There's nothing quite like a cold glass of water—it's so simple and refreshing—but if you're not a fan of plain old H20 from the tap, you might be more inclined to drink sparkling water or seltzer. While these are forms of water, they're not quite the same as flat water because they're filled with bubbles; though seltzer can be hydrating, the carbonation could actually negatively impact your gut health, which could ultimately disturb digestion. Consumers can experience everything from joint pain and acne to skin rashes and cardiac issues because of changes in the microbiome (home to microorganisms in the digestive tract that help process the food we consume every day). To truly find out how seltzer water impacts the gut, we explored this topic with a doctor.
It's carbonated water.
According to Dr. Caroline J. Cederquist, a triple-board certified medical doctor and the founder of bistroMD, seltzer is carbonated water, or H20 filled with fizz and bubbles thanks to the addition of carbon dioxide gas. Since seltzer water has natural gas bubbles in it, she notes that it is common for people to experience bloating and intestinal gas after drinking it.
It can help you hydrate.
"At this time, seltzer water is encouraged as a healthy way to hydrate," Dr. Cederquist says. "In fact, the CDC recommends choosing tap, bottled, or sparkling water over sugary drinks such as soda or juices." Another benefit associated with drinking seltzer? Consuming any type of water, flat or sparkling, boosts your body's hydration levels. "[It] might even improve digestion and constipation more than tap water, according to a study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology," the expert adds. "Interestingly, too, a study in Dysphagia found carbonated water to improve swallowing abilities in young and older adults."
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It's helpful overall.
Though seltzer water isn't technically deleterious to the stomach, Dr. Cederquist says that it can cause unpleasant digestive symptoms. "The carbonation may exacerbate symptoms in people managing digestive disorders such as acid reflux, irritable bowel disease (IBS), and Crohn's disease," she notes. "Also worth mentioning: Some bubbly waters contain artificial sweeteners to enhance flavor. Despite the unknowns and complexity of artificial sweeteners on health, they may cause digestive discomfort and changes in the gut microbiome."
Otherwise, seltzer is good for your health; it's a satisfying and healthy way to hydrate for most. Consider consulting with a registered dietitian or other medical professional if needed, as gut health and stomach symptoms could still vary from person to person. "If experiencing discomfort after drinking seltzer water, especially if managing a digestive condition, switching to flat water or limiting seltzer intake might be a good idea," explains Dr. Cederquist. "A dietitian or another healthcare professional can help address worries tied to gut health, including those related to the carbonation and potential use of artificial sweeteners in seltzer water varieties."