Nausea can strike for several reasons, and it’s never convenient or pleasant.
While ginger ale has long been touted as a home remedy for nausea or upset stomach, you might be wondering whether it really can help when discomfort strikes.
This article explains whether drinking ginger ale helps an upset stomach — as well as its potential downsides.
Commercially available ginger ale typically consists of carbonated water, sugar, and ginger flavoring. It is — fancy name aside — a soda.
It comes in three general varieties: regular, dry (a spicier flavor), or diet. Traditional, artisanal ginger ale will use a “mother culture” of bacteria and yeast to provide natural carbonation. It may also contain more ginger root and cane sugar.
However, there’s very little ginger root in your everyday ginger ale. This is key because ginger root is the one ingredient in it that might bring any relief to your upset stomach.
In fact, ginger root has a long and studied history in the relief of nausea — whether it’s brought on by pregnancy, chemotherapy, indigestion, or other illness. Its anti-nausea ability is attributed to several compounds, like shogaols and gingerols (
Ginger ale is a ginger-flavored soda. While ginger root has long been linked to nausea relief, most ginger ale contains very little of it. Thus, ginger ale is unlikely to relieve nausea.
Some home remedies for nausea call for drinking ginger ale at room temperature, while others require drinking it flat. Flat, bubbly, warm, or cold, it’s usually just ginger-flavored sugar water — and while it might be delicious, it probably won’t help your nausea much.
In fact, carbonation may actually make your nausea worse instead of bringing relief. That’s because it introduces gas into your intestines, leading to bloating and discomfort (
What’s more, loading up your digestive tract with soda may exacerbate other symptoms that sometimes accompany nausea, such as diarrhea. That’s because simple sugars like fructose stimulate the gut to pump out electrolytes and water, loosening the bowels (
Many diet sodas also trigger this effect. The sugar alcohols (like erythritol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol) in artificial sweeteners that diet sodas contain are partially fermented in the gut, which could cause gastric distress (
Interestingly, an older study from 2007 revealed that erythritol resists gut fermentation, which may make it easier to tolerate when consumed in single doses of up to 50 grams (
More research is needed to understand how erythritol and other sugar alcohols affect the gut when it is already distressed.
The carbonation and simple sugar in ginger ale may actually make you feel worse. That’s because sugar and artificial sweeteners can contribute to diarrhea and stomach upset.
There are better ways to find nausea relief than ginger ale. Ginger candies or chews can help, as can herbal teas.
The following herbs, or herbal teas and infusions, have been linked with nausea relief. It is worth mentioning that many of these studies used other forms of these herbs like capsules or oils, so ingesting them as teas may not have the same effect (
Temperature can make a difference here, so try these hot or iced to see what works best for you. Dash in a bit of honey or agave if you need a little sweetness. You can even try freezing brewed tea and eating it as ice pops if the cold brings relief.
Other alternatives include acupressure bracelets, which stimulate the Pericardium 6 (P6) pressure point on the inner side of the wrist associated with nausea and vomiting. There is some evidence to show this method could bring relief (
If you feel especially nauseated or at the edge of vomiting, take a deep breath and hold it for 3 seconds. Repeat this for a few cycles. You might also try meditation.
Be sure to stay hydrated, too, especially if your nausea is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea. It’s important to replenish electrolytes in these instances by way of coconut water or broth.
However, if your nausea is ongoing, stems from a known cause like chemotherapy or pregnancy, and results in appetite loss, weakness, or unintentional weight loss, speak with a healthcare professional about antiemetic (vomit-suppressing) medications that may help.
There are many alternative ways to relieve nausea, like herbal infusions, acupressure, hydration, and breathing. If these remedies aren’t helping you, speak with a healthcare professional about getting medication to help you feel better.
Ginger root has a long history of relieving nausea. Unfortunately, commercial ginger ale just doesn’t contain much ginger and is unlikely to help.
Be wary: Carbonation, sugar, and artificial sweeteners may actually worsen your symptoms. In large amounts, they can even bring on diarrhea.
That’s why you’re better off sticking to herbal infusions, such as lemon ginger or other soothing herbs, to alleviate or ward off nausea. Deep, intentional breathing, meditation, and acupressure bracelets are other ways of seeking relief.
If nothing is helping, or if you’re worried about your appetite, weakness, or unintentional weight loss, speak with a healthcare professional about medications that may bring relief.
Just one thing
Try this today: Take a generous breath in and hold it for 3 seconds. Repeat for a few cycles when you’re feeling nauseated.