We’ve all been there. After weeks of the Whole 30 or experimenting with the Keto diet, you attempt to shimmy into your skinny jeans. Your stomach feels like you are seven months pregnant and you can barely zip the zipper up.
Whether you still indulge in the occasional Coke or Pepsi, or have transitioned to the sexier calorie-free fizzy beverages such as LaCroix or Alta Palla, it is important to evaluate the consequences of your bubbly water.
New trends in the carbonated beverage industry are on the rise, with companies such as LaCroix experiencing a 20-percent growth in revenue in the past year. The effervescent fizz is created by dissolving carbon dioxide (CO2) into water. In many cases, the addition of sweeteners, natural and artificial flavors are combined to deliver the classic soft drink taste. When consumed, the extra air from the carbon dioxide can build up in your GI tract and cause bloating.
Typically, the bacteria in your gut can dissolve CO2. However, if you consume an excess of fizz, the CO2 can lead to increased air in your small intestine which causes extra bloat and gassiness. When sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners are added, this can make the bloating even worse.
The battle of the bloat can stem from a variety of reasons and is more easily prevented than treated. To fully understand the reason behind bloat, let’s take a look inside the gut. The gut contains around 500 species of bacteria. Even minor disturbances in gut microflora can lead to gastrointestinal distress, especially gas and bloating. Gas within the gastrointestinal tract is normal and can come from the natural breakdown of food. Gas can also result from swallowed air from chewing gum, drinking carbonation, as well as drinking through a straw.
Though it is normal to have gas in your GI tract, certain circumstances (such as impaired release of gas) cause abnormal build ups resulting in the pain and discomfort of bloating.
Identifying and avoiding these bloating culprits is the best form of prevention. However, if you are experiencing bloat, try chewing ginger, taking probiotics regularly and paying attention to how your body reacts when you eat to determine trigger foods.
When considering carbonated beverages, soda tops the naughty list. Soft drinks have been linked to a long list of diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons per day for men. The average 12-ounce soda has eight teaspoons of sugar, putting consumers at or above the daily recommended intake. This unnecessary added sugar has no nutritional value and may be a contributing factor to a growing waistline. A common soda sweetener is high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener that may be linked to increases in body fat.
Replacing regular soda with “diet” soda or other low sugar carbonated beverages may be well intentioned but still should be consumed consciously. Most diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose and are not healthful for our bodies. Some carbonated options are being sweetened with sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, erythritol and xylitol. Though they add no calories and have been listed as Generally Regarded as Safe by the FDA, they have been linked to other health concerns including bloating, gas and diarrhea.
Lastly, many of these bubbly drinks are using just a bit of natural fruit juices which adds just a few grams of sugar. Having a drink with just a few grams of added sugar is a more natural option and recommended over a diet soda with artificial sweeteners.
Moderation is still the key when it comes to healthy eating and drinking. If the carbonation is still calling, opt for a low-calorie choice free from artificial flavors and sweeteners and that ideally contains zero calories.
Keep in mind that carbonated beverages can cause bloat and discomfort whether or not they are calorie laden. Just be sure to watch your fizz intake before a big night out or getting into a swimsuit!
Stacy Goldberg is a nationally recognized nutritional consultant, registered nurse and the CEO of Savorfull, a Detroit-based company that sources healthy, allergen-friendly foods and provides nutrition-consulting. Savorfull is part of the Quicken Loans Family of Companies.