Does Ginger Ale Actually Help An Upset Stomach?

Many people turn to the classic combination of chicken soup, saltines, and ginger ale when sick. It's easy, comforting, and almost universally understood to make you feel better. Drinking ginger ale seems like a no-brainer, since ginger has been proven to alleviate nausea (via Healthline) and the soda water replaces fluids lost during *ahem* gastrointestinal distress. 

But according to Dr. Gina Sam when speaking to Marie Claire, ginger ale might actually make your stomach ache worse. The issue, she says, lies in the sugar or artificial sugars contained in the soda, which "feed the bad bacteria in your GI tract, causing more bloating, gas, and indigestion." The Atlantic agrees, reporting that ginger might not even help if you have a stomach bug, and is more beneficial if your nausea is caused by pregnancy, motion sickness, the effects of anesthesia, or chemotherapy. 

Taste of Home takes an issue with popular soda brand Canada Dry specifically, pointing out that ginger isn't even listed in the ingredients, although we can likely assume it is one of the "natural flavors." Apparently there was even a lawsuit filed against parent company Keurig Dr. Pepper in 2019 for false advertising, leading them to change the label language claiming their ginger ale is made from "real ginger" and offer up to $40 in the United States for anyone with proof of purchase going back to 2013, according to the National Post.

Alternatives to drinking ginger ale

As an alternative to ginger ale, Dr. Sam suggests that you add fresh ginger to hot water or decaf tea when feeling under the weather. PopSugar similarly recommends ginger tea, stating that even ginger beer, which is made from fermented ginger, still contains the sugar and carbonation which lead to bloating and discomfort. Taste of Home offers the alternative of ginger chews if you're not interested in making tea, claiming they can produce near instant relief. Over at Health Essentials for the Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center based out of Ohio, Dr. Matthew Goldman suggests taking ginger in its powdered form, or even eating low-calorie ginger snaps. Who says cookies can't be healthy?

And in case you're wondering, 7Up doesn't get the job done when it comes to an upset stomach, either.