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Sorry, But Ginger Ale Isn't Going to Help Your Upset Stomach

ginger-ale-stomach.gifPhoto: Giphy

Of all the nutrition myths that have been inherited over the years, drinking soda—especially ginger ale—to calm an upset stomach is one of the most widespread. But one report finally sets the record straight, with the help of a leading gastroenterologist that, nope, ginger ale does not calm queasiness or aid other sickness symptoms. It's ginger root that does this best, but ginger and ginger ale are not one in the same. (Read more about the various health benefits of ginger.)

In fact, guzzling ginger ale when you're suffering from indigestion or nausea could be making your condition worse, says Gina Sam, M.D., a gastroenterologist based in New York City, in an interview with Delish. "I think the myth comes from the name of the beverage," says Dr. Sam. "People assume if it has ginger in the name, it'll likely help their stomachs."

Research has shown that unadulterated ginger has been linked to anti-inflammatory benefits, which can help you when you're feeling queasy. Many in the health industry have also used ginger as a holistic solution to aid with digestion issues.

But canned and bottled ginger ale available in most pharmacies and supermarkets are not an untouched form of ginger—it's essentially just carbonated soda with ginger "flavors," and it's loaded with sugar. One of the most popular brands of ginger ale on the market will soon bear no reference to "ginger" at all, in fact. 

In 2018, a New York-based shopper filed a lawsuit against Canada Dry and its parent company, Keurig Dr. Pepper Inc., for not actually using ginger as advertised, according to USA Today. Canada Dry uses phrases like "Made from real ginger" on the product's labeling, but a closer look at the ingredients list says otherwise. Carbonated water, sugar, glucose-fructose, citric acid, sodium benzoate, coloring, and "natural flavors" are included, but "ginger" isn't anywhere to be found.

The manufacturers ended up settling the lawsuit and will remove language from packaging that suggests the popular soda actually contains real ginger or any essence of the ingredient. "I don't think the public realizes how much sugar and how little ginger is in these beverages," Dr. Sam tells Delish. A single can of commercial-brand ginger ale can have 35g of added sugar and contains "synthetic flavors" that aren't as beneficial as any other form of added ginger.

"The reason we say to avoid sugar when you're fighting a stomach illness is because sugar actually feeds the bad bacteria in your GI tract, causing more bloating, gas, and indigestion," Dr. Sam said. This is also true for artificial sweeteners, which means diet or sugar-free ginger ales can also bring on gas and bloating when you're already feeling sick.

Even with organic products and natural ginger ales (like Bruce Cost Original Ginger Ale, $40 for a pack of 12 bottles, amazon.com), you'll still have to be extra careful to avoid sugar—even just a little bit can negatively impact your intestinal tract and good gut bacteria levels when you’re sick.

The easiest way to safely enjoy the health boost in raw ginger, according to Dr. Sam, is to peel fresh ginger root and mix it into some brewed decaf tea or hot water. You'll enjoy the anti-inflammatory boost associated with ginger, sans extra sugar and gastrointestinal problems.

If you're averse to drinking steeped ginger root when you're feeling sick, a few of our editors have a couple of tricks up their sleeve for battling nausea:

Gin-Gins

Yes, this candy made by The Ginger People ($10, amazon.com) does indeed have sugar in it—but when you compare it to a can of ginger ale, 7g of added sugar is a whole lot more manageable. Plus, there are only three ingredients: cane sugar, tapioca starch, and real ginger. Slowly sucking on a piece of candied ginger is a sweet way to help calm your stomach. (You could also try one of these other foods that help ease an upset stomach.)

Ginger Tea

If you can't get your hands on ginger root, many retailers sell pre-packaged ginger tea that can be steeped in hot water to the same effect. Yogi's ginger tea blend ($18 for a pack of two, amazon.com) is also made with soothing lemongrass, peppermint, and licorice, making the tea flavorful without resorting to high amounts of sugar. (Related: This Flavor-Packed Ginger Broth Soup Will Soothe Your Stomach and Your Cravings)

Non-Drowsy Dimenhydrinate

Do you totally hate the taste of ginger? Don't worry, you're not alone. When suffering from nausea, Darcy Lenz, the editor at MyRecipes.com, seeks out a small dose of non-drowsy dimenhydrinate ($7, amazon.com), which is often marketed as Dramamine. Most over-the-counter Dramamine products are safe for adults to use to prevent nausea, vomiting, and dizziness as it relates to motion sickness—but this antihistamine also can do wonders for you if you're feeling nauseous during an illness. Make sure you’re not taking another medication containing antihistamines, as you'll need to stick to a small dose in order to avoid unsafe consumption.

This story was originally published on CookingLight.com by Zee Krstic.

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