Is Soda Acidic? – How Cola Impacts Digestion

Coke AcidicHow exactly did so many of us come to be pouring highly acidic cola down our throats over and over again each day? And what kind of effect is this acid drink having on our digestion?

The Acid Levels in Soda

Short of drinking undiluted vinegar, cola is about the most acidic thing you can buy to drink. The pH level of soda is approximately 2.5 (testing seems to come up with results ranging from 2.3 to 3.5 but a pH of 2.5 is commonly cited for the most popular brand name cola).

In the way these the pH of liquids are ranked a pH level of 2.5 is about 10,000 times stronger on the acidic scale than water.

To get an idea of the scale of the acid in soda, by comparison, battery acid that will eat away your skin has a pH of 1. Maybe this is why soda manufacturers choose to load it with such massive amounts of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. They need it to help disguise the acidic pH of soda and it would probably be unpalatable without it.

Clean water has a pH of 7 and our blood needs to maintain a pH balance of between 7.35 and 7.45 for cellular processes to function properly. When your blood has a pH below 7.35 it is considered too acidic and blood acidosis is associated with many health problems and diseases.

How the Acids in Soda Affect Your Digestive System

While a healthy digestive tract’s buffering systems should prevent cola’s acidity from directly reaching your bloodstream, these countermeasures can be costly.

Minerals stored in the body such as calcium phosphate are drawn upon by the phosphate buffering system to counteract strong acids like the phosphoric acid in soda. Calcium phosphate is an important component of our bones and teeth, but the more acid in soda and other drinks we consume, the more calcium phosphate is drawn upon to neutralize them.

It’s not just a case of there not being enough calcium to maintain healthy bones and teeth. Over time, with high consumption of acid drinks like cola, calcium can actually be drawn from the bones and teeth to deal with the ongoing low pH onslaught to your digestive system.

When this happens our teeth become weaker and more likely to decay, our bones become more brittle and easier to fracture and the eventual result can be crippling osteoporosis. This study of over 25,000 people suggested cola consumption specifically, rather than just carbonated drinks in general, is directly related to an increased risk of osteoporosis.

Hydrochloric Acid and the Phosphoric Acid in Soda

Cola DigestionYour mouth lining, throat and esophagus are all very sensitive to acids like phosphoric acid and may become irritated with regular exposure to cola. But what about your stomach?

Some people believe that because the hydrochloric acid in your stomach is of a lower pH, at around 2 and less than soda’s pH of 2.5, its acidity should have no effect.

Unfortunately, regular exposure to soda and its phosphoric acid appears to reduce the secretion of HCl in your stomach over time. Poor hydrochloric acid secretion is a big problem for proper digestion and drinking soda can affect protein digestion in particular.

Mineral absorption is also impaired with low HCl. But even more relevant in the case of digestive problems, reduced hydrochloric acid in the gastric juices can allow potentially dangerous bacteria, yeasts and other parasites in food to survive the stomach where they are normally neutralized. These pathogens are then free to move on to the intestines where they can end up causing all manner of long term health issues.

Excess liquids alone can dilute stomach acid, which is bad enough for digestion. Add the phosphoric acid, massive quantities of sugar and the various chemicals in soda to the mix and we are really tempting serious digestion problems.

Giving Up Acidic Soda

All of this is assuming you have a healthy digestive system in the first place. Many people report stomach pain after drinking soda and doctors generally advised against drinking soft drinks of any kind when you have an irritated stomach or stomach ulcers.

Good advice, but probably a bit too late by then. Replace cola now and you may avoid ever having these problems in the first place. Even better, you’ll be likely to lose weight, be much healthier and regain some real energy that doesn’t rely on that jittery caffeine rush and insulin provoking sugar spike and crash.

Have you ever tried giving up cola? It seems the specific ingredients in soda, especially the caffeine, very high levels of sugar and very low pH, make it particularly hard for many people to stop drinking it. I’d be interested to hear about your experiences, especially how you felt in the days immediately after giving it up.

It’s not really a question of is soda acidic, but rather, just how much damage is the acidity in cola doing to you personally. In the pages ahead there is a simple plan to quit soda to help anyone stop drinking soda or diet soda while minimizing caffeine and aspartame withdrawal symptoms.

Photo 1 credit with thanks: alan.stoddard / Photo 2 credit with thanks: billaday

27 Responses to “Is Soda Acidic? – How Cola Impacts Digestion”

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  1. George Curious says:

    I felt fine after quitting. I didn’t really notice more energy, but I did notice my newfound ability to actually fall asleep at night. I probably do have more energy, though. I haven’t drank sodas for about 6 months, now. Except…occasionally. I’ve had 3-4 sodas within that time frame, usually after or during a meal that I could eat without soda. Probably sparked that in my brain, “Oh, I drink sodas with this meal,” then I semi unconsciously grab one. :/

    • James says:

      Hi George and thanks for your comments.

      It’s not surprising sleep is easier with how wired a few sodas can make you. You’re right about there being a habitual component of soda addiction. I wrote about how to overcome that here – – but it looks you’re doing well with letting go of it.

  2. John says:

    I abuse cola and my problems with not drinking it is with my throat. I will feel dry and irritated no matter how much i drink. Its worse for me than to quit smoking

    • James says:

      Hi John,

      It sounds like an addiction response with the high levels of sugar provoking this reaction and then appearing to be a temporary solution. I’d suggest considering this plan to replace soda with a carbonated and similar tasting yet healthy alternative

      All the best.

  3. Cindy says:

    Two and a half weeks ago, I decided to take the plunge and give up drinking 2 daily afternoon Diet Cokes. Prior to that, I didn’t drink coffee but decided to replace the afternoon caffeine with a mid-day glass of half decaf and half regular ice coffee.

    Giving up my afternoon Diet Coke pick-me-up has eliminated my frequent digestive disorders. No more bloating or abdominal discomfort for me. I didn’t realize how much this former habit of drinking Diet Coke had on my digestive problems. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

    Thanks for the interesting and informative article.

    • James says:

      Hi Cindy and thanks for your comments.

      With the acid level of diet coke I’m not surprised your digestive disorders have improved. What is surprising is how many of us are still drinking the stuff given what’s actually in it.

      All the best,


  4. Chris Scott says:

    Great article. Thanks.
    What about Cherry Juice concentrate; the real stuff that’s like 20-30-to-1(?) dilution? I was introduced to it in Traverse City, Michigan, Cherry Capital of the world. Isn’t it supposed to have great health benefits? Particularly good for arthritis I’ve been told.

  5. Augustine Nkopane says:

    Im having a big problem now because i was taking to much coka cola so now i need help because the doctor keep telling me its allege …the doctor gave me the treatment but still caming back the sytomas ..i will be burning inside my stamach im having ichiy rush and swelling…i have to scrub my self and now it became bruise and pain …i don’t suppose to eat samething sweet i will start having sour test in my throat and start inching again please i need help because the doctor keep telling me its allege

  6. Aleshya says:

    Thank you for the information on the acidity in sodas and the effects on out digestion system. I am doing a speech on why we should all quit drinking soda and this was a great source of information.

  7. unhappy wife says:

    My husband is a soda drinker. He drink four to eight sodas daily with no water intake. He has digestive issues. He has recently been diagnosed with GERD. He also gets diarrhea at least once ever other month and has flatulence issues. It is like talking to a wall when I mention his soda intake. Not sure what to do.

  8. Oliver says:

    I drink around 2 litres of coke a day for around 10 years now Everytime I try stop my body shuts down seems in coming off a class a drug or something and evety night after drinking it feels like some1 has poured acid down my throat horrible feelin and effects my sleep

    • James says:

      Hi Oliver,

      The drug analogy sounds very appropriate. This much cola would be very problematic for most people. I’d really recommend reading this page and the associated links for a way to minimize withdrawal symptoms while replacing soda with something similar tasting that won’t be so destructive to your health.

      Really hope this helps,


  9. Christine says:

    Hi. I am a little confused by the fact that in your article, you seem to use the terms cola and soda interchangeably. I consider ginger ale to be a soda, and I don’t believe it has any caffeine. I’m not sure about its acidity. Can you clarify whether your comments apply specifically to colas, or all sodas (fizzy soft drinks)?


    • James says:

      Hi Christine,

      In the US most people do use soda and cola interchangeably and are searching for terms like soda, caffeine and acid.

      Non-cola fizzy drinks are problematic due to the very high levels of sugar but generally don’t have the phosphoric acid of cola.

      All the best,


  10. Miss Cheryl says:

    I have been drinking diet coke regularly for 40 years and have been treated for IBS and peptic ulcers and suffer tremendously from bloating, gas, stomach pain and digestive disorders. I decided to buy some water flavor additives and try drinking only water and some coffee. In two days my bloating has disappeared. My stomach has not been this flat in months. I don’t feel bloated at all today. I am going to continue trying to eliminate diet coke from my life and introduce some healthier drinks and some of the teas you suggested. I’m so excited and am really hopeful I am going to feel better. I am 56 years old and want to retire healthy and energetic so I can enjoy the last chapter of my life.

    Thank you so much for your great articles!


  11. Stephen says:


    The acidic level of pH within the soda of “soft drinks” is only a part of the problem with drinking these carbonated liquids (I hesitate to call them drinks). There is a constituent of the liquid which over time creates a shell around the pituitary gland and impedes clear thinking. Not to mention the damage all of that sugar is doing to your endocrine system. The pancreas secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon to control blood sugar levels throughout the day and when thrown off balance the hormones follow the sugars off track.


  12. Paul says:

    I used to consume soft drinks like no mans business. But all of a sudden whenever I took one, I would get terrible stomach pains and diarrhoea after a few hours. Just the thought of what I used to go through makes me never want to take anything with carbonated water in it. But if at all there is a way I could start taking softies again and have no such problems; that would be awesome! I miss em bad! Hurts to see them softies pass me by :(

  13. Greg Vaughn says:

    Thank you for your research and detailed information. However, one thing not mentioned by you or the other comments is soda’s effect on muscle tissue or joints. I have no research or stats to back this up except personal experience which led me to your article about acidity levels of sodas. I am currently 60 years old and in reasonably good shape, but 10 years ago I began to notice chronic muscle & joint pain mostly in my left forearm and wrist. As a band director & percussionist, this was quite noticeable and limiting in my job performance. After suffering for years thinking it was just age & arthritis, I noticed that sodas & black tea seemed to aggravate the condition considerably. To a lesser extent, depending on the variety, coffee can also contribute in this way. I have learned to “listen to my body” in order to minimize & even eliminate these effects. Do you have any thoughts or research on this? Thanks again,


    • James says:

      Hi Greg and thanks for your comments.

      I don’t have any particular research on soda’s effects on muscle tissue or joints but it would make sense that the negative impact on nutrient absorption and gastrointestinal inflammation would increase other kinds of inflammation throughout the body.

      All the best,


  14. Jay says:

    Since alkalinity is in the opposite side of acid in the pH spectrum would drinking alkaline water after drinking soda be beneficial for those who have trouble staying away from soda beverages?

    • Jim says:

      I doubt it would have much effect to be honest. Phosphoric acid is very strong and cola has a pH of around 2.5 which is much further down the acid scale than alkaline water is up the alkaline one.

      All the best,


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