Why does wine give me stomach acid?

Sep 26, 2013

Q: I really love red wine, especially Shiraz and Cabernet. But drinking wine, even one or two glasses, gives me lots of stomach acid. What can I do? —R.G., India

A:There's considerable debate on the effects of alcohol—and of red wine in particular—on the production of gastric acid. Some research suggests that all types of alcohol will upset those who suffer from stomach acid, heartburn and other symptoms of acid reflux disease; other studies, however, have found that while cigarette smoking and salt consumption can affect acid reflux, alcohol likely won't. Meanwhile, there are scientists who claim that eating habits don't have much of a bearing on gastric acid at all.

When something triggers acids in your stomach to bubble up, you may perceive a burning sensation in the esophagus. Those who suffer from acid reflux, or chronic heartburn, experience this sensation frequently. In theory, any acidic food or beverage could trigger stomach acid, and those that name wine as an instigator identify wine's malic and succinic acids as culprits. However, despite its acid content, red wine may also possess protective qualities. Research has shown that red wine can kill Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria often present in patients suffering from chronic gastritis.

While the scientific debate carries on, the best thing you can do is to notice your own body's responses to what you're consuming. Look for wines from warm climates, which will have less acidity than their cool-climate counterparts, and for naturally low-acid grape varieties like Viognier, Merlot, Carmenère and Gewürztraminer. Also consider speaking to your doctor about taking a stomach acid-reducing medication, such as a proton-pump inhibitor.

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