Ask Dr. Monti: Is It Safe to Drink Seltzer?

Answer from Daniel A. Monti, director of the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital

Dr. Monti

Question: Is it safe to drink a lot of seltzer? It’s helped me kick my diet soda habit, but even though it’s calorie- and artificial sweetener-free, I’ve heard that carbonation can alter the body’s pH levels and cause health problems. Should I cut down on how much seltzer I drink?

Answer: No matter what you call it – seltzer, soda water, sparking water, or carbonated water – this type of beverage is water that contains dissolved CO2 gas. When combined, water reacts with CO2 to create carbonic acid. Carbonation can occur naturally in spring water that picks up carbon dioxide stored in rocks, or it can be infused by the manufacturer. Carbonated water is an increasingly popular beverage, which has led to questions about its safety.

The effects of carbonated water on the body have been studied, and in general, it is a safe beverage option. When ingested, CO2 is absorbed by the gut very slowly – a small fraction of the speed with which it is produced and expelled from the lungs.

Some people worry that carbonic acid may raise the body’s pH to an unsafe level. To date, this concern has not been supported by medical research. The stomach has a higher acidity than any carbonated beverage. However, for some, carbonated water can cause bloating or trigger a case of hiccups. I also advise patients diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) that carbonated beverages could aggravate symptoms.

When it comes to bone health, there is an important distinction between carbonated water and soft drinks. Carbonation itself does not appear to deplete the body of calcium, nor does it weaken the strength of your bones. However, commercial soft drinks (soda pop) are loaded with phosphoric acid, which can reduce bone density and may increase risk for fractures if significant quantities are consumed over a prolonged period of time. Soft drinks also tend to have too much sugar and artificial chemicals.

Bottom-line advice: If you like the sensation of carbonation, seltzer water is a safe bet.

ASK DR. MONTI: E-mail Dr. Monti your question here, and he could answer it an upcoming blog post! Dr. Monti is Director of the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the author of “The Great Life Makeover.” Read more about him here.

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