February 1, 2023

Is Seltzer Safe For Acid Reflux?



  • A lot of people have stopped drinking soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi, fruit, and energy drinks, and switched to seltzer (aka club soda or carbonated water) … especially popular high-end brands like Perrier, Pellegrino, and Gerolsteiner and fruit-flavored ones like Spindrift, La Croix, and San Pellegrino.
  • Did people stop drinking soda to lose the chemicals and calories or because of heartburn, acid reflux, GERD, LPR, and because of Dropping Acid? A lot of people switched to seltzer to save calories and thinking that it doesn’t cause acid reflux. BTW, a 20-ounce Coke contains 252 calories of sugar.
  • Sorry, but seltzer is bad for reflux because virtually all seltzer and club soda brands are acidic. I recommend non-acidic beverages for refluxers. Everyday beverages should be pH >5.

Why is a Low-Acid Diet Important for People with Acid Reflux, Especially Respiratory Reflux?

For decades, I’ve been writing about and recommending a Low-Acid Diet for my patients with acid reflux. The airway, especially the lining of the vocal cords is particularly susceptible to reflux at pH 5 or below. Most of the inflammation and tissue damage seen in acid reflux is due to the main enzyme of the stomach, Pepsin.

We know that laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), which I now call silent respiratory reflux, is a highly prevalent problem that is expensive to treat and most people don’t improve with medication. I know some people don’t like the idea that there isn’t another way to prevent or reverse acid reflux; still, my clinical experience and research has made it clear that healthy diet and lifestyle changes are the only effective way to treat it.

That’s also why I decided to write Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook & Cure because there was so little information for patients. My book was the first to acknowledge that the acidity of beverages such as seltzer and sparkling water should be avoided. You may want to get some pH paper to help make good decisions. Sp. if you have serious reflux, you should absolutely avoid drinking or eating anything below pH 5 for several weeks, a “reflux detox,” to allow healing of your tissues.

Why So Much Acid in Our Foods and Beverages?

In 1973, Congress passed Title 21, following an outbreak of botulism. This law gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to regulate the acidity canned and bottled goods that crossed state lines. In 1979, Title 21 underwent significant revisions and was expanded with the creation of “Good Manufacturing Practices.” Higher levels of food additives and acidity were permitted in prepackaged food to discourage bacterial growth and reduce the likelihood of bacterial contamination. They don’t regulate what acids and preservatives are used, but the pH needs to be below 4.6, a level low enough to discourage most bacteria … but not so good for refluxers.

Despite the Popularity of Seltzer, It’s Bad for Reflux

There has been a surge in the popularity of seltzer water over the past five to ten years. People have been swapping traditional soft drinks for healthier alternatives with zero sugar and zero calories, but with the same carbonated satisfaction we enjoy when we drink Coca-Cola. By the way, there are 252 calories in a regular 20-ounce Coke! See my recent blog on How to Beat Sugar Addiction.

High-end seltzer and sparkling brands include Perrier, Pellegrino, and Gerolsteiner. Fruit-flavored options can be found in products such as Spindrift, La Croix, and San Pellegrino. Seltzer water has been around for a long time, and mineral water has been a rather common drink among Europeans. Still, the surge in the number of people drinking seltzer these days, and the number of new products available, has made it a modern-day culture and food phenomenon.

But seltzer isn’t great when it comes to acid reflux! In my book Dropping Acid, we tested several types of beverages. We found that Seagram’s original seltzer has an acidity level of pH 3.8, and Poland Spring sparkling water was pH 4.3. For comparison, Coca-Cola was pH 2.8, and Diet Pepsi was pH 2.9. Those are all standard drinks to avoid since they have an acidity level below pH 5.

Sorry, but seltzer is bad for reflux, just like soda. I recommend non-acidic (or at least less-acidic) beverages for refluxers. While the pH (acidity) of seltzers (pH ~4.4) is generally better than that of most other sodas and soft drinks (pH ~3.3), seltzer is still too acidic for people with acid reflux. The recommended acidity for everyday beverages is pH >5. And nothing beats drinking Alkaline Water.

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