Though not all beverages are guilty of messing with your digestion, some may be more reponsible than others. Drinks containing ingredients that can dehydrate you, gradually thin the lining of your stomach and intestines over time, or even interfere with your hormones in certain ways can all contribute to indigestion.
To find out which drinks are more likely to upset your stomach, we spoke with a few dietitians to get their expert opinion on how these beverages may affect your body. Below is a list of 4 drinks that can mess with your digestion.
Although coffee provides certain health benefits and be incorporated into a quality, well-balanced diet, under the right set of circumstances, the caffeine content of this beverage can also mess with your digestion.
In fact, caffeine consumption can sometimes slow down your body’s digestive process because of its ability to also release stress hormones, like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, that can increase your heart rate while concurrently ramping up your energy levels. When this occurs, the blood supply that typically would go to your intestines decreases, and this can impact the pace at which your body would normally digest items you consume.
Thomason also points out that “coffee, of course, has a laxative effect with some folks. Particularly those with diarrhea-prone IBS may have a sensitivity to coffee,” says Thomason.
If you’ve ever experienced the effects of being overserved or had a brutal hangover, then you’re probably familiar with the extent to which alcoholic drinks can mess with your digestion and have experienced the resulting discomfort firsthand. But why does this happen?
“Alcohol uniquely impacts digestion because it is prioritized by the liver to be detoxified,” says Thomason. “So, if you are eating and drinking at the same time, digestion actually gets put on the back burner until alcohol is completely detoxed from the body.”
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, award-winning nutrition expert and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Family Immunity Cookbook, adds that research shows that “consuming large amounts of alcohol regularly can lead to inflammation of the intestines.”
3. Carbonated beverages
What’s interesting about carbonated drinks like sodas or seltzers is that while many turn to these bubbly beverages to help soothe stomach pain or nausea, they can also contribute to digestive disruptions, as well.
“Carbonated beverages may cause bloating for some folks or heartburn,” says Thomason.
“Some folks find that carbonated water helps their digestion and reduces indigestion. However, in [other] folks, it can cause gas or bloating,” adds Amidor. “Using straws to drink carbonated water [or] beverages increases gas and bloating.”
If you love a bubbly bev, in addition to drinking these without a straw, Thomason recommends opting for soda alternatives, like OLIPOP. This soda alternative, in particular, not only contains less added sugars than your standard soda, but also they’re made with plant fiber and prebiotics, both of which can be advantageous to digestive health. As Thomason notes, these sodas can provide “a whopping 9 grams of prebiotic fiber per can, which is 32% of the daily value for fiber.”
4. Energy drinks
“Energy drinks can be high in sugar, which can negatively affect the gut microbiota,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, author of the First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook, the 7 Ingredient Healthy Pregnancy Cookbook, and Fueling Male Fertility. “They also provide very little in the nutrition department, and zero fiber.”
Amidor adds that, although case studies are not always the strongest representation of evidence, that many have linked drinking energy drinks to chronic gastritis, a condition where the lining of the stomach has sustained long-term damage.
“There are several case studies that have linked overconsumption of energy drinks to chronic gastritis,” says Amidor. “However, more studies are needed.”
“Energy drinks may have a similar effect as coffee due to the caffeine. However, energy drinks are also often sweetened with artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols,” Thomason explains. “Sugar alcohols like maltitol or xylitol are unable to be digested by the bacteria in your gut, and may cause gas and bloating as they travel through our digestive system.”
“Typically, sugar-free beverages have some form of artificial sweetener or sugar alcohol, so it’s important to check the labels,” adds Thomason.
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