Lots of people love the sweet, refreshing taste of fizzy soda. But if you experience side effects from carbonated drinks, you might not enjoy the experience as much.
Drinking too much soda is linked to weight gain, diabetes and other health issues, per UCLA Health, but what does soda do to your stomach, specifically? Read on to find out.
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1. May Cause Gas and Bloating
A big reason you might feel a sharp pain in your stomach after drinking soda is that the carbonation in the drink can cause gas and bloating. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, drinking carbonated beverages moves more air into your digestive tract, which can cause bloating, burping or gas.
That thirst-quenching fizz may taste good, but if you've got a sensitive stomach, it can make you feel pretty gross afterward. If this is your problem, you'll probably also feel bloated when you consume carbonated water or other fizzy drinks.
Is Sparkling Water Good for You?
Sparkling water can be a healthier alternative to drinking soda with sugar or artificial sweeteners. However, if you already deal with gas and bloating, the bubbles in sparkling water can make your stomach feel worse.
Also, some types of carbonated water, like club soda, can be high in sodium, so make sure to check the label and drink in moderation.
2. Could Affect Your Stomach Acid
If you've ever researched the effects of colas on stomach acid, you've probably seen some articles that say it helps soothe an upset stomach, and others that assure it does more harm than good. What's the real story?
It all comes down to the way soda interacts with your stomach — and this is different for everyone. While research has not shown a consistent link between soda and acid reflux, carbonated sodas can slightly alter the pH levels in your body, and they can also add air (and therefore pressure) to your stomach and intestines, per an August 2014 study in BMC Gastroenterology.
And the pH of soda is often between 2.32 and 5.24 (acidic), which can be helpful or harmful to some people, according to an April 2017 article in the Journal of the American Dental Association.
It's important to know, though, that this effect is inconsistent and depends on the person. If you struggle with acid reflux, cutting back on soda may alleviate some of your symptoms, but it's probably not a root cause of the problem.
3. Aspartame Might Cause Stomach Pain
While there's regular sugar in soda, diet sodas often have alternative sweeteners — namely aspartame.
Turns out, aspartame could cause problems for your gut. In a September 2018 Molecules study, researchers found that artificial sweeteners can wreak havoc on your gut's microbiome, the collection of natural bacteria that keep your body functioning at its best.
Another September 2019 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, which followed more than 45,000 people from 10 European countries, found that drinking artificially sweetened soft drinks was associated with the development of digestive diseases.
When your microbiome is disrupted, your body has more trouble digesting foods normally. Your stomach and intestines can also become inflamed and uncomfortable. You may notice common symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, like abdominal cramps, constipation and stomach pain.
There are some diet sodas without aspartame, including Diet-Coke with Splenda and Coca-Cola Life. However, if the fizziness of soda is what causes your stomach problems, then these options still may not be the best choice for you.
Other Health Effects of Soda
The effects of soda on your stomach, and on your whole body, go further than just cramping and pain. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, regularly drinking sugary soft drinks is linked with a higher risk of the following:
- Weight gain and obesity
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Decreased bone health
- Premature death
There are also some studies that suggest diet sodas can contribute to joint pain (due to arthritis), but there is not enough research and evidence to support these claims.
Alternatives to Soda
Soda may taste good, but it's full of empty calories that provide little to no nutrition for your body. In the long run, it can ravage your overall physical health.
If you love the taste of carbonated beverages but want to cut back on sugar, try one of the following alternatives to soda:
The Best Drinks for an Upset Stomach
If you have an upset stomach and would like to settle it, you don't need to drink soda. There are some lower-sugar, non-carbonated alternatives to try, including the following, per the University of Wisconsin-Madison:
- Diluted apple, cranberry or grape juice (avoid citrus juice)
- Clear soup broth
- Decaffeinated tea (like peppermint or ginger tea, for example)
For some people, soda can cause gas, bloating, acid reflux and stomach pain — due to the drink's acidity, carbonation and/or artificial sweetener content.
Beyond that, drinking soda consistently can also increase your risk for conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and decreased bone health.
That said, if you love the taste of soda and want alternatives, you can try carbonated water or zero-sugar sodas made with stevia.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Symptoms & Causes of Gas in the Digestive Tract"
- Molecules: "Measuring Artificial Sweeteners Toxicity Using a Bioluminescent Bacterial Panel"
- The BMJ: "What Is the Microbiome?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Irritable Bowel Syndrome"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Sugary Drinks"
- Journal of the American Dental Association: "The pH of beverages available to the American consumer"
- BMC Gastroenterology: "Dietary guideline adherence for gastroesophageal reflux disease"
- University of Wisconsin-Madison: "Upset Stomach"
- JAMA Internal Medicine: "Association Between Soft Drink Consumption and Mortality in 10 European Countries"
- Statista.com: "Per capita consumption of soft drinks in the United States from 2010 to 2018"
- UCLA Health: "Drinking Soda Linked to Many Adverse Health Outcomes"