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

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6 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 – http://flatulencecures.com/quit-soda – 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 http://flatulencecures.com/quit-soda

      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,

      Jim

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