Whenever I had a stomach ache when I was a kid, my grandma would give me ginger ale. Supposedly it had a whole bunch of mystical, curative properties that would ease me upset tummy and get me right back up on my feet. But does ginger ale really help stomach aches, or is it just an old wive's tale passed down from generation to generation? In a new video for Mental Floss' Big Questions series, host Craig Benzine sets out to answer this question for people who, once and for all, want to know if drinking all that soda can actually be good for them.
The original theory of ginger ale's curative properties most likely originates from the belief that fresh ginger alleviates gastrointestinal issues, especially gas and inflammation. It's even known to prevent motion sickness and general nausea; indeed, it can be a natural supplement prescribed for patients who experience nausea associated with other drugs, treatments, or disorders (and pregnancy!). It can be taken raw — or, if the idea of chomping down on a piece of actual ginger root doesn't appeal to you, you can also take it in the form of a foodstuff, like ginger tea or ginger cookies.
So: Does the ginger in ginger ale actually cure stomach aches? Here's what Mental Floss found out. Scroll down to watch the full video!
1. The two things in ginger ale that can affect your stomach are carbonation and ginger.
Many people believe that the combination of the two found in ginger ale helps relieve stomach aches.
2. However, no research has conclusively found that these properties are helpful when paired together.
Though some scientists claim the air bubbles in soda make people feel better, others have found that it just leads to bloating and gas — precisely what many people drink ginger ale to fight in the first place.
3. On top of that, ginger ale and other sodas are completely void of nutrients or hydrating properties.
OK, so maybe ginger ale isn't helping my stomach ache, but at least it's hydrating me, right? Wrong. According to the video, carbonated sodas don't provide adequate fluids or electrolyte replenishment; as such, they can't really be recommended for... well, anything.
4. In fact, even the stomach-healing properties of ginger are debated.
Benzine cites a study that found that ginger did not, in fact, alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea — so maybe everything we've ever known as just been a lie. Then again, there's more than one type of nausea, so maybe the results of this study are too specific for us to draw wide-reaching conclusions.
5. If ginger ale has helped you in the past, keep drinking it!
Though ginger ale can be loaded with sugar and isn't necessarily the best thing for you, if it works for you when you have an upset stomach, then go ahead and keep drinking it. Benzine advices to find ginger ale with actual ginger root in the ingredients, as that will best help stomach pains in those for which it's effective.
Check out the full video below, because science is complicated and sometimes you just need an expert to tell you what to believe: