If you still drink soda and care about your liver, it’s time to give it up! Carbonated water might be your ideal solution.
Visit any dining establishment in America and the beverage choices are likely to revolve around soda. A majority of Americans grew up drinking soda, despite the damage it can wreck on their liver. Halting a soda habit can be tough, but finding the right substitute could make it much easier to quit.
Soda drinkers are at high risk for developing a fatty liver. When fat accumulates in the liver in someone who does not drink alcohol excessively, they have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Although it is reversible in its early stage, NAFLD can progressively worsen and cause severe liver damage. Experts estimate that NAFLD affects around 30% of American adults. Our penchant for drinking soda – both regular and diet – is suspected as a major factor in this dramatic statistic.
Fatty Liver and Soda
Anyone concerned with his or her liver’s health is urged to abandon drinking soda. Whether it is regularly sweetened soda or the diet version, soda is a known contributor to NAFLD:
- Regular soda – According to a 2008 study published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology, Israeli researchers found that people who drink more than two cans of regular soda a day are at much greater risk of a fatty liver and, if left untreated, their chances for heart disease and cirrhosis of the liver also increase.
- Diet soda – Turning to diet soda to replace regular soda is not the best choice. According to a 2008 University of Minnesota study of nearly 10,000 adults, one diet soda a day is linked to a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome – a collection of symptoms that includes obesity, high cholesterol and fatty liver.
Water Is Crucial for Your Liver
Contrary to soda, drinking water has a desired effect on liver health. The first ingredient in most detox programs, water helps keep your blood viscous and flush toxins out of your liver. Water is largely responsible for the fluid content of blood, and the blood’s viscosity impacts your liver’s detoxification abilities. Thus, an insufficient amount of water will increase the blood’s thickness and make it harder to filter. A liver laden with excessive fat or another source of liver inflammation is challenged to efficiently detoxify the blood. This challenge is magnified when the blood is more viscous.
How to Transition Away from Soda
Unfortunately, abandoning a couple cans of sodas each day to just drinking water can be a tall order. Many people who are used to the sensation of carbonation have a hard time drinking still water. Luckily, carbonated water can replace a soda addiction and provide similar liver health benefits to water.
According to Atlanta-based nutritionist Marisa Moore, RDN, carbonated water is just as hydrating as still water. With carbonated water, you get the same pleasant fizz without the calories and liver health risks associated with both regular and diet soda. Switching from soda to carbonated water is mostly a matter of abandoning the sweet taste.
What Are the 3 Main Types of Bubbly Water?
Carbonated waters that do not contain sweeteners or calories are the best choice for someone wanting to care of their liver. The fizzy water options can be a bit confusing, because not all bubbly water is the same.
The three main types are:
- Sparkling Mineral Water – This water is bottled at the source, which means that it has naturally occurring minerals and carbonation. The bubbles are typically fine and delicate, creating a slight effervescent texture. Mineral water is less acidic than other fizzy waters, but because it’s sourced naturally and often imported, it tends to cost a bit more. Sparkling mineral water may contain some sodium, so those on a sodium-restricted diet must be aware of this.
- Seltzer – Also called sparkling water, seltzer is carbonated artificially and typically has bigger, sharper bubbles. In general, seltzer contains no ingredients other than water. However, some brands add natural flavors.
- Club Soda – Like seltzer, club soda is carbonated artificially but has more additions like salt, potassium bicarbonate, and potassium sulfate. Thus, club soda has a slightly salty, mineral taste. Again, those on a sodium-restricted diet must be aware of this.
3 Concerns You Might Have About Sparkling Water
As long as you choose a carbonated water that has no sweeteners or calories, bubbly water is a liver-friendly substitute for soda.
Some concerns about sparkling water include:
- Bone Density – A common misconception is that drinking carbonated water prevents your body from absorbing calcium, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Experts say this is not true. The idea stems from a 2006 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that found a connection between carbonated cola drinks and lower bone mineral density. However, the research did not show lower bone density to be associated with carbonated water.
- Tooth Enamel – Carbonated water may have an effect on tooth enamel. When water is carbonated, carbonic acid forms, lowering its pH. Consuming acidic drinks can cause tooth enamel to erode over time, potentially leading to sensitivity and cavities. Although nobody wants tooth enamel erosion, carbonated water is not a top offender. There are many foods and beverages that are much more acidic than seltzer. Flavored seltzers are usually more acidic, while sparkling mineral waters and club sodas are usually less acidic.
- Bloating – Carbonated water introduces extra gas in the digestive system, which can lead to burping or flatulence. This may also happen if carbonated water is consumed too fast. Those with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome may feel bloating and discomfort after consuming bubbly water.
Abandoning soda is smart for many reasons – one of which is to prevent, reverse or thwart the worsening of NAFLD. Some may have no issue switching from soda to water (the healthiest beverage in existence), but many will still crave that refreshing fizz. It will be an adjustment to consume an unsweetened beverage like carbonated water, but it won’t be long before this bubbly, zero calorie drink satisfies your desire for bubbles. Better yet, drinking carbonated water is a great way to help your liver flush out toxins and restrict the sugar and sugar substitutes that encourage NAFLD.
Editor’s Note: After reducing excess sugar and fat from your diet, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight while regularly engaging in exercise, another way to help prevent or reverse fatty liver is with milk thistle. Studies have shown that silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle, is effective in reducing inflammation and steatosis in liver cells and regenerating new, healthy liver cells. Learn more about UltraThistle, the world’s highest potency milk thistle formula.
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