Sodas like ginger ale are go-to remedies for an upset stomach. But do they actually work?

Sodas like ginger ale are go-to remedies for an upset stomach. But do they actually work?

Most people have certain go-to remedies that they reach for when they have an upset stomach. For some, that means drinking soda — either bubbly or flat — such as ginger ale or Coke. But does sipping on soda actually help? Not really, according to Dr. Pooja Singhal, gastroenterologist and spokesperson for the American Gastroenterological Association. Singhal tells Yahoo Life that there is no evidence that sweetened carbonated drinks help symptoms of an upset stomach — and in some cases, it can make you feel worse.

“These quick go-to remedies actually do very little to help with the actual cause of upset stomach, which could vary from gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD], abdominal bloating from constipation, ulcer disease or gallbladder disease,” she says. Singhal adds that carbonated sweetened drinks can even worsen certain preexisting conditions like GERD, a chronic condition that occurs when stomach acid or bile flows into the esophagus and irritates the lining; they can also lead to tooth erosion and cavities.

Carbonation and sugary beverages also have the potential to make nausea worse, says Anna Beery, outpatient clinical dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Carbonation can cause bloating and stomach discomfort for some people,” she tells Yahoo Life.

Why do people think sodas can help an upset stomach?

Singhal says it’s commonly believed that the tiny air bubbles in carbonated drinks may help promote digestion and ease an upset stomach. But studies have shown that consuming sweetened carbonated drinks has no effects on the upper gastrointestinal tract, and, as Singhal adds, “The high sugar load within soda is detrimental in many ways.”

However, older research shows that carbonation in plain sparkling water — which doesn’t contain sugar — may help relieve stomach pain. The study found that people with chronic digestive issues had better digestive symptoms and less constipation after drinking carbonated water for 15 days.

A reason why ginger ale in particular is a go-to remedy likely stems from the fact that real gingerroot can help promote digestion and help with nausea, Singhal notes. Gingerroot is the stem of the ginger plant, and it’s been used for centuries for medicinal purposes, such as easing nausea and vomiting. In some cases, powdered ginger root is a main flavoring agent in ginger ale, leading people to believe that soda is good for stomach relief. But most popular ginger ale sodas contain little to no real ginger.

Tips for soothing an upset stomach

If drinking soda doesn’t technically help, what does work? Experts say there are several ways to soothe and treat an upset stomach. Here’s what they recommend:

Stick with bland foods

Staying away from fried, fatty foods and highly acidic foods, as well as carbonated and alcoholic beverages, is key to helping with an upset stomach, says Singhal. Beery suggests consuming bland foods that are easy on the stomach, such as plain toast, crackers, broth, rice and bananas.

“Sip on liquids slowly,” Beery says. “Try a tea made with real ginger or even suck on peppermints.”

Go on a walk

If your stomach is upset after eating a big meal, Singhal says that taking a walk can help with digestion. Getting steps in may be particularly helpful for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to one study, people who exercised on a treadmill for 30 minutes, three times a week, experienced fewer IBS symptoms.

Take over-the-counter medication

The following over-the-counter medications can help relieve a stomachache, according to Singhal and Beery:

  • Gas-X or simethicone-containing products dissolve excessive gas in the stomach and intestines, helping with the pressure and pain.
  • Tums or Pepcid give instant relief by neutralizing increased acid in the stomach and preventing acid reflux.
  • Pepto-Bismol can help with diarrhea, nausea, indigestion, gas, burping and a too-full stomach.

When to call a doctor about an upset stomach

Usually, an upset stomach will get better after burping or having a bowel movement, says Singhal. However, if it doesn’t, she recommends contacting your doctor. Beery adds that you should also reach out to your health care provider if you can’t keep foods and liquids down or experience dizziness, fever, sharp stomach pains or other symptoms that do not start to improve within a couple of days. “I would advise anyone to see a doctor if their symptoms are not getting better with time or recurring frequently, such as multiple times a week,” she says.