The Zero Proof Beverages: Alternative for People with RefluxPublished on Tuesday, August 15, 2023 by
Alcohol and GERD: How Drinking Affects Reflux & the Rise of The Zero-Proof Beverages
Approximately 65% of Americans of legal drinking age - drink alcohol per a recent Gallup Poll. This number has actually decreased from its highest record of 71% in 1978; however, the national average has held steady at around 63% for many decades.
Conversely, about 1 in 5 Americans live with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, and the incidence is rising. Did you know that alcohol is a common symptom trigger for reflux?
GERD is chronic reflux or heartburn where basically stomach acid and food/beverage contents splash back up into the esophagus. You may notice a burning sensation in the throat and chest, as well as other uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, coughing, problems swallowing, sore throat, or a feeling like you want to vomit. For many individuals, it severely impacts their quality of life. Acidic foods and beverages, including alcohol, are well-known to cause and enhance reflux symptoms.
A 2019 meta-analysis from Alcohol and Alcoholism gives us evidence that there might be a link between drinking alcohol and the chance of developing GERD. They found that the more alcohol people drank and the more often they drank, the higher the risk of developing GERD. When alcohol goes into the throat and stomach, it can harm the lining there. Alcohol is also considered a substance that can cause cancer. Another thing to consider is that when alcohol breaks down in the body, it creates a byproduct called acetaldehyde. This byproduct might affect how the throat and stomach work and cause problems with the movement of the digestive system.
Common alcoholic beverages that can cause reflux symptoms are going to be ciders, white wines, and cocktails mixed with trigger ingredients such as citrus, coffee, and chocolate (like margaritas, screwdrivers, mudslides, and Irish coffee). However, everyone is different, and all alcoholic beverages can potentially trigger your symptoms.
Personally, working in practice, I can say a vast majority of my patients who have GERD or reflux typically report that alcohol is a trigger for them, and normally, my typical recommendation is abstinence from these kinds of beverages. For those who really enjoy the taste of alcohol but don’t want the reflux-inducing symptoms associated with drinking it, I am happy to report that alternatives are available.
I’ve recently learned about a new trend- non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits.
Many people want to reduce their alcohol intake for several reasons and are leaning towards drinking non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic beverages. The Zero Proof is a newer brand that I’ve heard about, and I actually have had some patients who have entirely weaned themselves off alcohol using this product and can control symptoms of GERD a lot better.
The Zero Proof has a huge selection of non-alcoholic wines, sparkling wines, gin, whiskey, bourbon, tequila and mezcal, rum, vodka, and others. I have had people tell me that if you are accustomed to regularly drinking alcohol, you might want to start by mixing the liquors into one of the many mocktail recipes available on the website.
When choosing mocktail recipes that are reflux-friendly, be mindful to avoid ones mixed with citrus fruit juices, mint, spices, peppers, or chocolate and coffee until you have identified your personal reflux triggers.
Several recipes noted on the website might be good options for people living with reflux:
- Non-Alcoholic Peach Beerlini Recipe
- Cucumber Raspberry Infused Tonic Water Mocktail
- Kiwi Basil Sparkling Water
- Virgin Manhattan
- Zero Proof Hot Apple Cider
If you’re brave, you can even come up with your own recipes and concoctions with fruits/flavors/juices that you tolerate. To assist you with this, we have some additional tips for reflux-friendly drink options for you!
As always, if you have questions about alcohol and reflux and want to discuss them further, talk with a registered dietitian for more information.
- Saad, L. (2023, June 6). What percentage of Americans drink alcohol?. Gallup.com. https://news.gallup.com/poll/467507/percentage-americans-drink-alcohol.aspx
- Pan, J., Cen, L., Chen, W., Yu, C., Li, Y., & Shen, Z. (2019). Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 54(1), 62–69. https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agy063
- Chen, S., Wang, J., & Li, Y. (2010). Is alcohol consumption associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease? Journal of Zhejiang University-science B, 11(6), 423–428. https://doi.org/10.1631/jzus.b1000013
- How Common is GERD? (n.d.). thesurgicalclinics.com. Retrieved June 20, 2023, from https://thesurgicalclinics.com/how-common-is-gerd/.
- Webb, D. (2023, March). Zero-proof beverages: A booming trend among the “sober curious”. Today’s Dietitian. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0323p18.shtml
Emily HammMS, RDN, CSO, LD