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It’s important to be conscious of the impact that the beverages you drink can have on your body. It isn’t only the food you eat that plays a role in your health; if you’re not careful, you can pack an unexpected amount of calories, sugar, and other additives into your diet through the drinks you’re sipping on. And it isn’t just the well-known culprits like sugar-loaded sugar that you should be careful with. As it turns out, there are a number of beverages that you may not be aware could be taking a toll on your gut health and your waistline.

To shed some light on a few unexpected offenders, we spoke to health experts Lisa Richards, dietitian and creator of The Candida Diet; Kelsey Butler, MS, RDN; Ayman Dandashi, owner of wellness platform, Fungus Head; and Krutika Nanavati, dietitian. They told us that flavored sparkling water, diet soda, fruit juice, and energy drinks might be leading to digestive issues and weight gain. Learn more about the risks of each below.

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1. Flavored Sparkling Water

Plain old water is always good for you. However, throwing in carbonation and sweeteners could take a toll on your gut health—and potentially even your waistline—over time. “While it may seem like a healthier alternative, flavored sparkling water can still contribute to bloating. Some brands contain artificial sweeteners, which can cause gastrointestinal distress and bloating in certain individuals,” Dandashi. Noted!

The carbonation present in sparkling water can potentially lead to bloating as the bubbles may cause temporary stomach distension. And while plain sparkling water is usually calorie-free and can be a hydrating choice, flavored varieties may contain artificial sweeteners or natural sugars that contribute to calorie intake. Though the link between flavored sparkling water and stomach fat is less direct compared to sugary sodas, the added ingredients in some flavored options could impact weight management if consumed excessively.

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2. Diet soda

Diet soda is often mistaken for a healthier alternative to regular sodas due to its lack of sugar and low-calorie content. But don’t let the “zero calories” fool you. The artificial sweeteners used in place of sugar can lead to their own fair share of health risks, disrupting the gut and leading to an imbalance that can cause digestive issues such as bloating. Additionally, the artificial sweet taste may make you crave sugary or high-calorie foods, potentially contributing to weight gain.

“Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, which are commonly used in diet soda, have been the subject of ongoing debate and controversy regarding their potential health effects,” Richards warns. “Some studies have suggested that artificial sweeteners may be associated with a variety of health problems, including weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and an increased risk of certain types of cancer.” Yikes! All in all, she says, “diet soda is not a healthy drink, and it should not be consumed in place of water or other hydrating beverages. It is also important to pay attention to the total amount of soda, including both regular and diet varieties, that you consume, as excessive intake of soda, regardless of whether it is regular or diet, has been linked to a variety of health problems, including weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay.” Got it!

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3. Fruit Juice

Many people mistake fruit juice as a healthy beverage. After all, it’s made from fruit! But the unfortunate truth is that this beverage is most likely devoid of nutrients and packed with sugar. “Consuming a substantial quantity of fruit juice can lead to a significant intake of sugar, which is directly associated with inflammation and the accumulation of abdominal fat,” Nanavati warns.

Plus, all that sugar can lead to a range of other issues, including digestive issues like bloating. All in all, it’s best to skip the juice and reach for whole, nutrient-rich fruit instead.

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4. Energy drinks

When you need a caffeine boost, you may reach for sugar, carbonated energy drinks. Unfortunately, though, while this may give you a boost of energy, it’s terrible for your body when consumed frequently. “Carbonated energy drinks can negatively affect gut health because they can cause gastric distress, interfere with nutrient absorption, and [even] contribute to diarrhea,” Butler warns.

The carbonation in these beverages, coupled with certain ingredients, could cause bloating and weight gain. One of the biggest concerns is the high sugar and calorie content in some energy drinks can contribute to an expanded waistline. Stick to black coffee—and sprinkle in some metabolism-boosting spices for extra benefits!

READ MORE: How To Improve Gut Health Naturally: 12 Tips To Consider

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