Experts are warning that ginger ale — long touted as the cure for an upset stomach — not only lacks any significant health benefits, it could even make your gastrointestinal distress more distressful.
The problem stems back to when actual ginger — used as a remedy for tummy trouble since forever, with plenty of modern research to prove efficacy — was removed from the sodas that bear the sainted spice’s name. Cost-cutting executives replaced the real deal, most often, with do-nothing ginger flavor.
“Ginger root contains a special compound called gingerol that has been shown to support gastrointestinal motility, or the rate that food moves through the digestive tract,” Stefani Sassos, a registered dietitian and the nutrition and fitness director for the Good Housekeeping Institute, told HuffPost.
“This can provide nausea relief for a variety of conditions, essentially because it encourages food to not linger as long in the digestive tract.”
“Most commercial ginger ale contains very little to no actual ginger,” she said.
In fact, the company that manufactures the Canada Dry brand in the United States and Canada has been accused repeatedly of false advertising — namely over their claim that the soda is “made from real ginger,” as the American packaging once promised. (Multiple class action suits later, reportedly, the company is said to have removed the phrase.)
And so, in most cases, when relief seekers head to the soda aisle of their local supermarket, chances are they’re hanging their hopes on just another sugary soda. One that some experts claim could make you even more uncomfortable.
That’s because there’s too much sugar in many ginger ales and other sodas, gastroenterologist Dr. Lukasz Kwapisz, of Gastro Health in Miami, told HuffPost — more than 30 grams per serving, in many cases.
“Too much sugar could trigger inflammation and may increase bloating and gas, which could further irritate an upset stomach,” he warned.
Switching to diet ginger ale can also be a problem, Sassos noted — the sugar alcohols found in some artificial sweeteners “may only further exacerbate symptoms.”
Carbonation isn’t one-size-fits-all-stomachs, either — to some, the bubbles may prove calming, while for others, they might just irritate.
Not that you need to be terrified of ever touching the stuff again — just realistic.
“If you’re looking for a therapeutic property from [ginger ale], it might most likely be placebo,” said registered dietitian Maya Feller, of Maya Feller Nutrition in Brooklyn. “And that’s fine, because you’re feeling better, right? At the end of the day, it is soda. And so I would encourage folks to interact with this the way that they would interact with soda.”
And if you’re interested in getting back to ginger’s roots as a natural healer, skip the middle man and go straight to the source, said Kwapisz.
“Minced, ground, peeled or sliced in hot water, or even in capsules — 250 to 500 mg of powdered ginger,” he said. “Any of these would give the greatest benefit to settling an upset stomach.”