Frequently drinking soft drinks (or soda pop) might not be your healthiest habit, but if you have a stomach ulcer, don't blame the soda as the culprit. There's no such thing as a Coke or Pepsi ulcer.
Stomach ulcers result from the loss of a protective "mucous" coating in the stomach, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). If this barrier gets too weak, stomach acids can seep through and cause an ulcer. The most common cause of this is infection from bacteria called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), it says.
Once an ulcer is present, anything that adds to acid secretion in the stomach can make your symptoms worse — and that includes soft drinks.
Read more: The Top 10 Worst Soft Drinks for Your Health
What About Sparkling Water?
According to the Gastrointestinal Society, people have been using carbonated water to settle their stomachs for centuries. Some studies show that drinking carbonated water is more effective than drinking plain water for relief of indigestion.
"Acid indigestion may be worse on an empty stomach," says Andrew L. Rubman, a naturopathic physician and director of the Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines in Southbury, Conn. "Sparkling water is good to drink in between meals. Carbonated soft drinks should be avoided as much as possible."
How Bad Are Soft Drinks?
According to a January 2015 review in the journal BioMed Research International, soft drinks may include ingredients you might not want to consume even if you don't have an ulcer, such as caffeine; sugar or other sweeteners; artificial coloring; preservatives; and flavorings like phosphoric acid.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that sugar-sweetened beverages in general are a major cause of the overabundance of sugar in the American diet. These drinks have been linked to tooth decay, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, gout and arthritis.
Drinks and Ulcers
- Nothing you can drink will make an ulcer go away.
- Drinking soft drinks or other caffeinated beverages can make ulcer symptoms worse.
- Drinking alcohol can cause gastritis and delay healing of an ulcer.
- Plain water is a safe bet, and some people get relief from sparkling water.
Read more: Foods to Avoid When You Have a Stomach Ulcer
"A safe drink to reduce stomach acid symptoms is one you can make at home," Rubman says. "Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to 4 or 5 ounces of water and sip slowly." Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which strengthens the mucosal barrier in the stomach.
Bottom line: Avoid soft drinks if you have an ulcer.
Is This an Emergency?
- Gastrointestinal Society: “Carbonated Water May Help Dyspepsia & Constipation”
- Andrew L. Rubman, ND, naturopathic physician and director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut; founder and member, House of Delegates, American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Get the Facts: Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Consumption”
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Symptoms and Causes of Peptic Ulcers (Stomach Ulcers)"
- BioMed Research International: "Health Safety of Soft Drinks: Contents, Containers, and Microorganisms"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Peptic Ulcer Disease - Discharge"