No matter how skilled you are at healthy eating, sometimes bloating is an unfortunate fact of life. There’s nothing more annoying than suddenly feeling like a puffer fish that’s made its way to land (and can’t fit into its jeans). Oh, actually, there is: When you’ve read up on various causes of bloating, cut back on them, and still suspect someone somehow inflated you like a balloon. Although things like overdoing your salt intake are well-known causes of bloating, there’s another common factor that might be flying under your radar precisely because it seems so healthy: seltzer water.
It comes across as a culinary catch-22—staying hydrated is one of the best ways to debloat, after all. But the carbonation in seltzer, aka soda water or club soda, is the real culprit here. “Those carbonated bubbles in seltzer are air pockets,” Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., C.D.N., founder of the New York-based BZ Nutrition, tells SELF. “You drink those, and the air builds up in your stomach, which can cause abdominal distention.” In addition to causing bloating, drinking a lot of seltzer may result in a few other uncomfortable issues, too. “If you’re introducing extra air into your system, it has to leave at some point,” Abby Langer, R.D. and owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto, tells SELF. As in, drinking too much seltzer can make you burp, fart, and generally feel gassier than a Shell station.
All of this doesn’t mean that you need to avoid seltzer like the plague. It’s water, and staying hydrated is always good for you. Zeitlin adds that hydration is extra important to bust the bloating and discomfort that can happen when you consume a lot of fiber-rich foods, which are key for healthy eating and weight loss, if that’s your thing. But there are a few steps you can take to cut down on any seltzer-induced bloating:
For starters, reach for plain seltzer instead of sweetened versions.
Sweetened seltzer often gets its taste from sugar alcohols, which your gastrointestinal tract might have a tough time breaking down. Voilà, “a double dose of bloating,” Langer explains. She recommends checking out the ingredients list on seltzer to see whether it has xylitol, sorbitol, or other items ending in -ol, which is a dead giveaway that they fall under the sugar-alcohol umbrella. You can also keep an eye out for other well-known artificial sweeteners like aspartame. If your palate needs more excitement than just plain bubbles, try adding some lemon, lime, or muddled fruit. And a word on “natural flavoring”: It’s better than artificial sweeteners, Langer says, but the FDA hasn’t fully defined what the term “natural” means. Fair warning.
Also keep in mind that, like anything else, it’s about finding what works for your body.
If you love seltzer but suspect it’s the cause of your bloating, Zeitlin recommends making sure less than half of your daily liquid intake comes from the bubbly beverage. From there, you can tweak the amount you drink from day to day to find a balance that pleases your taste buds without bloating you too much. “Some people are really sensitive to [seltzer] and will have bloating from even one glass,” Langer says. But other people can handle more of it. “Don’t underestimate the influence of listening to your body,” Zeitlin says. In addition, you can avoid drinking through a straw and talking a lot while you drink—both habits can make you take in more air, thus increasing bloating, Langer says.
It’s also perfectly OK if you experience bloating from seltzer but would rather reap the benefits of proper hydration than potentially skimp on getting enough fluid each day.
“I have a lot of clients who hate water, and they will drink seltzer. For them it’s a trade off,” Langer says. If you’re in that camp, cheers to you.