Can Acid in Soda Pop Cause Stomach Ulcers?

glass of coke
Soda pop contains citric acid. (Image: Pavlo_K/iStock/Getty Images)

If you’ve been told that acidic foods, including soda pop, could cause stomach ulcers, you’ve been told a lie. For a while, even the medical community believed that eating highly acidic foods, stress and spicy food could cause stomach ulcers. While the acid in soda can trigger symptoms of a stomach ulcer, the acid in the beverage is not the cause. Ulcers are mostly the result of an infection of the Heliobacter pylori bacteria that erodes the lining of your digestive system. Some lifestyle choices may cause ulcers, but what you eat is not one of those factors.

Soda Acid

Most sodas contain citric acid as a preservative and flavor enhancer, which increases the beverage's acidity. Acidic foods can irritate ulcers that already have developed in your digestive system, but will not cause ulcers to form. Ulcers are common in the U.S., with almost half a million people diagnosed with peptic ulcer, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Ulcers occur when the top mucus lining of your digestive system erodes, exposing the soft tissue underneath, leading to the development of open sores.

Bacterial Cause

An infection of the H. pylori bacteria is the most common cause of ulcers, which is treated with antibiotics that kill the bacteria. It’s still unclear on how people catch the bacteria, but MayoClinic.com recommends washing your hands frequently with sop and water, eating foods that are thoroughly cooked and not sharing foods and drinks with another person. If you develop pain in your abdomen when your stomach is empty, you vomit blood or notice blood in your stool, call your doctor because these are signs of an ulcer.

Lifestyle Causes

Certain lifestyle choices can erode the protective layer in you digestive system, leading to ulcers. The most common lifestyle choices include smoking, chewing tobacco, overuse of caffeine or alcohol, and using certain pain relievers daily, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. The chemicals in these products are erosive, which could expose the soft tissue and increase your risk of developing ulcers.

Treatment Considerations

If you doctor prescribes triple antibiotic therapy, avoid certain foods and beverages until your ulcers are completely healed. Avoid soda pop; acidic juices, such as orange juice; spicy foods, such as Mexican cuisine; and alcohol. Your doctor may recommend using acetaminophen instead of aspirin or ibuprofen because acetaminophen is gentler on the stomach.

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