I go through my SodaStream cylinders far too often, but a chilled glass of sparkling water is one of my favourite treats — bubbly, refreshing, and delicious, not to mention a supereasy way for me to drink more water. I know I need to limit how much seltzer, club soda, and sparkling water I drink, for the sake of my teeth, but what I didn't realise was that my habit has the potential to trigger acid-reflux symptoms, like heartburn, too.
According to Dr. Michael Santoro, MD, a gastroenterologist with Mission Hospital in Southern California, that's because things like sparkling water and club soda are filled with CO2 bubbles, which decrease the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, or the muscles at the bottom of the esophagus where it meets the stomach, causing some reflux.
If you're like me, you might have wondered what exactly acid reflux means within the body — luckily, Dr. Santoro broke it down.
"A circular band of muscle around the bottom of your esophagus, called a sphincter, relaxes every time you have a sip of water or eat a piece of food — this allows food and liquid to easily flow in your stomach. Once you finish eating or drinking, the sphincter closes. But if this muscle is weak or abnormally weakens, acid from your stomach can flow back up into the esophagus. And this consistent backwash of acid irritates the lining of your throat," Dr. Santoro explained.
The Mayo Clinic also notes that if the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes abnormally, this can cause heartburn as well.
"You might experience acid reflux symptoms after you eat a heavy meal, bend over and lift something heavy, or when you lay on your back to sleep at night," Dr. Santoro explained. "Many people who have acid reflux experience their most painful symptoms at night."
Dr. Santoro said many drinks that are carbonated are in an "acidic" medium — think soda and beer — so while acid-reflux symptoms from sparkling water can occur, it would likely happen less often. It's also worth noting that Dr. Santoro said it's recommended that anyone who has been diagnosed with acid reflux avoid drinking carbonated beverages and remove them from their diet.
So if you find yourself getting heartburn after a sip of seltzer or soda, be sure to reach out to your doctor for their advice.
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