As a kid, my mom always told me to eat saltine crackers and drink ginger ale when a stomach ache came on. This is the classic home remedy for an upset stomach, along with drinking chicken noodle soup or chicken broth. Although there's evidence to back up the benefits of saltines and soups, skip the ginger ale the next time you have an upset stomach.
Does Ginger Ale Help an Upset Stomach?
It turns out that ginger ale is actually not helpful for a tummy ache, and in some cases can make you feel worse. This surprised me to hear, since I always remembered feeling better after sipping ginger ale when I felt sick as a kid. However, maybe this was simply the placebo effect, since believing that a medicine will work is often just as effective as the medicine itself.
The reason that ginger ale is thought to be a cure for for an upset stomach is that real ginger is a natural remedy for stomach issues like nausea, morning sickness and indigestion. Ginger has anti-inflammatory benefits that can aid an upset stomach and other digestive issues, settling your stomach and warding off nausea.
Despite its name, ginger ale doesn't actually contain any ginger, so no matter how much of this popular soda you drink, you won't be ingesting any actual ginger. This carbonated soft drink contains ginger flavors rather than the real deal.
In fact, ginger ale is likely to make any stomach pain worse because of the amount of sugar it contains. Dr. Gina Sam, M.D., a gastroenterologist in New York City, explained in an interview with Delish, "I don't think the public realizes how much sugar and how little ginger is in these beverages. The reason we say to avoid sugar when you're fighting a stomach illness is because sugar actually feeds the bad bacteria in your GI tract, causing more bloating, gas, and indigestion."
Even if you buy a sugar-free ginger ale, it'll probably be full of artificial sweeteners, which are just as bad as sugar when it comes to bloating and indigestion. Natural ginger ales might be better than the classic Canada Dry you'd buy at the grocery store, but it's still best to check how much sugar is in them before drinking.
Along with the sugar content, the carbonation in ginger ale can make bloating and gas worse, which can cause even more stomach pain. No matter how many times your mom or grandma told you to drink ginger ale for an upset stomach, this drink is far from an upset stomach cure-all.
Drink Ginger Tea Instead
To treat nausea and other stomach-related symptoms, try drinking ginger tea. Along with helping with an upset stomach, the health benefits of ginger are plentiful, from providing antioxidants to relieving migraines to preventing cancer. To make it easy, buy ginger tea bags at the store, and steep in hot water for a few minutes.
You can also make your own ginger tea with fresh ginger root, which will be more concentrated and taste fresher. To make it, start by getting one piece of ginger that's 2-3 inches long and slicing it into thin slices. Put the ginger into a mug, and pour boiling water in. Allow the ginger to steep for about 5 minutes, and then strain the tea to remove the ginger pieces. This will treat an upset stomach far better than ginger ale does!