If you enjoy sparkling water, there’s a good chance you drink a lot of it. And why not? It’s an affordable, tasty, and “guilt-free” beverage. With no sugar or calories, you can drink it all day without worrying about weight gain or other major health impacts. This is a benefit that sets sparkling water far apart from soda or alcoholic beverages.
But if you find yourself drinking an 8-pack of LaCroix or Bubly every day, you might begin to wonder – am I addicted to sparkling water? And this begs a larger question: Can sparkling water be addictive?
Certain behaviors activate reward pathways in your brain and make you feel good. This can lead a person toward psychological addiction. We commonly associate psychological addiction with behaviors like gambling or sex. However, it is possible to develop a dependency or addiction to just about anything – and that includes being addicted to sparkling water.
It is important to note that sparkling water is not physically addictive like drugs or alcohol. What’s more, drinking it frequently is not likely to have a significantly negative impact on your life. Water is essential for your health. If carbonation helps you drink more of it, then that can be a great thing.
However, if you find yourself struggling with an addiction to any substance or activity, do not hesitate to consult a mental health professional. This applies even if the people around you say your struggle is benign. If you feel it is harming you, that is enough reason to seek help.
Why You Crave Sparkling Water
It can be confusing to find yourself experiencing cravings for such a seemingly random beverage. However, there are a couple of simple reasons why you might find yourself craving sparkling water.
- You Are Thirsty: If you like sparkling water, it makes sense that you’d reach for one when you are feeling thirsty. Carbonated water hydrates just as well as regular water, so there is little reason not to indulge your craving.
- You Enjoy It: Beyond just being thirsty, there are other reasons we consume beverages. A glass of sparkling water can be refreshing on a hot day or soothing for an upset stomach. And often, people can’t stop drinking it because it just tastes good. Carbonation provides an acidic bite and a pleasant tingling on our tongues – what’s not to like?
- Low Calcium Levels: One theory for why you crave sparkling water suggests that you are experiencing a deficit of calcium. The idea is that phosphoric acid, which is used to enhance the flavor of some carbonated beverages, leaches calcium from your bones. If your body does not have enough calcium for bodily functions, you crave carbonated beverages, which supposedly allows your body to retrieve calcium stored in bone. However, note that sparkling water typically does not contain phosphorus, so the reasoning behind this theory is shaky at best.
- You Are Addicted to Sparkling Water: While unlikely, as stated above, addiction to sparkling water is possible. Try avoiding the beverage for an extended period of time to help determine if this is the issue. If necessary, contact a mental health professional.
The Minimal Health Impacts of Sparkling Water
It’s not difficult to find yourself drinking sparkling water on a daily basis. Carbonated beverages certainly become habitual for many of us. But is it possible that drinking sparkling water every day could have a negative impact on your health?
The truth is that for the most part, sparkling water is harmless. People have raised several health concerns over the years related to carbonated water. However, science tells us that they are mostly unfounded worries – so long as you avoid sparkling waters with excessive additives.
- Bone Mineral Density: Unlike cola, other sparkling water does not have an impact on bone mineral density. Since it doesn’t contain phosphorus, it won’t lead to the same loss of calcium via the kidneys.
- Tooth Decay: Some people are concerned with tooth decay related to the acidity of carbonated water. However, so long as you drink regular water that contains fluoride frequently and have generally good dental hygiene habits, tooth enamel impact from sparkling water should be minimal – especially when compared with sugary beverages.
- Dry Mouth and/or Bad Breath: It’s true — sparkling water may contribute to a drier mouth, and in turn, bad breath for some people. Because it is generally more acidic than regular water, it can temporarily decrease saliva production.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Sparkling water will not cause IBS, but it can lead to flare-ups for those who already have it. This is because carbonated drinks can lead to bloating and gas, which exacerbates IBS for some.
- Gut Microbiome Alteration: You may not think of beverages that contain artificial sweeteners as sparkling water, but manufacturers can label them as such. Artificial sweeteners may have an impact on your gut microbiome. For that reason, you may want to avoid sparkling water that contains them.
- Increased Likelihood of Hangover: Sparkling water can be great for hydrating you when you’re already hungover. However, when consumed with alcohol, carbonated beverages can contribute to worse hangovers. This is because carbonation allows alcohol absorption into the bloodstream more quickly.
Signs You’re Drinking Too Much Carbonated Water
If you’re wondering how much sparkling water is too much per day, you’re probably drinking a lot of it. While it likely won’t result in a major health impact, there are other problems that can occur as a result of drinking too much sparkling water.
- Not drinking enough regular water: Research has shown that sparkling water only damages your teeth slightly more than regular water – so not much at all. However, if you only drink sparkling water, you are missing out on fluoride, which is good for your teeth.
- Spending too much money on sparkling water: Compared to soda, beer or other beverages, sparkling water is quite affordable – especially if you make your own at home with a sparkling water maker. However, it certainly costs more than tap water. Drinking several bottles or cans daily can begin to add up over time.
- Burping, bloating and gas: The carbonation in sparkling water can cause some people to experience bloating or gassiness. If you feel excessively bloated or gassy after drinking sparkling water, you should limit your consumption or switch to regular water. Burping is normal and healthy when drinking carbonated beverages. Doing so allows carbon dioxide (CO2) gas to escape your body – which is a good thing.
A Healthy Habit for Most People
By definition, addiction to anything is not healthy – and that includes sparkling water. However, for people who drink a lot of it but experience no ill effects to their life, it can be a healthy beverage for a variety of reasons.
- Kicking the Soda or Beer Habit: Excessive sugar in soda and alcohol in beer can cause severe negative health impacts – from diabetes to obesity and liver problems. Many former soda or beer drinkers find the carbonation in sparkling water to be a satisfying replacement for their previous habits, though for some it is an acquired taste.
- Staying Hydrated: Research tells us that sparkling water hydrates us just as well as regular water. If you struggle to drink flat water frequently enough, sparkling water can be a great way to supplement your water intake. However, it should not be a full replacement for it.
- Improving Digestion: Sparkling water can aid in digestion. In one study, researchers found that participates who drank sparkling water were relieved of indigestion and constipation.
- Weight Management: Often when we feel hungry, we are actually thirsty. By staying hydrated using any low or no-calorie beverage, we can stave off excessive hunger and consume fewer calories.
Addressing Addiction to Sparkling Water (or Anything Else)
While it may sound silly to be worried about addiction to a beverage most of us consider so benign, we should never take addiction lightly. If you or someone you know is struggling with any form of addiction, contact a mental health professional for assistance.
However, there is little reason for the average person to worry about becoming addicted to sparkling water. There are many good reasons to enjoy the beverage, and it has had a positive impact on the lives of many.