What your Gut thinks about Soda!

(Video version can be found on my Facebook page – Peggy Smith Wellness, June 13th, 2019)

This week I choose my topic directly from a client question. I was with someone this week in a group setting and she asked me if soda has any influence on the gut?

A little heads up to any soda addicts out there – particularly the diet soda lovers, this episode might be hard to read, but I hope you will stay with me for the few minutes and consider what might be some new information on the ways that soda and diet soda are compromising your health! And if you’re not a soda drinker, but you know one who might need to hear this, please share this with them- you could be drastically improving the quality of their health.

I think it’s fun sometimes with questions like this to take a look at how it all began. How did soda actually originate and how has it evolved over time?

In 1767 the first-ever carbonated soft drink was created, and it was made by a doctor named Joseph Priestley. It was about three years later when a Swedish chemist created an apparatus that makes carbonated water. It used sulfuric acid and chalk to make the water. Research shows that the first-ever carbonated soft drink was created in 1807 but it wasn’t until about 1832 that the popularity of carbonated drinks really started to grow.  In 1835 the first bottle of sugar water was distributed in the US. (You know that’s really all that soda is – just a ton of sugar and water and some colors and chemicals added in to mask the intensity of the amount of sugar being consumed).

Root beer was made in 1876. The first-ever cola-flavored soft drink hit the market during 1881. It wasn’t until about 1952 that the official diet soft drink was released. Many of the earliest pharmacies actually contained pop fountains. In fact, people actually used to think soft drinks had healing properties – they were considered health drinks. After countless years of research, we have a much better understanding of soft drinks and most of us agree it doesn’t make sense for our pharmacist to serve them to us, and quite honestly, we might be getting other things from the pharmacy as a direct result of our soda habits!

Before we dive into the rather alarming facts surrounding soda I want to be fully transparent.  There was a day when I was a Dr. Pepper addict. I drank at least one and often two every day during the work week, and the question at the office wasn’t whether or not you drank soda – but what was your favorite kind. I know one lady who drank 6-8 diet cokes every single day and now she doesn’t touch soda at all. I haven’t had one in half a decade or more at this point, and many of the people I work with are no longer consuming soda, so there is hope for you if you feel like giving it up is an impossible idea. I hope that some of this information will help encourage you in the endeavor!

We have a hormone produced in the gut called ghrelin. The job of ghrelin is to let us know when we are hungry. It stimulates appetite and therefore is associated with an increase in food intake and it also promotes fat storage. One of the forms of sugar in soda (fructose) does not lower our levels of ghrelin the way other food compounds do, so we don’t get any signal that we are satisfied. The result of this is that on top of all the calories from the sugar in soda, we consume calories from food. Not surprisingly, studies show that those who consume soda, or other sugar-sweetened beverages consistency gain more weight than people who don’t. So reason number one to kick the soda habit is we want to only consume food and beverages that activate ghrelin.

There are two molecules that make up table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup – those molecules are glucose and fructose. Assuming things are working properly, all the cells in your body can metabolize glucose, but fructose can only be metabolized one place – in your liver.  Your liver has to take the fructose and turn it into glucose so we can use it. When you drink a lot of fructose (or eat it for that matter – you can be pretty confident that anything that says it has added sugar is high in fructose) your liver becomes overloaded and turns the fructose into fat. Some of it gets shipped out of the liver as blood triglcerides and some stays behind in the liver, sometimes leading to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. So reason number two to give up soda is we want to lower our fructose consumption. Regular soda is full of it.

The hormone insulin is what transports glucose from our bloodstream into our cells. When we drink sugary soda the cells become less sensitive or in extreme cases resistant to the effects of insulin. When this happens our pancreas must make even more insulin to remove the glucose from our blood and this causes insulin levels to spike. This is what is known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance has been shown to be the main cause of metabolic syndrome which puts a person on track for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So reason number three to tell soda good bye is to help avoid our chances of developing insulin resistance.

Consuming excess added sugar causes several changes in the body which can lead to chronic, low-grade inflammation. One of those changes is an increased risk of developing leaky gut, also known as intestinal hyperpermability. When we develop leaky gut, substances that are not supposed to get through the gut lining are able to leak through and get into our bloodstream. When that happens the body does what it is supposed to, it elicits an immune response and inflammation is activated. This is not a problem if it happens just once in a while, but if it is happening day after day and harmful chemicals and substances are in our bloodstream which puts our immune system in a constant state of work through inflammation we begin to develop chronic disease. Reason number four to nix the soda habit is to decrease the likelihood you end up with leaky gut issues and inflammation.

In research released at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting, drinking sweetened beverages is associated with an increased risk of depression. This particular study involved 263,925 who were followed for 10 years. People who drank more than four cans of soda were 30% more likely to develop depression than those who drank no soda. And those who drank four cans of fruit punch were 38% more likely to develop depression than those who didn’t drink any sugary beverage! We haven’t even talked yet about how much uglier things get when you replace regular soda with diet soda – but in this particular study, it is worth noting that the risk for depression was actually higher if the beverage being consumed was diet soda, diet fruit punch or diet tea.  This is likely due to the fact that artificial sweeteners mess with the gut brain connection. Reason number five to not drink soda is to minimize your chances of depression being a part of your story.

And just because I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t throw in some conditions other than depression that artificial sweeteners are linked to, here you go:

migraines, anxiety, short term memory loss, MS, fibromyalgia, weight gain, fatigue, brain tumors, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, ADHD and parkinson’s…

When I work with clients and we complete their food journal for a week or so we look first for those real sore thumbs that might be sticking out and we work on those first. We don’t try to rush a whole bunch of change all at one time. If soda is a thing on their list it is the first habit I recommend they break. For the health of their gut, their brain and their entire well-being. Regular and diet soda are doing you absolutely no favors and you don’t need them in your life. I hope this information arms you with some motivation to go kick that soda habit, once and for all!

Until next time friends,


XO – Peggy

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