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Sparkling or Still Water for Stomach Upset and Constipation?

“Natural bubbling or sparkling mineral waters have been popular for thousands of years,” but manufactured sparkling water was first “‘invented’ in the mid to late 1700s” when a clergyman suspended water over a vat of fermenting beer. “For centuries, carbonated water has been considered capable of relieving gastrointestinal symptoms, including dyspepsia,” or tummy aches. But we didn’t have good data until a study was published in 2002, which I discuss in my video Club Soda for Stomach Pain and Constipation. Twenty-one people with dyspepsia, which was defined in the study as “pain or discomfort located in the upper abdomen” including bloating, nausea, and constipation were randomized to drink one and a half quarts of either carbonated or tap water every day for two weeks.

Carbonated water improved both dyspepsia and constipation compared to tap water. “Drink more water” is a common recommendation for constipation, but researchers didn’t observe a clear benefit of the added tap water. It seems you need to increase fiber and water rather than just water alone, but sparkling water did appear to help on its own. The study used a sparkling mineral water, though, so we can’t tell whether these effects were due to the bubbles or the minerals.

There’s been a concern that carbonated beverages may increase heartburn and GERD, acid reflux disease, but that was based on studies that compared water to Pepsi cola. Soda may put the pepsi in dyspepsia and contribute to heartburn, but so may tea and coffee in those who suffer from heartburn. That may be partly from the cream and sugar, though, since milk is another common contributor to heartburn. Carbonated water alone, though, shouldn’t be a problem.

Similarly, while flavored sparkling drinks can erode our enamel, it’s not the carbonation, but the added juices and acids. Sparkling water alone appears 100 times less erosive than citrus or soda. So, a sparkling mineral water may successfully help treat a stomach ache and constipation without adverse effects, unless you’re the teenage boy who opened a bottle of sparkling wine with his teeth or the nine-year-old boy who tried to do so on a hot day after he’d shaken it up, actions placing them at risk for a pneumatic rupture of the esophagus.

For more on combating acid reflux, see Diet and GERD Acid Reflux Heartburn and Diet and Hiatal Hernia.

Some of my other videos on beverages include:

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.

10 responses to “Sparkling or Still Water for Stomach Upset and Constipation?

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  1. I have been thinking about this because on a whim, I bought some sparkling water with a hint of grapefruit.

    I was trying to do the math of whether naturally-flavored citrus sparkling water is any better than citrus or not.

    1. YR,

      I agree with you.

      Though, what I will say is that I have only had acid reflux for a few weeks in my whole life and I think mine came after being sick, but it was so scary feeling like I couldn’t breathe when I was trying to sleep that I ended up in the ER because I didn’t know what it was, and the best ER doctor ever talked to me for 5 seconds and said, “I think you might be having acid reflux” and gave me something and sent me home. I have never been to any ER where it took less than 3 hours – no matter what you have, but that visit was so quick that I got to go home before the car got cold. I still needed to get a bed wedge, which I used for a little while.

      Around the same time, my friend also had the scary feeling that she couldn’t breathe while she was trying to sleep and she ended up going through 6 to 8 months of doctor visits and specialist visits before they figured out that it was acid reflux. She spent thousands of dollars trying to figure it out.

  2. I will say that I was drinking Double Gulps and didn’t get acid reflux and my family members all have low to normal blood pressure and my brother still eats burgers and pizza, so I think we genetically had something good in our family line.

    Though we have one Blue Zone family line and one “dead before 60” family line, so it may be some flip a coin type of thing.

  3. Stay away from processed foods, Go Vegan, drink plenty of water, exercise !safely/correctly! 15 – 20 min 2-3 times weekly, stay away from added sugars and I can almost guarantee you will not have any problems with your body (unless the damages are already done by your unnatural consumption of Junk, meat, high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified foods, and you are morbidly obese)

    I do all these and I’m never constipated, never have heartburn, never have headaches, never have an upset stomach and all my vitals are awesome. (I am 37 years old)

  4. I’ve always believed that sparkling water increased the gas (flatulence) in my colon hence slowing down movements. That is, first all the “air” seems to need to get out. As well, it just seemed uncomfortable. Has anyone else had this experience?

  5. I love seltzer water with lemon or lime squeezed into it on a hot summer day. But as a WFPB eater, I always feel uncertain as to its healthfulness. I thought “carbonated beverages” were supposed to be bad for you because of (increased phosphorous?) or something like that. Was it bad for your teeth and bones, or bad for your blood chemistry? I can’t remember. Does anyone here know what I am trying to remember about carbonated beverages? Or is that only for soda-pop, not for carbonated water?

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