Many of us were taught growing up that drinking ginger ale can help with gastrointestinal issues like stomach gas. But is that really true, or is it one of those health myths people continue to pass down through generations?
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Ginger Ale … or Just Ginger?
The idea that ginger ale helps with stomach gas is questionable at best. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to this common misconception. It may stem from the fact that ginger ale can be helpful for other gastrointestinal problems. For example, consuming ginger ale can be a good way to hydrate if you're experiencing nausea and vomiting, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"It's particularly helpful with nausea," says Will Bulsiewicz, MD, a gastroenterologist and gut health expert in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and author of Fiber Fueled. "My wife was scarfing it down when she had first trimester morning sickness during pregnancy. It's not as helpful for gas, bloating and diarrhea, although as something soothing for the gut with very little downside, it can be worth a try."
Dr. Bulsiewicz adds that ginger ale may also help with painful period symptoms, arthritis pain, blood sugar regulation and weight loss. "But that is all contingent on bioactive ingredients from ginger," he adds, "and the question is, what is the best way to deliver the ginger in an adequate amount and without any unnecessary ingredients?"
The Cleveland Clinic warns that although ginger has anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-tumor and antioxidant effects, ginger ale may not be the best way to get your dose of ginger.
"Not all ginger ale actually contains ginger," Dr. Bulsiewicz says. "Obviously, if it doesn't contain ginger, what's the point? And if it does contain ginger, it generally isn't highly concentrated."
Dr. Bulsiewicz cites additional concerns relating to consumption of ginger ale for stomach issues, including the possibility that carbonation and sweeteners (whether sugar or an artificial sweetener) can actually worsen gas, bloating and diarrhea. It may be like taking one step forward and two steps back, he says.
According to Dr. Bulsiewicz, if you're looking to benefit from the healing properties of ginger, you should instead opt for ginger tea, which is a more concentrated form of ginger without the carbonation or sugar.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests making your own tea with ginger root, which you can find at the grocery store. Just peel it and add it to hot water or tea. Powdered ginger, low-sugar gingersnap cookies and low-sugar gingersnap candies or lollipops are other ways you can get ginger that are better than ginger ale, the Cleveland Clinic says.
Read more: Is Raw Ginger Acidic or Alkaline?
What About Gastritis?
Some people with other stomach issues such as gastritis, which is inflammation of the stomach's protective lining, also wonder if ginger ale can help. But just like with stomach gas, there's no evidence that it can.
"There aren't any studies to say that ginger ale actually helps gastritis, let alone studies to say that ginger helps with gastritis," says Dr. Bulsiewicz. "In a study looking at the effect of ginger on digestive symptoms after meals, they found that ginger did not improve symptoms but it did make the stomach empty more rapidly. In a person who is suffering with upper GI distress after meals, it may be worthwhile to give ginger a try. But once again, I would opt for ginger tea instead of the ale."
Treating Stomach Gas
If you've always turned to ginger ale to treat stomach gas, you may wonder now if your methods have really made any difference. But don't fret. There are plenty of ways to treat gas.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, treatment of gas symptoms usually involves a combination of dietary adjustments and medication.
Read more: Ginger Water Benefits