It's no secret that soda, even the sugar-free kind, is hazardous to your health. Enter sparkling water, a still-fizzy but more health-conscious alternative to soft drinks. But can carbonated water cause stomach pain or other side effects? And is it any better than your favorite soda?
Well, when it comes to meeting your daily fluid needs, carbonated water makes a much better choice than your high-calorie, nutritionally devoid soft drink. In other words, no, carbonated water is not bad for you, per the Mayo Clinic.
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In fact, according to a March 2016 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sparkling water hydrates people just as well as still water. And because sparkling water typically doesn't contain many calories or additives, it can also help with weight loss and doesn't contribute to negative health effects the way soft drinks might.
However, you may still experience some unpleasant side effects from the carbonation in your fizzy drink. Here are the disadvantages of sparkling water to be aware of.
Types of Carbonated Water
You would think it would be fairly easy to find a fizzy water. But after a walk down the drink aisle of your grocery store, you'll see that the shelves are stocked with carbonated water cans of all varieties. As a result, you might find yourself wondering what is in a soda water versus other types of sparkling drinks.
So, what is a soda water, seltzer, mineral water and more? Here are the different types of carbonated water, according to the Cleveland Clinic:
- Seltzer, carbonated or soda water: plain water with added carbonation
- Club soda: plain water with added carbonation and minerals, like sodium bicarbonate
- Mineral water: spring water with naturally occurring minerals and carbonation
- Tonic water: plain water with added carbonation, sweeteners like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup and minerals like quinine (which give it a bitter taste)
What Water Is Bad for You?
In general, carbonated water is not unhealthy so long as you're picking drinks that don't contain added sweeteners — for instance, seltzer water is not bad for you, per the Cleveland Clinic.
But some fizzy waters, like tonic water, can include sugary additives, so it's best to limit or avoid these options (more on that later).
Some varieties of sparkling water also have sodium. For instance, soda water is made of minerals and can contain as much as 94 milligrams per 16 ounces, per My Food Data, so you’re better off with seltzer water.
Carbonated Water Side Effects
It isn't bad to drink sparkling water — in fact, it's a good idea to sip sparkling water if it helps you stay hydrated. But even though it's OK to drink sparkling water every day, it's possible you could experience certain side effects.
Here are some of those potential downsides:
1. Sparkling Water Can Cause Upset Stomach and Bloating
If it feels like your stomach is sensitive to sparkling water, you're not imagining things — unfortunately, yes, carbonated water can cause stomach pain and other digestive discomfort.
By its very definition, bloating develops when your gastrointestinal tract is filled with air or gas, per the Mayo Clinic. And those bubbles in your carbonated water are an added gas. As a result, sparkling water does make you bloated.
Carbonated water can also cause stomach pain, gas and belching for the same reason, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If you regularly experience sparkling water stomach pain, try cutting back on your intake.
Is Seltzer Water Good for Your Stomach?
While carbonated water can cause gas and other digestive discomfort, sparkling water is also good for your stomach in certain ways.
Per the Mayo Clinic, carbonated or soda water is good for you when you're nauseous because it hydrates you (particularly if you're vomiting or have diarrhea). Just make sure to avoid beverages that contain caffeine, which could further irritate your stomach and negate this benefit of carbonated drinks.
2. It Can Contribute to Heartburn
Carbonated water can cause heartburn (also known as acid reflux), according to the Mayo Clinic.
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows backward into into your esophagus, causing a painful burning feeling in your chest or throat. Occasional heartburn is very common, and you can typically treat it using over-the-counter antacids.
However, if you experience heartburn often (specifically, mild heartburn twice a week or more and severe heartburn once a week or more), you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic form of the condition, per the Cleveland Clinic.
If this is the case for you, sparkling water and seltzer can cause heartburn. And because sparkling water and seltzer are bad for acid reflux, cutting back on sparkling beverages may help ease your symptoms.
Per the Cleveland Clinic, alongside carbonated beverages, other drinks and foods to avoid with GERD include:
- Caffeinated drinks
- Citrus fruits or juices
- Spicy food
- Anything particularly greasy or fatty
3. It Can Damage Your Tooth Enamel
Soda is bad for your teeth because it erodes the enamel and adhesive materials used to repair or strengthen damaged or decayed teeth. And as it turns out, some carbonated waters (even plain!) can also have a negative effect on your teeth.
In fact, researchers found carbonated water to be more detrimental to enamel than lime juice or lime soda, according to a January 2020 study in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry.
That's because carbonated water is acidic. Sparkling waters appear to have a pH that ranges from about 4.18 to 5.87, per a January 2018 study in The Korean Journal of Orthodontics, though other research suggests even lower levels. The tipping point where enamel starts to break down is at pH 5.5.
Just how acidic your carbonated water is isn't exactly something you can discover on the nutrition facts panel. But a decent guideline is that the more carbonated the water tastes, the more acidic it is likely to be.
In The Korean Journal of Orthodontics study, researchers tested two levels of carbonated water ("low" and "high," per an indicator light on a Sodastream) on extracted teeth. They found that both carbonation levels affected enamel and so-called microhardness, but the high-level carbonation was more detrimental than the low-level carbonation.
Another drawback to always choosing carbonated water over tap water is that sparkling water lacks fluoride. Fluoridated water is especially important for young children's teeth, and most tap water in the U.S. contains added fluoride. So if your kid has a preference for carbonated water, that's OK — just be sure to also serve them water that's fluoridated.
4. It Could Expose You to Harmful Compounds
In September 2020, Consumer Reports tested 12 carbonated water brands for four specific heavy metals and 30 PFAS (short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). The researchers didn't detect any heavy metals in any of the carbonated water brands they tested.
They did, however, find PFAS in sparkling and seltzer water. PFAS are a class of chemicals also known as "forever chemicals" because they don't break down and can build up in your body and the environment.
In animal studies, PFAS have been found to cause reproductive and developmental problems and lead to tumor growth. In humans, PFAS are linked to higher cholesterol, thyroid and immune system issues and cancer risk, per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
More specifically, the Consumer Reports tests detected PFAS in certain flavors of certain brands. Here's that sparkling water PFAS list:
- Canada Dry
- Poland Spring
- Topo Chico
That said, the sparkling waters' PFAS levels detected were all well below the voluntary limits put out by the EPA.
Is Drinking Too Much Sparkling Water Bad?
So, can you drink too much seltzer or sparkling water? The answer isn't so simple because really, it depends on your body, your reaction to carbonation. and the type of fizzy water you drink.
While carbonation is not inherently bad for you and it is not bad to drink a lot of sparkling water, if you find that sipping seltzer leads to uncomfortable side effects like gas or bloating, it may be best to scale back on fizzy drinks or opt for still water instead, per the Cleveland Clinic. What's more, aim to drink beverages that don't contain additives like sugar or caffeine.
The bottom line: Listen to your body.
5. You Might Get Overactive Bladder Symptoms
Drinking carbonated water is also associated with overactive bladder symptoms — a condition that affects nearly a quarter of the adult U.S. population and is typically more prevalent in people assigned female at birth (AFAB) than people assigned male at birth.
Symptoms of overactive bladder include so-called urinary urgency, or a sudden urge to pee, that may or may not come with incontinence.
Drinking as little as one carbonated beverage per week upped middle-aged people AFAB's risk of urinary stress incontinence, per an October 2020 review in Medicina that studied more than 6,000 people AFAB. And drinking one a day doubles the risk of stress incontinence.
6. It Might Add Extra Sodium to Your Diet
In most cases, too much carbonated water is not bad for you. But some varieties may contain additional ingredients that aren't so beneficial for your health.
Take club soda, for instance — often used as a mixer for alcoholic drinks, club soda usually has added minerals, including potassium and sodium, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Both minerals are crucial for your health, but it's important to limit sodium in your diet. Some brands of club soda can have up to 100 milligrams of sodium per 12 ounces, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is 7 percent of the 1,500 milligrams the American Heart Association recommends as an ideal daily limit for most adults, particularly those who have high blood pressure.
That amount doesn't seem like a lot, but most adults already consume too much sodium in their daily diets — more than 3,400 milligrams per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So if you drink several club sodas each day, that's going to add a lot of extra sodium to your diet.
Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure and is linked to the development of heart disease and stroke, according to the CDC. That's why adults should aim to eat less than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
7. It Can Harm Your Kidneys (If You Have Kidney Disease)
Similarly, the excess sodium in club soda is best avoided if you have an underlying kidney condition, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Too much salt can build up in your body and cause further issues, including:
- Swollen ankles
- Blood pressure spike
- Shortness of breath
- Fluid buildup around your heart and lungs
That's why its best to limit your sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams per day if you have a kidney disorder or high blood pressure, per the National Kidney Foundation.
Consuming too much sodium can also contribute to kidney stones (hard deposits of mineral buildup) even in people who don't have an existing kidney condition, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
8. It Can Contain Added Sweeteners
Sodium isn't the only additive to look out for in your sparkling beverage of choice — some can also contain sweeteners like sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, according to the CDC.
Added sugar provides extra calories to your diet without contributing any nutrients. In fact, sugar-sweetened beverages are the main source of added sugars in the American diet, and they're associated with overweight and obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart and kidney diseases, tooth decay and a type of arthritis called gout, according to the CDC.
Tonic water tends to contain the most sweeteners, per the Cleveland Clinic (that's why some people drink it before a workout). On the other hand, soda water does not have sugar, typically, so it may be your best bet if you're trying to avoid these additives.
Don't Believe the Hype About These Carbonated Water Side Effects
There are some other rumored consequences to drinking sparkling water. But luckily, the below claims are just that — rumors — and there's no good evidence to suggest that you'll experience these side effects.
Some claim that carbonated beverages affect your ability to absorb calcium, which could lead you to believe that there's a connection between carbonated water and joint pain.
This claim may have to do with the fact that certain ingredients found in colas, namely caffeine and phosphorous, might negatively affect your bone density, per the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
However, that rumor isn't true — carbonated water is not bad for your bones and typically does not contain those ingredients, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
2. It Could Mess With Your pH
Carbonation increases acidity. While acidity in itself isn't problematic, if your system becomes too acidic, it can have a negative effect on your health, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Sparkling water tends to have a lower pH (meaning it's more acidic than alkaline), according to McGill University. But fortunately, this acidic bias won't harm you.
3. It Can Make You Hungry
While some small animal studies have suggested that drinking carbonated water is linked to increased appetite, most of the evidence supports the opposite.
Indeed, drinking carbonated water has been linked to short-term feelings of satiety, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
For instance, in a small study of 19 people AFAB, those who drank carbonated water (versus tap or no beverage at all) after an overnight fast recorded feeling fuller and having greater satiety, according to a January 2013 study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Sodium and Health"
- Obesity Research & Clinical Practice: Carbon Dioxide in Carbonated Beverages Induces Ghrelin Release and Increased Food Consumption in Male Rats: Implications on the Onset of Obesity
- Harvard Health Publishing: "By the Way Doctor: Does Carbonated Water Harm Bones?"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "A randomized trial to assess the potential of different beverages to affect hydration status: development of a beverage hydration index"
- Mayo Clinic: "Carbonated Water - Is it bad for you if you drink it every day?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Is Sparkling Water Good for You?"
- My Food Data: "Club Soda"
- Mayo Clinic: "Belching, gas and bloating: Tips for reducing them"
- Mayo Clinic: "Nausea and vomiting"
- Mayo Clinic: "Heartburn"
- Cleveland Clinic: "GERD (Chronic Acid Reflux)"
- Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry: "A time based objective evaluation of the erosive effects of various beverages on enamel and cementum of deciduous and permanent teeth"
- The Korean Journal of Orthodontics: "Effect of carbonated water manufactured by a soda carbonator on etched or sealed enamel"
- Environmental Protection Agency: "PFAS Explained"
- Medicina: "Non-Alcoholic Beverages, Old and Novel, and Their Potential Effects on Human Health, with a Focus on Hydration and Cardiometabolic Health"
- USDA: "Club Soda"
- American Heart Association: "Shaking the Salt Habit to Lower High Blood Pressure"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "About Sodium"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Get the Facts: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Consumption"
- National Osteoporosis Foundation: "Food and Your Bones — Osteoporosis Nutrition Guidelines"
- McGill University: "Is Carbonated Water Bad for Your Teeth?"
- National Kidney Foundation: "Metabolic Acidosis"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- National Kidney Foundation: "Sodium and Your CKD Diet: How to Spice Up Your Cooking"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Kidney Stones"
- National Kidney Foundation: "Hot Topics: How Much Sodium Is Safe for Kidney Patients?"