Can Carbonated Sodas Trigger IBS?

For years, I never had an issue with carbonated drinks or sodas. Then, they suddenly fell under my food aversions during my first pregnancy. As a result, I, a notorious consumer of sparkling water and Diet Coke stayed away from anything carbonated for 9 whole months.

A new IBS trigger food?

Lots of things changed during that time. I became a mom, my hormones messed up my carefully curated list of safe and trigger foods. And apparently, I can now no longer have carbonated beverages.

At first, I didn’t notice. I had constant IBS flares in the months following the birth of my baby. As I said, some of my previously safe foods had suddenly become triggers and I had to do the entire elimination process all over again. During this time, I mostly drank herbal tea anyway and it never occurred to me to question sodas.

Then, I suddenly got sick during a dinner party. The only thing I had eaten were appetizers - and I had had a carbonated soda. While I did wonder whether the soda caused the (very annoying and embarrassing) flare, there was no way of knowing for sure after just one time. Still, I decided to play it safe and stay away.

Soda suspicion confirmed

Unfortunately, I didn’t do a very great job at staying away from this potential new IBS trigger. Without really thinking about it, I drank another carbonated soda a couple of months later. Surprise, surprise: I ended up with a really bad flare. Several days after that, the same thing happened again (I apparently never learn).

But can carbonated drinks and sodas really be IBS triggers, or is this just some strange coincidence?

Soda and IBS research

John Hopkins Medicine suggests that carbonated beverages can indeed affect the GI tract and lists it as one of the five foods to avoid when you have IBS. According to other sources, carbonated sodas cause gas and bloating which can then lead to digestive issues such as diarrhea.

In addition, many sodas contain artificial sweeteners, which, as I know from my own experience, can send you to the bathroom really fast. After googling "artificial sweeteners and IBS," I quickly realized that I am not the only one having trouble digesting those.

Soda is not as bad as it seems

Sodas being a trigger food isn’t the worst thing in the world, at least for me. They aren’t great for your health in general, so forgoing them won’t cause a lack of nutrients. And then you can always drink water or herbal tea instead.

However, it’s interesting for me to see just how much IBS can change over time. I used to have Diet Coke multiple times a week, all throughout my first years living with IBS-D. I’m not sure whether the hormones during pregnancy and postpartum made it a trigger. Maybe it’s just the fact that I stopped consuming it and my body forgot how to digest it? I guess I’ll never know. But I’m never having a carbonated soda again.

Are carbonated beverages an issue for you as well? I’d love to know about your experience!

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