Soda cans spilling pepsi coke sprite pop

The Drink That Hates My Guts: Colitis vs. Carbonated Beverages

"Psst! Come closer. You know you want a sip." That’s what I heard in my head as I looked inside my tiny classroom refrigerator before heading to lunch with my fellow educators. A single Diet Dr. Pepper setting inside the fridge door called out to me.

Yes, I knew I should have grabbed the boring bottle of water next to my lunch, but that dark, effervescent Diet Dr. Pepper looked ever-so-tempting. Besides, I hadn’t had a soda in a long time. What would be the harm? So, feeling good on this particular Friday, I grabbed the tempting beverage and headed to lunch. Caffeine would do me some good. It would help keep me in good spirits. At least, that’s what I thought.

From carbonated to cramping

But 3 sips into my delicious-tasting Dr. Pepper told me otherwise. The rumbling had begun before the end of my 25-minute lunch break. The message quickly telegraphed to my gut told me: "You chose wrong."

A few minutes into teaching my next class, I felt the pings, dings, and ka-chings of carbonation waging its own form of warfare inside me. "Why – oh why – had I grabbed that soda instead of water?" I mentally questioned as I continued explaining research writing. Before long, I found myself doing the best I could to inconspicuously rub my aching belly in front of my young audience.

Oh, the pain continued to build. As I slowly bent forward, I knew I would have to sit to continue the gut massage.

My colitis doesn't like carbonated drinks

Over the years I've lived with ulcerative colitis, I've learned that carbonated beverages don't agree with my gut. The carbonic acid hasn’t ever played nice with my gut microbiome. Some people might be all right with carbonated drinks. But experience and UC tell my body I’m not one of those individuals.

Research also seems to support this notion. About a year ago, I read a study out of the Netherlands that followed the diets of about 1,400 individuals who found that sodas caused inflammation in the gut microbiome. By removing these drinks from one’s diet, gut inflammation was reduced. The research concluded that carbonic acid irritates the digestive tract.1

Why didn’t I think about this when I reached in and grabbed my diet drink? It was because my desire outweighed my reason. Because of this, I paid the price. So, even though Dr. Pepper famously once asked, "Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too?" My gut says, "No. Absolutely, no way!"

IBD can take the fun out of the fizz

For those of us with IBD, we must be vigilant about the food and drink choices we make every day. And when we slip up, forget, or just get somewhat lazy about it, we pay the penalty. Like I did... all evening long. That small drink at lunch cost me living in pain for the rest of the day.

Honestly, no drink is worth the gastronomical results of a Friday night spent curled up in pain. Trust me. May you choose more wisely than I.

Now as I sip my non-bubbly water, I relish in the fact that never once has this drink ever hurt or waged any battle inside my gut. So, I say, "CHEERS" to making better drinking decisions. Your gut will thank you immeasurably.

If you have a particular drink story you’d like to share with me, feel free to add your own comments. You never know who might learn from your gastrointestinal woes.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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