Is Carbonated Water Bad for Your Gut? A Doctor Explains
There are a few factors you need to keep in mind when buying sparkling or soda water.
Keeping up with the surge of “cure-all” wellness fads is a job in and of itself. In our column Wellness Inspector, we do the work for you, closely examining these trends to see if they’re worth your hard-earned pennies—or whether they’re just hype.
Living in the health-oriented society that we do, where wellness products, trends, and advice are always on the rise, it’s simple to get caught up in the hubbub of it all. And while many wellness products and trends are stylish, satisfying, or downright innovative, some wellness advice is less than helpful to spread around. Case in point? The idea that carbonated water is bad for you simply because it’s a bit more exciting to drink.
While you might chuckle just from reading that sentence, some folks genuinely do worry about the side effects of consuming carbonated water—particularly when dealing with the gut. With that in mind, we chatted with two dietitians so that you won’t have to think twice about reaching for your favorite bubbly water. Learn why, below.
Is carbonated water bad for your gut?
Thanks to carbonated water’s bubbles, some people report feeling gassy and/or bloated from drinking carbonated water in excess. It’s likely because of this that the rumor of carbonated water’s negative impact on gut health began to circulate.
Fear not, though! While carbonated water can, indeed, promote belching, bloating, and gas, Dr. Mora says that it won’t trigger major gut problems, nor will it degrade the health of the gut over time, so long as it’s not made with artificial sweeteners (which she says “can cause diarrhea and disrupt the precious balance of the microbiome”). Dr. Mora does note, however, that carbonated water can exacerbate GI conditions as a result of its gas and bloat-inducing effects.
The reason artificial sweeteners play a role is because, according to a 2015 study, the inclusion of additives can introduce pathogens into the gut. “This means that artificial sweeteners can cause bacteria to attack themselves and destroy Caco-2 cells, which are embedded in the lining of the intestine,” registered dietitian, Dr. Maria Sorbara Mora of Integrated Eating, tells HelloGiggles.
That said, Dr. Mora points out that artificially sweetened carbonated water can be particularly problematic for those with stomachs prone to inflammation such as IBS, colitis, and Crohn’s disease. “While there is no well-founded research that carbonated water causes these GI conditions, it can certainly exacerbate the condition due to carbonated water’s side effects of bloating and gas,” she says.
Carbonated water benefits:
Of course, there are benefits of drinking carbonated water, hence its rise in popularity. For starters, carbonated water is just as hydrating as regular water—only it tastes like a delicious treat of a beverage without the added calories that sodas provide, according to celebrity chef and nutritionist Serena Poon.
Dr. Mora adds to this, noting that, “A positive side effect of these fizzy water beverages is that for those who may not consume enough water daily because they don’t like plain water or find it boring, bubbles can be a sensory experience that allows people to take more overall hydration in.”
Additionally, Poon points out that scientists have found that carbonated water can increase satiety, as well as reduce constipation. While carbonated water can increase satiety, for some people, it can lead to weight gain. That’s because, according to some studies, carbonated water can trigger ghrelin (the hunger hormone) production, leading to more frequent feelings of hunger.
Carbonated water side effects:
While carbonated water isn’t the end of the world for gut health, it can have an impact on oral health—if it’s infused with acids and sugars, that is.
“Added acids and sugars have what is called an ‘acidogenic’ and ‘cariogenic’ potential, which leads to enamel erosion,” explains Dr. Mora. “Plain carbonated water is not the culprit even though people assume the CO2 in these drinks erodes teeth. That is a misconception. However, those with added acids, sugars, and salt increase the risk for tooth decay.”
Another side effect is that, since carbonated water can increase feelings of fullness, some folks might not drink enough water while incorporating it into their diet. Though, it’s fully subjective on the person’s water consumption habits.
The difference between club soda, seltzer, sparkling water, and tonic water:
At the end of the day, the key to drinking carbonated water with all the positive health and wellness ideas in mind is to solely reach for those made without added sugars and sweeteners. To ensure that you’re reaching for quality sparkling waters, Dr. Mora says to keep in mind that not all carbonated water products are created equal. As such, use Dr. Mora’s handy bullet list below when shopping for your next batch of bubbly water.
● Seltzer and plain sparkling water have been carbonated.
● Club soda is also carbonated water but contains sodium, seltzer does not.
● Tonic water has added sweeteners.
● Flavored sparkling water may contain citric acid plus sweeteners and caffeine. Check the label!