Is your heartburn being a buzzkill?


If you’re prone to occasional heartburn, you don’t just need to watch what you eat…your choice of cocktail matters, too. Any alcoholic beverage can make heartburn worse, but Bloody Marys seem to take all the blame because they are spicy as well. That doesn’t mean they have to be off-limits, though! Here are some tips that can help reduce your symptoms the next time you choose to indulge in your favorite brunch cocktail.

Don’t overindulge. Try limiting how much and how often you drink. I recommend drinking one glass of water for every Bloody Mary you consume to help moderate your intake. This will help fill you up, making it easier to pace yourself, and will dilute your stomach acid.

Drink earlier instead of later. Avoiding alcohol a good 3-4 hours before going to bed may help keep your symptoms under control. In fact, I tell all my non-diabetic clients to avoid any food or drink other than water during that time, because it’s good for the liver and promotes deep, restful sleep. In other words, day drinking is fine; just don’t take a nap afterward.

Choose a less acidic spirit. Clear spirits tend to be lower in sugar and congeners, which makes them low in acid. The least acidic alcohol of the bunch is gin. It contains no sugar, and it’s made from botanicals (juniper, licorice, coriander, etc) that contain alkalizing minerals. Tequila and rum are both made from plants that are harvested for sugar, but because of the distillation process, they actually don’t contain any sugar either. Vodka can vary all over the pH scale, so look for one that’s made from potatoes or corn to get the least acidity. No matter which spirit you decide on, remember this: the lower the proof, the less stomach acid it produces.

Add bitters. Bitters have been used for hundreds of years to improve appetite or relieve indigestion. They contain an extract of herbs and plant barks. Try a few drops in your Bloody Mary, or mix a dropperful in a glass of tonic water to sip before brunch.

Stay away from heartburn-causing foods while you’re drinking. Things like greasy fried appetizers will make your symptoms worse, as will overeating in general. And be careful with spicy garnish like banana peppers and chorizo on top of your Bloody Mary.

Wear looser-fitting clothes when you drink, to keep your digestive tract more comfortable. Trust me, it works.

Take an antacid. Proton pump inhibitors like Prilosec and Prevacid don’t have any specific warnings about interaction with alcohol. On the other hand, H2 blockers like Zantac, Pepcid, and Tagamet will increase your blood alcohol level up to 38% when taken with alcohol. Be sure to communicate honestly with your doctor about how much and how often you usually drink, so he or she can prescribe something that fits your lifestyle while giving you the relief you need.

Your heartburn and your libation of choice can learn to happily coexist. Try these tips and see how much better you can feel!