Why Does Carbonation Make You Sick to Your Stomach?

Although carbonation provides an interesting and unique fizzy mouth feel to drinks, it can have a less-than-pleasant effect on your stomach, especially if you have too much at one time or have conditions such as peptic ulcers or irritable bowel disease.

Two tall glasses of carbonated soda. (Image: rez-art/iStock/Getty Images)

Bloating

Dissolving carbon dioxide gas in water creates carbonation. You are not only ingesting the fluid of the drink, but also the gas. If the body doesn't expel the gas, it can get trapped in the gastrointestinal tract and lead to bloating. Excessive bloating from gas built up in the stomach and intestines causes pain, which can vary in intensity.

Slower Stomach Emptying

A study done by the "European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology" found that carbonation affects the rate at which the stomach empties the drink. Subjects who were given water or another noncarbonated beverage had the fastest emptying time. The stomachs of subjects given carbonated beverages emptied the beverages more slowly. Also, the stomach-gas volume was higher with carbonated beverages than with noncarbonated beverages. So if you are drinking carbonated beverages, and they cause bloating and gastric distress, the discomfort is likely to stick around for a while.

Health Conditions

Being predisposed to health conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD; peptic ulcers; or irritable bowl disease can worsen the effects of carbonated beverages on your stomach. Carbonation can increase acid production and irritate the stomach lining, which can be painful with peptic ulcers. Increasing stomach acid is unsafe for those with GERD because acid can wear away at the lower esophageal sphincter. This causes it to weaken and allows stomach acid to back up into the esophagus, causing pain. An increase in gas for people with irritable bowel disease can be very painful.

Avoiding Carbonated Drinks

To avoid the discomfort that carbonation can bring, try drinking beverages that do not contain carbonation. Limit your intake of sparkling water, soda, beer and sparkling wine. Drinks high in sugar and calories can also bother your stomach. Add flavor to your water with no-calorie mixes and sweeteners.

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