October 24, 2023/Primary Care

Does Ginger Ale Really Help With Nausea?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but the fizzy drink typically doesn’t contain any real ginger

Ginger tea in a clear glass cup surrounded by ginger root with honey and lemons in the background.

Stomachaches are no fun. When you’re feeling sick to your stomach, you can feel even worse if you’re feeling nauseated. And you may turn to an old standby: ginger ale.

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But does ginger ale really help with nausea?

While many of us grew up thinking this fizzy drink could help ease our tummy troubles, the fact is that ginger ale may not be the cure-all we thought it was.

Family medicine physician Matthew Goldman, MD, explains why ginger ale might not be the best option and what you can drink instead to help settle your stomach.

Is ginger ale good for nausea and upset stomachs?

No, states Dr. Goldman.

Spoiler alert: Most ginger ale is actually fake. Ginger ale may not contain natural ginger. It could be an artificial flavoring.

And if it does have real ginger, it may not have enough to offer significant relief. Even then, most ginger ale won’t help. It could even make matters worse.

“Most commercial-brand ginger ales have at least 10 teaspoons of sugar,” says Dr. Goldman. “If a person has bloating, gas or indigestion, the carbonation and sugar may make it worse. Even diet ginger ale can be harmful because our bodies may not digest artificial sugars as well.”

The same can be said for ginger beer. Though it may contain higher levels of ginger than ginger ale, certain ginger beers are high in sugar, calories and caffeine.

Alternatives to ginger ale

If you really want ginger ale, Dr. Goldman suggests reading labels to ensure you’re getting less sugar and enough real ginger.

But your best bet? Ginger root from the grocery store, which can help with various forms of nausea like morning sickness, motion sickness and the side effects of certain chemotherapy treatments. Fresh ginger contains a compound called gingerol, which includes antioxidant properties and reduces inflammation.

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So, how should you use ginger? Peel it and mix with decaf tea or warm water.

Dr. Goldman advises having ginger in small amounts throughout the day. Other ginger options available in the natural foods aisle of your grocery store or at a natural foods store include:

  • Ginger candies or lollipops. Look for low-sugar options in the natural foods aisle of your grocery store or at a natural foods store. These can provide a convenient and tasty way to enjoy the benefits of ginger.
  • Ginger chews. Another flavorful option that may help alleviate nausea.
  • Ginger tea. Ginger tea is a soothing and time-tested remedy known for its ability to support digestion and settle the stomach.
  • Ginger shots. Some people find ginger shots, typically concentrated forms of ginger, effective in providing quick relief from nausea.
  • Foods that contain ginger. Low-sugar gingersnap cookies and other ginger-infused snacks can be a pleasant way to consume ginger when experiencing stomach discomfort.
  • Powdered ginger. A versatile option for adding ginger flavor to various dishes and beverages.

What other drinks can help with tummy troubles? In addition to ginger-based remedies, consider these other options to help with tummy troubles:

  • Peppermint tea. Peppermint tea has been shown to support digestion and can have a soothing effect on the stomach.
  • Sports drinks or electrolyte drinks. When used in moderation, these beverages can be helpful in preventing dehydration. Be sure to check the added sugar content on the label.
  • Oral rehydration solutions. For sick children, oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte® are formulated with lower sugar levels and higher electrolytes, making them suitable for addressing dehydration while being gentle on children’s bodies.
  • Water. Don’t underestimate the importance of staying hydrated. Sipping on ice water can be a simple and effective way to maintain fluid balance.

“It’s important to remember that individual preferences and sensitivities vary, so you may want to try different options to find the one that works best for you,” suggests Dr. Goldman. “In the end, the choice of remedy will depend on your specific needs and comfort.”

Bottom line?

When you have an upset stomach and are battling nausea, it’s important to stay hydrated. Instead of turning to ginger ale, you may want to opt for ginger tea, peppermint tea or even a sports or electrolyte drink.

You also want to opt for bland foods like saltine crackers, bananas and applesauce instead of spicy, acidic, sweet or fatty foods.

And while a little patience and some home remedies can help settle your stomach, if your nausea persists, it may be time to talk to a healthcare provider.

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