Soft drinks, fizzy drinks, soda – what are they?
Soft drinks contain:
- water, which is often carbonated
- added sugar or some other sweetener
- natural and/or artificial flavors
Caffeine, colorings, and preservatives are also often added to soft drinks.
They might contain a small amount of alcohol, up to 0.5% of alcohol. Drinks with higher alcohol content are considered alcoholic and called “hard” or alcoholic drinks.
Why does your chest hurt when you drink soda?
- acid reflux
- heart problems
- esophageal spasm
- allergic reactions
- digestive problems
Does soda cause heartburn?
Yes, soda often triggers heartburn for many people. Cold, carbonated, and sugary drinks – like soda – can increase the risk of heartburn and other acid reflux symptoms.
Heartburn happens when the contents of the stomach can flow up (reflux) into the food pipe, irritating the lining of the esophagus.
There is a muscle between the stomach and the food pipe called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When this muscle is tight, nothing from the stomach can enter the esophagus. However, when this muscle is relaxed or pressure in the stomach is too high, stomach acids can seep up into the food pipe.
This condition is called acid reflux and it is very common, about 20% of the people in the US experience symptoms more or less regularly.
Drinking soda can increase the risk of an acid reflux episode in many ways:
- It’s carbonated, the gas increases the pressure in the stomach, which makes the acid flow back more likely.
- It’s cold. Cold drinks can increase the pressure on the LES.
- It contains a lot of sugar. Too much added sugar causes overproduction of stomach acids, especially if you are insulin resistant. Sugar might also relax the LES.
If the soda contains some caffeine or alcohol, reflux attacks are even more likely, as both might relax the LES.
According to the Harvard Medical School:
Too much added sugar can be one of the greatest threats to cardiovascular disease.(source)
Since soda usually contains high amounts of added sugar, you should really limit your consumption, or completely eliminate soda from your diet.
(Looks like diet soda can also cause heart disease.)
Esophagus burns when drinking soda
More often than not, acid reflux causes this burning sensation in the esophagus. However, another possible cause of pain around the esophagus is an esophageal spasm.
Esophageal spasms are painful contractions of muscles in your esophagus. Chest pain is a common symptom.
While the exact causes are not known, experience shows that these are the likely causes:
- faulty nerves
- too much acid in the food pipe
- too hot/cold foods and drinks
Since soda is both very acidic and often consumed ice-cold, it can be a trigger.
Can soda damage your esophagus?
According to this case study of the Australian Medical Association soda can potentially damage the esophagus.
Furthermore, unmanaged acid reflux can also cause esophageal damage in the long term.
Typical symptoms of esophageal damage:
- difficult or painful swallowing
- chest pain when eating
- acid regurgitation
Stomach pain after drinking soda
Soda often causes stomach pain. Pretty much the same ingredients can trigger stomach problems that cause chest discomfort:
- Carbon-dioxide: Carbonated drinks can cause gas, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Because the bubbles in beverages like soda and seltzer can produce a similar fizzy effect in the GI tract, …”
- Added sugar or sweeteners: Both contribute to gas production. Added sugar is also detrimental to the gut microbiome and can cause inflammation.
- Cold: Cold drinks slow down digestion.
Most often an upset stomach after drinking soda goes away within a few hours. However, long term consumption of too much added sugar can cause health issues like:
Sharp pain in the stomach after drinking soda
From acute pancreatitis to heartburn and simple gas pain several conditions can trigger a sharp stomach pain after drinking soda. The most common causes are:
- Acute pancreatitis: According to Cleveland Clinic, sugary drinks are among the worst foods for pancreatitis. The high sugar content makes the pancreas work very hard, which might trigger symptoms if the pancreas is inflamed. Upper left abdominal pain is a typical symptom.
- Heartburn: Heartburn can also cause pain around the center part of the upper abdomen. Typically chest pain – under the breastbone – also occurs in such cases.
- Gas pain: Trapped gas can also cause sharp stomach pain.
No matter what causes sharp stomach pain after drinking or eating, always make sure to talk to your doctor about it. If the pain doesn’t go away or worsens, you might need immediate medical help!
Allergic reactions to soda
People can be allergic to a wide variety of ingredients in soda. Albeit such allergic reactions are rare, symptoms might be very severe.
Itchy skin after drinking soda is a typical symptom. Besides other typical symptoms – rashes, swelling – allergic reactions might cause breathing difficulties. The most severe symptom is anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical help.
A common ingredient in soda is aspartame, which is an artificial sweetener and might trigger allergy.
Right side pain after drinking soda
Liver problems tend to cause pain on the right side, and the added sugars in soda might cause liver disease.
Liver pain after drinking soda might indicate that high sugar consumption has already damaged the liver. Consulting with a doctor is highly recommended in such cases!
Other possible causes of right side pain after soda are:
- irritable bowel syndrome
All of these conditions might cause both abdominal and chest pain.
Left side pain after drinking soda
All of the conditions listed above can also cause pain on the left side. However, two conditions are more likely to cause pain on the left side:
- Heart issues: Not only heart attack, but angina might also trigger pain on the left side.
- Pancreatitis: The high sugar content of soda and an inflamed pancreas don’t play well together. Pancreas pain is usually felt in the upper left abomen but might radiate in the left arm/shoulder/back/neck.
Other symptoms after drinking soda
Even though the chest and stomach seem to be the most obvious parts of the body that could be affected by drinking soda, it is quite possible to feel symptoms in other areas after drinking soda.
In most cases, the real cause of the pain is still in the chest or stomach, but the pain radiates to other parts of the body. This is called referred pain.
These symptoms usually indicate an underlying medical condition in the heart or digestive tract, and soda acts as a trigger.
Possible conditions that might cause back pain after soda:
- Heart problems: If upper back pain occurs together with a sharp pain in the chest, that might indicate a heart attack or angina. Pain in the left or both shoulders and arms, jaw pain, neck pain, feeling weak, and shortness of breath are also common symptoms. This condition is a medical emergency!
- Acid reflux: Chest pain caused by acid reflux might radiate to the back. Other symptoms are regurgitation, upper stomach pain, sour taste in the mouth. The pain usually gets worse when lying down.
- Digestive organs: Problems with the gallbladder, pancreas, and kidney might all cause referred pain in the back. Ulcers are also a possible cause.
Shoulder and arm pain after drinking soda
- Right arm and shoulder pain: The most likely cause is liver diseases, but might be gallstones or gallbladder inflammation.
- Left arm and shoulder pain: Both the heart and the pancreas might cause pain in the left side.
- Pain in both arms or shoulders: A heart attack or angina might cause pain on both sides. However, if no other heart attack symptoms are observed, the cause might be simple overeating, acid reflux, or bloating.
Neck pain after drinking soda
It is not easy to diagnose eating-related neck pain. The cause can be the heart, acid reflux, gallbladder, pancreas, even stomach ulcers might cause pain in the neck.
Another possible cause is a food allergy. If you are allergic to an ingredient of the soda, swelling in the lungs or sinus pressure are possible allergic reactions. Both can cause pain in the neck.
Allergic reactions usually shortly after drinking. Other common symptoms are:
- runny nose
- itchy skin
While most allergic reactions are mild, sometimes allergy can cause anaphylaxis, which requires immediate help.
Sore throat after drinking soda
Soda can contribute to throat pain in several ways:
- Since it is carbonated, it might cause a weird, itchy feeling in the throat.
- If the sode if very cold, it might cause inflammation.
- The high sugar content of sode can also be the culprit.
- Sometimes the preservatives or other chemical might irritate the throat.
Soda, fizzy drinks can cause all kinds of serious health issues, especially in the long term.
The main problem with soda is the high sugar content, which might cause most of the above-mentioned diseases and symptoms.
Sometimes you might experience symptoms because of the gas content or drinking it cold. In most cases, such symptoms are not serious and should go away within a few hours.
The bottom line is that soda does not provide any value to your body. We recommend eliminating it from your diet or at least drinking it very occasionally.
Frequently asked questions
Sometimes heartburn after drinking soda can be felt as a very sharp, severe chest pain. According to Mount Sinai Health System: “About 600,000 people come to emergency rooms each year with chest pain. More than 100,000 of these people are believed to actually have GERD.”
On the other hand, soda can also trigger sharp stomach pain. Heartburn, pancreatitis, and gas are the most common causes in this case.
Drinking soda on an empty stomach can easily upset the stomach and even trigger acid reflux.
This is because when drinking soda, your stomach secretes gastric acids to start digestion, but there is not much to digest. Add to that the acids in the soda, and you have a highly acidic stomach, full of gas.
This is the perfect recipe for stomach pain or heartburn.