Are Ginger Ale Benefits Overstated? A Look Behind the Science
Getting sick with a nasty bout of stomach flu is the worst. It can start with fever, chills and sweats, and abdominal pain. Later on, you can transition to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Apart from resting with your favorite Netflix shows, it also makes sense to reach for drinks to help you get back on your feet quickly as your stomach flu runs its course. Enter ginger ale. Ginger ale has always been a common home remedy for stomach aches, bloating, nausea, and heartburn. But is there any science behind ginger ale’s benefits? Or are the benefits of ginger more fiction than fact?
Here, we’ll uncover the latest research on ginger ale benefits and why it might not be the ideal drink to help you recover from mild to moderate dehydration resulting from vomiting and diarrhea.
What Is Ginger Ale?
Ginger ale is soda flavored with ginger. As a carbonated drink, it usually contains sugar, carbonated water, and ginger flavoring. In some ginger ale brands, citric acid, sodium benzoate, and other preservatives are added to the mix.
Meanwhile, traditional ginger ale is typically prepared with ginger root, honey, and lemon. Some ginger ale mixes are made from fermentation, commonly with yeast or ginger bug. A ginger bug is a fermented, foamy mixture of water, sugar, and fresh ginger root (or the ginger beer plant).
If you notice as you browse through the grocery shelves or as you do your research online about ginger ale benefits, some brands label their ginger ale as “dry.” A label that reads “dry ginger ale,” as you’ll see on Canada Dry ginger ale, often means that the ginger ale is less sweet and may be spicier.
Ginger Ale Benefits: Is It Really Good for You?
Ginger ale has long been touted for its benefits, particularly when it comes to nausea and easing an upset stomach. However, it's worth noting that ginger ale benefits are mainly due to the benefits of ginger root. Plus, you can consume ginger root in many ways — ginger tea, ginger soups, ginger juice, and so on.
Researchers have long studied the health benefits of ginger root. For instance, Adam Lonicer, a German botanist, praised ginger's ability to cure stomach aches and indigestion in the 16th century. Today, clinical trials have shown that up to a gram of ginger root can reverse nausea, particularly during pregnancy and chemotherapy.
There's also research suggesting that ginger supplementation may reduce fasting blood sugar levels in individuals with Type 2 diabetes.
Other health benefits of ginger include:
It is a natural source of antioxidants
Has anti-inflammatory properties
May help prevent cancer
May protect from heart disease and similar cardiovascular conditions
May help improve cholesterol
May help with migraine relief
But all of these benefits are for the ginger root. Ginger ale's medicinal uses, on the other hand, aren't as clear. For a start, many store-bought ginger ales contain very small amounts of real ginger – or in some cases, none at all. Many of today's popular ginger ale formulas are even loaded with high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners.
Here's an example of an ingredient list of commercial ginger ale: carbonated water, citric acid, sodium benzoate, natural flavor, caramel flavor, and high fructose corn syrup.
Meanwhile, Canada Dry's ginger ale doesn't even contain the essential electrolytes that you need to manage dehydration following repeated bouts of vomiting or diarrhea. It contains zero potassium and magnesium.
Are There Ginger Ale Benefits for Dehydration?
Remember, ginger ale is like a soft drink with ginger flavor. There are usually better options for you if you're battling stomach flu, and there are a few reasons for this. First off, vomiting and diarrhea are common signs of stomach flu that speed up the body's loss of electrolytes, resulting in dehydration. Plus, the sugar content in ginger ale can worsen diarrhea which exacerbates dehydration.
When you're in a state of dehydration, water alone is not enough. Your body needs the perfect balance of sodium and glucose to help absorption. With the precisely balanced ratio, you can replenish vital electrolytes and fluids to relieve dehydration quickly.
How to Manage Dehydration From an Upset Stomach
Anyone experiencing stomach flu should take extra care to avoid its most common complication — dehydration. It's even more important to assess dehydration symptoms in people who are at risk of dehydration due to stomach flu: infants, seniors, people with chronic health conditions, and individuals with suppressed immune systems.
When you're dehydrated, you need to activate the sodium-glucose cotransport system. This system draws molecules of glucose and sodium, as well as attracts water, into your bloodstream. Furthermore, sodium helps the body retain water more efficiently, encouraging you to drink more. As a result, your body gets dehydration relief fast.
How do you activate the sodium-glucose cotransport system? You need a precise ratio of sodium electrolytes and glucose in your oral rehydration solution.
It's not as simple as combining sodium and glucose in the right way; you also need low osmolarity to increase fluid absorption. Osmolarity refers to the number of particles suspended in a solution. The more particles are suspended in a solution (i.e., the higher the osmolarity), the slower the absorption of water from your small intestines to your bloodstream for dehydration relief. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that ORS should have an osmolarity of 245 mOsm/L. The more particles are suspended in a solution (i.e., the higher the osmolarity), the slower the absorption of water from your small intestines to your bloodstream for dehydration relief.
Is Ginger Ale Good for an Upset Stomach?
There's limited clinical research and medical literature to prove ginger ale's nausea-busting superpowers.
The jury is clearer, though, when it comes to natural ginger root for nausea relief. Aside from helping battle nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and morning sickness in pregnancy, clinical trials favor ginger's anti-nausea effects. These can be handy in cases from motion sickness and post-surgery anesthesia effects.
However, you don’t need to drink ginger ale to get the benefits of ginger. There are many ways to take this herb. Also, ginger ale brands tend to have a lot of added sugar and even high fructose corn syrup. Finally, carbonation in ginger ale may even lead to unwanted side effects like tooth erosion and upset stomach.
If you're experiencing vomiting or diarrhea, or even sweating during a fever, your body is losing fluids and key electrolytes. To avoid resulting dehydration, you need to replace these fast and in a smart manner.
Get Dehydration Relief Fast With DripDrop
The next time you consider ginger ale while you’re experiencing fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, ask yourself: Can ginger ale really help with dehydration relief? Since it lacks the right balance of electrolytes (or the right electrolytes period) and often has too much sugar, we don’t think so.
Instead, consider medical-grade DripDrop. Its patented formula is powerful enough to help patients suffering from dehydration caused by Ebola and cholera but safe enough for everyday use. Plus, DripDrop tastes amazing and comes in a variety of flavors you can enjoy. Additionally, for those looking for dehydration relief without the sugar, DripDrop offers DripDrop Zero, a zero sugar option.