To gain an understanding of how a heartburn hangover can be made worse, we need to first take a look at what types of liquids are most likely to cause heartburn in general. Acidic fruits, caffeine, and carbonated beverages are all commonly offending foods for people who suffer frequent heartburn. They react with stomach acids and cause acid reflux to occur more often.
Now let’s look at the most popular alcoholic drink mixers. Fruit juices including grapefruit juice, orange juice, lemon juice, and lime juice are present in traditional mixed cocktails. “Screwdrivers” are a mixture of vodka and orange juice. “Greyhounds” are a mixture of grapefruit juice and gin or vodka. Lemon and lime juices, along with tequila, are used when concocting a margarita.
Carbonated sodas are another popular mixer for alcohol-based beverages. The classic “Jack and Coke” or “Seven and Seven” contain liquor and carbonated soda. Finally, caffeine is becoming a popular additive in alcoholic beverages for its properties of keeping us alert and awake. Energy drinks mixed with alcohol not only entice us to drink more by making us feel more alert and therefore sober, they can cause severe heartburn hangover because they contain caffeine, fruit juice, carbonation, and alcohol.
If you are suffering from a heartburn hangover, check out our top heartburn remedies that are featured on our homepage.