When you're sick to your stomach, your first thought might be to reach for a can of ginger ale — it's what your parents said to do, right? While you may find some benefits of ginger ale soda, however, you might be better off going straight to the source with ginger root instead.
Ginger root can not only help to alleviate nausea and vomiting, but also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor and anti-ulcer effects, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It's also been touted for its beneficial effects on blood pressure and heart health, as described in April 2017 research in the journal Nutrition.
Ginger ale, on the other hand, may be highly processed and lacking in the important compounds that give ginger its soothing properties. If you're feeling the negative effects of drinking too much ginger ale, you may need to scale back or try a different form of ginger.
Additionally, if you regularly consume too much ginger, side effects may require you to scale back and try another approach to manage your symptoms.
All About Ginger
Ginger is a perennial herb primarily grown in Asia and tropical regions and is widely consumed worldwide, according to March 2016 research published in Integrative Medicine Insights. The edible underground stem, aka rhizome, of ginger has been used since antiquity — not only as a spice, but also to treat gastrointestinal ailments, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and dyspepsia. It may also be used to treat arthritis, muscular aches and fever.
Integrative Medicine Insights researchers analyzed the use of ginger in the prevention of nausea and vomiting for pregnant women and those undergoing chemotherapy. According to the authors, the best available evidence demonstrates that ginger is a safe, effective, inexpensive treatment for nausea and vomiting.
Compounds in ginger called gingerols and shogaols are what give ginger its distinct pungency and pharmacological activity, says Integrative Medicine Insights. However, the concentrations of active ingredients will vary greatly based on the way ginger is processed and used.
That is, ginger is available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, tinctures, teas and liquid extracts. There's some evidence that dried ginger powder products contain the highest quantity of gingerol-related compounds, followed by fresh ginger and ginger tea products, according to the Integrative Medicine Insights researchers.
Benefits of Ginger Ale Soda
Although the ginger in ginger ale might not be as potent as ginger powder or fresh ginger, it can still be an effective remedy for nausea and vomiting. The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends consuming ginger products, such as ginger soda, ginger tea or ginger candy, to alleviate morning sickness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says ginger ale may help to manage nausea resulting from chemotherapy treatment.
Drinking ginger ale, along with water and other clear fluids, can also help you stay hydrated following vomiting- or diarrhea-induced water loss. The Cleveland Clinic advises taking small sips throughout the day if you've been vomiting or have diarrhea.
You may wish to drink an oral electrolyte solution instead — it'll help you replace lost fluids, as well as important minerals like potassium and magnesium, adds the Cleveland Clinic.
Read more: Ginger Water Benefits
Ginger Ale Side Effects
Given that ginger is most effective in its near-natural state, ginger ale won't necessarily be the best way to gain the benefits of ginger. The Cleveland Clinic points out that ginger ale may contain artificial ginger flavoring instead of real ginger, or insufficient amounts of ginger to offer relief.
In fact, the negative effects of drinking too much ginger ale might have little to do with the ginger content, and more to do with other ingredients. Ginger ale is often loaded with sugar, adds the Cleveland Clinic. If you have bloating, gas or indigestion, the carbonation and sugar can worsen your symptoms. Diet varieties might not be any better if they contain artificial sugar, which isn't always easily digested.
While there can be side effects of drinking too much ginger ale, the same is true if you're ingesting too much ginger. Side effects are typically mild, however, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). In some people, ginger may cause abdominal discomfort, heartburn, diarrhea or gas.
If you regularly consume too much ginger, side effects may include an increased bleeding risk due to a decrease in platelet aggregation, according to a 2014 Nutrition Journal review. The NCCIH adds that although research has not definitively shown whether ginger interacts with medications, there's some concern that it may interact with anticoagulants (blood thinners).
Certain other conditions warrant a discussion with your healthcare provider before using ginger, adds the NCCIH. Talk with your doctor first if you:
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have gallstone disease, as ginger may increase the flow of bile
- Are taking any other medications or have any medical conditions
- Currently use any other complementary or alternative health approaches
With your doctor's OK, ginger can become a welcome addition to your toolbox of natural remedies. As for ginger ale, practice moderation so you aren't overindulging in this fizzy treat.
- Integrative Medicine Insights: "The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Morning Sickness"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Side Effects of Cancer Treatment"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Ginger Ale and Saltine Crackers? 5 Ways to Ease Stomach Pain and Nausea"
- NCCIH: "Ginger"
- Nutrition Journal: "A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effect and Safety of Ginger in the Treatment of Pregnancy-Associated Nausea and Vomiting"
- Nutrition: "Evaluation of Daily Ginger Consumption for the Prevention of Chronic Diseases in Adults: A Cross-Sectional Study"
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ginger