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Can drinking too much soda cause acid reflux?

A Reader Asked:

“I drink a lot of soda and recently I started feeling a burning in my chest. I think I have acid reflux. Can soda cause acid reflux and why?”

Answer:

First off I am not a doctor so I cannot diagnose whether what you are describing is acid reflux or not. If this concerns you, please seek medical assistance; however, what I can tell you is that, yes, soda does cause acid reflux. Let me tell you why.

As I have stated in most articles I have written, acid reflux is mostly caused by too much acid in the stomach and a faulty lower esophageal sphincter (LES) valve OR pressure by something, usually food from overeating or pregnancy which causes the LES to fail. There are other reasons and if you are interested you can read a more comprehensive article on the cause by clicking here. This being said, carbonated beverages, mainly soda, is one of the main causes of acid reflux due to the carbonation in the stomach which causes the stomach to expand and creates enough pressure to make your LES fail. When this valve fails then stomach contents are allowed to up-flow into the esophagus. Sometimes you may feel like you are burping up food and sometimes, if stomach acid is present, your esophagus will burn. Soda with caffeine is a double whammy because of the pH level in both caffeine and soda which can really make matters worse; plus, caffeine, chocolate and mint tea actually relaxes the LES and causes it to fail.

In 2007 the General Dentistry published an article on the acidity of some common soft drinks. Of course this article shows how acid drinks will cause tooth decay, but that same article can give insights on how much acid these drinks have in them and we can conclude that this contributes to acid reflux.

What is pH?

pH or “potential of Hydrogen”, measures the acidic or alkaline level of a substance or solution. If a substance or solution has an equal amount of acidic and alkaline molecules, then the pH is considered neutral. The pH scale runs from 0.0 to 14.0 with 7.0 being neutral. 0 to 7.0 is considered acid and 7.1 to 14 is considered alkaline. The blood in your body should be slightly alkaline at around 7.3. If your blood is less than 7.3 then it is considered acidic and many complications can arise depending on how acidic it becomes. Finally, not all food or beverages will react the same in everyone and automatically affect the pH level in your blood. That is why some people can eat extremely spicy food and not have it affect them; however, over time it will. Eating and drinking acidic substances will cause your stomach acid to rise and if you have a faulty LES then you will get heartburn or worse. Esophageal cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the U.S. due to our eating habits.

To help you better understand how much acid you are eating or drinking, here is a chart for you to consider:

Common Household Items pH
Lemon Juice 1.6 – 1.8
Vinegar 2.5
Milk 6.3 – 6.6
Saliva 6.2 – 7.4
Pure Water 7.0
Blood 7.4
Egg Whites 7.6 – 8.0
Milk of Magnesia 10.5
Soda pH
Coke 2.5
Diet Coke 3.3
Pepsi 2.5
Diet Pepsi 3.0
Dr. Pepper 2.9
Diet Dr. Pepper 3.2
Cherry Coke 2.5
Mr. Pibb 2.9
Mountain Dew 3.2
Diet Mountain Dew 3.3
Sprite 3.2
7 Up 3.2
Lemon Brisk 2.9
Lemon Nestea 3.0
Mug Root Beer 4.0
Tap Water 7.67
Alcoholic Drinks
Alcoholic Beverages 4.1 – 4.2
Beer and Wine 3.9 – 5.5

As you can see, most everything we drink is in the acidic range and will raise the acid level in your stomach. If you already have acid reflux from other causes, then drinking these beverages will only help to increase the burn. It is best to stop drinking carbonated beverages and alcohol if you have heartburn.