≑ Menu

Is Coca-Cola Actually Good for an Upset Stomach?

is coke good for an upset stomach?
Pin It

Coke is often touted as a popular remedy for an upset stomach. You’ve probably heard this before. Sip on some flat coke and your nausea will go away. Really? In this post, we will explore whether there is any truth to this idea.

To start with, there is no scientific research that supports the claim that flat coke, or any other soda for that matter (like ginger ale) can help ease a stomachache, outside of a very specific condition called a gastric phytobezoar. Before we talk about gastric phytobezoars, though, let’s address a few common assumptions that are made about Coca Cola.

Many people believe coke can help you replenish electrolytes if you have been vomiting or experiencing diarrhea. However, coke doesn’t have significant quantities of potassium or sodium, which are both helpful in restoring an electrolyte balance, and the beverage actually has far too much glucose (sugar) for it to be beneficial in rehydration. For more on this, see this article from the New York Times.

So, Coke is not going to cure your traveler’s diarrhea and it’s not really going to rehydrate you.


Does this mean coke has no use when it comes to curing your stomach ache? Well, let’s say that you don’t have a case of traveler’s diarrhea. You aren’t vomiting from food poisoning and you aren’t rapidly losing fluids. You just have a stomach ache. Perhaps you are a bit nauseous. You are not sick, perse. Things are just a bit out of whack.

In this case, flat coke (slight carbonation is fine and may actually help in this instance) may help you feel better. It may help you feel better because you have become habituated to it as a remedy, but also because it can help relieve some of the pressure and gas buildup that may be causing you to feel nauseous in the first place. Sometimes a burp is all you need to start feeling better.

Coca Cola is also capable of treating a gastric phytobezoar. This is a condition whereby indigestible plant matter gets lodged in the stomach. It can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and in severe cases, perforation and bleeding. Coca Cola has been shown to effectively treat this condition (see this paper for one example). While it is not clear exactly why the coke works in this instance, it likely has something to do with the corrosive properties of certain acids in the drink.

If you want to see evidence of the corrosive power of coke, just have a look at this video:

In conclusion, coke – flat or otherwise – is not going to cure the bacterial infection that is affecting your GI tract. It certainly won’t help with something more serious like a parasite or an amoeba. Also, if the stomach discomfort is due to a buildup of acid (i.e. if you have heartburn or GERD), coke will not help, and it may actually aggravate the situation.

Coke can, however, provide relief if your nausea is caused by something as simple as gas buildup. It can also break down indigestible matter that is causing blockage. Finally, as a feel good remedy, there may be a placebo effect that can allow for some relief.

Feel free to push back with your own anecdotes in the comments. Also, feel free to direct us to any evidence that we may not have come across or mentioned in the article.

UPDATE: Many people have added comments here suggesting that coke is more beneficial than we make it out to be in this article. This may well be true, but please, try to point us to some credible scientific evidence (outside of gastric phytobezoars, that is). Anecdotal evidence is valuable here, too, but we would really like to see something more substantial. Photo credit: flickr user funkyah

Pin It

{ 95 comments… add one }

  • Linda February 11, 2013, 12:16 pm

    Ah, so now I understand why it does help sometimes! I thought it was all a myth, but that makes sense. I wonder if there was ever any truth in the claims for it as a medicine? or perhaps it was the cocaine & when they took it out it was less of a medicine!

    • phil March 11, 2013, 4:55 am

      Linda, haha, yes, I think that some of the earlier ingredients may have made a huge impact on coke’s ability to make someone feel better πŸ˜‰

  • Marlys February 11, 2013, 6:02 pm

    I suppose if it’s not diet Coke, it could help replenish the body with sugar after diarrhea and some needed fluids. But I would still prefer it carbonated.

    • phil March 11, 2013, 4:56 am

      The problem is that the ratio of sugar to other ingredients is too high, so it is not very effective for rehydration.

  • Katrina March 10, 2013, 7:45 pm

    I always thought it was non-caffeinated beverages like 7UP, ginger ale, or even sparkling water that you drink to help settle your stomach, not lower GI tract issues. I have had that help. Never occurred to me to try caffeine + sugar for hydration; wrongness!

    • phil March 11, 2013, 4:58 am

      Then you’ve been doing things the right way, Katrina πŸ™‚

    • Kevin August 4, 2017, 3:59 pm

      I only had one experience when I knew Coke helped me. I was offshore fishing and got “sea sick” I was miserable and just wanted to throw up. So i decided drinking a 12 oz Coke very quickly would cause me to throw up. After downing the Coke I burped a big burp and then another and another, the next thing I knew I was feeling normal again and resumed my fishing trip. I thought it might be the acid in the drink that neutralized what was going on in my stomach. Whatever it was I was grateful. As an Ironman athlete Coca Cola during endurance events is an absolute life saver. Plenty of calories, sugar and carbs is just what you need after 10 plus hours of intense physical effort and it has never upset my stomach at all during the last half of the marathon. Other than that I keep Coke as an occasional treat maybe once a month.

  • Lisa | LLworldtour March 17, 2013, 2:57 pm

    I can’t remember the last time I had Coke and thankfully will continue to avoid it! Blech! πŸ™‚

  • Tina September 25, 2013, 4:33 am

    I never drink coke but had been suffering badly with the Norovirus for 3 weeks and nothing helped. Finally I tried flat Coke and to my utter disbelief within 15 minutes I felt better!! Since then I’ve felt fine. Strange but true πŸ™‚

    • Deahn November 15, 2015, 5:23 pm

      I have a stomache virus today – full blown worst i have had. I alway sweer by coke when vomoting. My friend says its a lie. She was in the hospital for 6 hour for fluid on Friday. My spewing started ar 5 am from both ends and as soon as i could i started tiny sips of coke and wa able to get a pepto bismol in a couple hours later. Then a couple hour after that a whole glass of water and 1/2 toast and ibuprofine. The burps before coke made everything come up. Coke burps do not. I will continue to sip until better.

      • John March 26, 2016, 12:15 am

        I had what I think is the norovirus and nothing was helping, I finally bought a Coke because my wife wanted a packet of relish from A gas station and I can’t go in and not buy something but take something. I reluctantly drank it thinking it would make me worse but I felt better within 25 minutes! I then came here tonight trying to find out why something I rationally thought would make me worse made my nausea vanish. I’ve been nauseated for days!

    • Debbie September 28, 2016, 10:37 am

      I hadn’t had a carbonated drink in 10 years until this morning after suffering from the stomach flu all night. I feel way better!! Yay for coke!

    • Linda Lausten July 1, 2017, 2:49 pm

      When I was a little girl. The local pharmacist would prescribe cola syrup in this little brown bottle. When we had some kind of stomach bug we would take it by teaspoon.

  • Diana Trimble November 18, 2013, 6:22 am

    This is definitely not an urban myth, coca cola (not flat) is even being used in hospitals to help people with gastric blockage. Not hard to figure out why when you consider that the phosphoric acid in coke can dissolve the shell off an egg! There is absolutely no reason why it should be flat though, in fact the bubbles help. Personally I do not drink coke regularly but always use it if my gut is feeling off. First I might burp a lot and then my stomach feels soothed. Other fizzy drinks such as ginger ale (which some people claim works as well) do not have the same effect. Coca cola was invented by a chemist and was originally sold as a tonic. I think this explains a lot. It should not be drunk on a daily basis however!

    • Aubrey July 28, 2015, 2:18 pm

      the Coke that was developed by a chemist ( scary in itself) is not the Coke of today. I can see the corrosive properties working to unblock a food issue but there is no way except through a placebo that Coke can aid in any health benefits other than the above mentioned. Anything that can dissolve a nail or eat the paint off of your car should not be ingested into your body. Common sense would tell you that. Not to mention the caramel coloring in soft drinks creates a carcinogen during production. Corn syrup rounds out this toxic cocktail which is almost always a marker of poor-quality, nutrient-poor disease-creating industrial food products or β€œfood-like substances” It also suppresses a hormone that tells your brain you are full and causes a lower insulin release which tells you you are not as full as you are making you eat more and wha la obesity !! So if you ‘want’ to drink a coke just say you want a coke… don’t use my stomach hurts as an excuse to have one. This is not your grandmother’s coca cola !!!

      • Jeff February 20, 2016, 11:34 am

        I have a problem with the “anything like that should not be ingested” comment. Vinegar has corrosive properties. Rice can be used as glue or molded into rigid, rock hard shapes. Grease / cooking oil is flammable. There are all kinds of completely normal foods that have strange properties. Granted, ingesting ANYTHING in excess can be unhealthy. Here’s a link to someone dying of excessive WATER consumption! http://www.nbcnews.com/id/16614865/ns/us_news-life/t/woman-dies-after-water-drinking-contest/

        I think the secret is moderation, objectivity and hysteria avoidance.

        Now… I’m going to go enjoy a Coke. With a Big Mac. If it kills me, I’ll die smiling!

        • Patrick November 21, 2016, 1:59 am

          Jeff, great comment. I’m going to to the same. Moderation! πŸ˜„

        • Jason December 4, 2016, 6:06 pm

          Very intelligent, informed and useful post! Especially the link to the poor woman dying of overdosing on water. Also, when I was a small child my pediatrician, Dr. McGee of lake Charles LA (who was the best Dr I’ve ever met) would prescribe a can of coke for stomach ache and it worked wonders or at least so my mother tells me. Unfortunately, I’m heavily addicted to soda and that is LITERALLY the only thing I drink, EVER!

        • Dave January 15, 2017, 11:48 am

          I like your style buddy …all the food fad-ism can create fear which is something worse than any foodstuff. I try to eat as healthy as possible and what my body really craves tells me something like a needed vitamin/salt (that others may not like).Coke is addictive but when I’m nauseous …thats what makes me feel better.Largely vegetarian but when need protein meat is there.

      • Liam May 21, 2017, 8:23 am

        There’s Hydrochloric acid in your stomach. That stuff can dissolve steel!

        Why on earth would that be in your stomach. Don’t try and scare people.

    • Chloe Skidmore January 17, 2017, 4:35 am

      I have had rotavirus and I had massive cramp pains and threw up every hour and then had coke that’s flat and it worked although I am still isolated in my bed.

  • Timbo July 23, 2014, 1:42 pm

    Wow it took Coke a year to do to that egg what vinegar could do in just a day! Moral is: Coke good. Vinegar bad.

    • S. Moore April 22, 2016, 3:44 pm

      A very nauseated pregnant mom just told me that her doctor told her to drink RC Cola … A tablespoon every 15 minutes for an hour.. It worked!! She couldn’t keep anything down at all. She tried ginger in every form from candy to drinks…, she never leaves home without it.

  • Heather August 8, 2014, 4:17 pm

    Cola I drink it when I’m being sick it seems to line my stomach and I do not vomit x

  • David Shelby August 25, 2014, 3:57 am

    Phil Paoletta and Sam Gruber (the authors) are not medical doctors, but merely travelers. Getting medical advice from a traveler is akin to getting financial advice from a bank robber.

    • phil July 30, 2015, 6:09 am

      We are completely transparent about this. We also make a point to cite credible news articles and scientific journals in order to draw the conclusions that we do. We are not just pulling information out of our asses here.

      • patrick bell December 25, 2016, 10:50 am

        They never claimed to be medical doctors nor did they infer any medical advice other that what us already freely available public information, and as Phil stated were even kind enough to cite the sources of said information. The fact that you commented an attempt to belittle this article is way more suspect than anything written in the article…

  • Mommy Fey September 29, 2014, 9:52 am

    A pediatrician recommended using coke a cola for my son’s who were not able to hold down anything in their stomachs. We’ve tried pedia-lite and Gatorade to help replenish but they could not hold in long enough, the only thing that worked was coke and crackers. This has worked each time and we hardly drink pop in our family.

  • Marita Ryan November 1, 2014, 8:00 am

    10 years a go when my 2 year old son was shooting out both ends I took him to the local doctor and he gave me a prescription and said you can purchase this at the pharmacy or put your son on a 50 cent can of coca cola. He had a can of coca cola on his desk and showed me the ingredients and pointed to the food acid 338 and said that will fix him. He said you can water it down, drink it through a straw, have it flat or just drink it as you open it, whatever you feel comfortable with. I took a punt and put my 2 yr old son on the can of coca cola and have never looked back. I swear by it. My older son only this year drank a can after vomiting, then vomited again 10 mins later, drank another can, felt great then played a grand final of basketball the next day. After spreading the word I have been told that a can of coca cola is also good after a blood nose, when you have tonsillitis, and a fantastic cleaner of the toilet. I often use it to clean my jewellery. When trekking in Nepal 25 years ago I drank a bottle of coke every day as we tried the Annapurna circuit and not knowing all of this, I look back and think I was the only one in our group not to get diarrhoea. So I always drink it when I travel out of Australia, the ever reliable red can of coca cola. My dentist did tell me 40 years never to drink it, as it stains your teeth, but I enjoy it too much to worry about that. My teeth are still pretty white! So tell me what is food acid 338? Only last week a friend told me they swear by fanta to do the same thing, I don’t like fanta but wonder whether it contains the same food acid as it is made by coca cola.

    • Steve November 6, 2014, 5:42 pm

      I had cancer on my face and after major operation and large dose of radio-therapy over six weeks had severe dehydration for over three months. To stupid to ask pharmacist about electrolyte replacement powders! Seldom drink fizzy drinks and one day while I was out and about, needed fluids, and all I could get was a large bottle of Coke. Drank it all over a few hours and next day the dehydration was massively reduced. Most physical symptons relieved. Have been experimenting with it now for a month and it definitely relieves my dehydration. Even though I am now using electrolyte replacements Coke helps enormously
      Friend who has a Masters in Chemistry and 30 years practical says this-
      Acidity of Coke is due to phosphoric acid. Phosphate is massively important in the body for the Krebs cycle. Get the Krebs working again and maybe everything else begins to work. Coke may also contain some other electrolytes that help.
      I know it works for my health problem and would recommend people try it ( carefully)

      • matt October 29, 2015, 9:59 pm

        No word of a lie, i got my arm blown off while serving my country. It was a long time in getting rehabilitated but my doctor told me about cola, he said to drink three cans of coke a day and to bathe my arm in cola. After six months I had grown my arm back! Truly coke is miraculous stuff

        • Lisa July 9, 2016, 5:39 pm

          Bahahahahahah! Love it!

          • Jakob February 9, 2017, 2:13 am

            Where is the fun in ridiculing someone who had cancer?

        • SusanC May 17, 2017, 11:28 pm

          I think you got this Coke mixed up with a different kind of coke……

  • Dorothy December 10, 2014, 8:31 am

    I have heard many people saying it works i will try it and see the difference.

  • Liem December 22, 2014, 2:33 pm

    CocaCola is a very fizzy drink. I never really have CocaCola seeing I’m losing weight. The only Coke I have is Diet or Zero. Lately, I’ve just recovered of a bug. I’ve had diarrhoea but not being sick. I’ve been nauseated but not so strong that I wanna be next to a toilet. On Monday around 10:00 AM, the bug started. I had it all day. Later I had a can of Diet Coke, it did not help!!!! Seeing it was my cousin’s birthday, I went over and my aunt gave me a can of CocaCola. I’ve been feeling better. Not 100% though but my stomach pain and diarrhoea gradually started to fade. The next morning, I woke up fine.

    Concluding this:
    Don’t have Diet Coke, because it never helps me. Have the original CocaCola. Or Zero seeing that helped me when I had a winter vomiting bug last year. Lol xx

  • LauraLyn January 3, 2015, 10:48 am

    I swear by coke. Many days it is the only way I make it to/through work. I have chronic nausea and vomiting… Coke is usually the only beverage I can keep down when I’m nauseated, which is particularly bad in the mornings (no I’m not pregnant). If it’s not too bad or I’ve already had a full can, sparking water is an ok second. Yes, sometimes it makes me burp & that helps. I have allergies and a post nasal drip, is the acid eating up the mucus to ease my tummy? Maybe. But then why wouldn’t any other acidicy beverage (such as Pepsi) do the same. It does not.! I do not know why it works but it takes that “sour” feeling away. Placebo? Perhaps. But I projectile vomit and have since I was an infant. Attributing it all to placebo would be pushing it a little. When I was young my mother would give me cola syrup sold at the pharmacy specifically for nausea. It works well, not as well as the real thing but I wish I could still find it. People say to drink ginger ale because of the ginger in it. Problem is the vast majority of ginger ales do not even have ginger in it and the ones that do are not in significant amounts. Ginger beer has more ginger, but if you’re going to do ginger, just eat some ginger or ginger chews and avoid all the sugar. I am not saying coca cola is going to HEAL anybody but it is a great band aide. The colder the better. NOT flat. Not diet. Although, if you have chronic stomach issues like I do, drinking it on a daily basis will cause weight gain.

  • stephen m January 11, 2015, 1:44 pm
    • David April 25, 2015, 2:24 pm

      I also found Coca Cola to be helpful for an upset stomach on occasions. However, I found out that a key cause for me getting and upset stomach was that my sugar intake was too high (a known cause for IBS which may be what I had). When I limited the amount of sugar I consumed, my stomach became better without having to resort to coca cola. So while coca cola may help momentarily, if you need to take it on a regular basis, I think something else may be wrong and it may actually conflate the problem (such as high sugar intake).

  • Ron April 20, 2015, 3:50 pm

    when I grew up they used to make (and may still) coke syrup to be used for upset stomachs…meaning it very little water, sugar or carbonation. My mother gave it to me when I was sick and it did work…tasted crappy, but it did work.

  • Marvin May 27, 2015, 7:49 pm

    My wife says they give the old folks in nursing home two tablespoon of coke syrup for upset stomach.

    • Floretta January 7, 2016, 2:18 pm

      When we were children in the 1950’s our mother kept a bottle of cola syrup in the refrigerator for nausea. Worked well (we generally didn’t have soda in the house.) It came from the local pharmacy. You can still buy cola syrup in a number of places, e.g. drugstore.com, Walgreen’s, Vermont Country Store, probably Amazon as well.

  • Karla June 11, 2015, 11:38 am

    This whole article is extremely misleading. At the very top it’s “Is Coca-Cola Actually Good for an Upset Stomach?” Then you talk about tummyaches, then dehydration, then diarrhea. Those are all often separate issues. Coke is good for nausea. I learned this after going through a spell where I would get frequent nausea and would by a generic anti-nausea syrup at the pharmacy. I saw that the ingredients were basically sugar, flavor, and phosphoric acid – so… essentially Coke!

    You also write, “In this case, flat coke (slight carbonation is fine and may actually help in this instance) may help you feel better. It may help you feel better because you have become habituated to it as a remedy, but also because it can help relieve some of the pressure and gas buildup that may be causing you to feel nauseous in the first place. Sometimes a burp is all you need to start feeling better.”

    So what you’re saying is Coke may relieve an upset stomach. Even the NYT article you linked to is oversimplified and outdated. The newest research says drinking fluids with moderate caffeine is not dehydrating (http://www.webmd.com/balance/caffeine-myths-and-facts?page=3#2). I’m sorry but this post was poorly written.

    • phil June 11, 2015, 11:49 am

      Hi Karla,

      Yes, we say that coke is capable of providing relief if gas buildup is causing nausea. We also say that coke is incapable of providing relief beyond that. If you have some scientific evidence that shows otherwise (a link to a study or paper), please share it with us. In terms of hydration, the reason coke is not effective for significant rehydration has to do with the lack of electrolytes and the overload of sugar, not caffeine.

      Finally, yes we did address several different claims here. That’s because coke gets thrown around a lot in these conversations, and we wanted to evaluate the issue from all angles. What we found is that coke can relieve nausea in certain instances (gas buildup), but that seems to be the ceiling for it.

  • Wendy June 21, 2015, 4:45 am

    I have an autoimmune disorder that means my body gets really inflamed a lot of the time – I used to look about 6 months pregnant by the end of each day. I have to eat a really healthy diet but this didn’t seem to help much. About 6 months ago I got into the habit of drinking a can of (full) coke each day. I no longer get bloated and I look about 7 pounds lighter! Consequently I don’t get the horrid stress which comes with the inflammation. I wish it wasn’t so but coke has been a miracle worker for me.

    • Toni August 30, 2016, 12:09 pm

      Hi Wendy,
      I know this is a very old post but if you don’t mind me asking, what autoimmune disorder are you speaking of exactly? The only reason I ask is because I too look 6-9 months pregnant at times, especially in the evening because of the bloating, but other times my stomach can be almost completely flat! My weight can fluctuate quite a bit from this & it’s very stressful! So far all they’ve found is Gastroparesis. So I was hoping you wouldn’t mind sharing with me what disorder attributed to your inflammation & bloating in particular. Coke helps me as well, I must say honestly, not just with nausea but I know it aids the breakdown of food that would otherwise just sit in my paralyzed stomach until Lord only knows when!

  • Melissa July 21, 2015, 11:47 pm

    I know with me, I have severe tummy issues. Just recently I got the stomach bug, and still have it unfortunately. And my mom was nice enough to stop by to bring me stuff for it, and usually if it’s really bad I get a prescription for zofran for the nausea. Well, being that I’m unemployed and between doctors, no zofran for me. My mom came with 7 up and I couldn’t keep it down for nothing. Day three with it and 8 pounds lighter, she tells me I should go to the ER and I say no. Her husband has a bottle of coke in his hands, as he’s opening it, I say I’ll trade you that with ten bucks. He said, I’m not taking your money, you can have it. I downed it and within an hour, um, relieved myself and felt so much better. The nausea is gone now, but I had them buy a little six pack of coke for me and with a tummy pill and nighttime meds, I have a feeling I will be waking up tomorrow feeling a lot better.

  • Serena July 25, 2015, 9:13 pm

    I just wanted to say that when you said that there was no scientific evidence that coke, ‘like any other soda (like ginger-ale) ‘ can help an upset stomach, it was pretty ignorant and honestly just bad writing. It was ignorant in that scientists, as logical minds, wouldn’t research every single soda out there just to find out if coca cola had any qualities that may help a stomach ache. This is because, the outcome of this experiment would not depend /at all/ on any soda other than coca cola. And it was bad writing in that, /neither does your post./
    It was also ignorant in that ginger ale /does/ in fact, /scientifically/ help ease upset stomachs. I not going to explain the whole thing to you, but I am sure a quick google search will clear this up. Hint: ginger itself helps upset stomach

    It was also bad writing in that, if your goal was for me to read the whole thing, which, I am pretty certain, as you are a writer, it was your goal, you have failed. I stopped reading right there because I stopped seeing this post a valuable source of information.

    I want you to know that I am writing this because I want to help you out. Remember what I said about how that addition was not even necessary to put in your post? The addition that turned me, and presumably a number of other readers, completely off to your entire post, could have been omitted with a bit of modest proofreading. Many people go on the Internet looking to fight, to pick people apart, and I did pick you apart a bit. I am aware, also, that this comment may be viewed as gratuitous. I come to the Internet looking to help and be helped. That’s what this is.

    • phil July 26, 2015, 6:24 am

      Hi Serena,

      Thanks for contributing. You have complained about poor writing, but I am also struggling to read your comment, so that makes two of us. The fact is that – as it stands now – coke has more value anecdotally than scientifically. Perhaps more research needs to be done. With respect to ginger, you are right. Ginger itself can ease an upset stomach. Unfortunately, most brands of commercial ginger ale have a negligible amount of ginger in them, and like most soft drinks, it’s all about the sugar. As I mentioned in the article, carbonated soft drinks may be able to relieve gas buildup. As far as other properties driven by the ingredients themselves, there is not a lot of evidence for it. That could change, of course, but for me to use the word scientific, it has to be based on credible, peer-reviewed studies.

      • jwoolman September 14, 2017, 10:36 pm

        I am an actual scientist (Ph.D. In a joint program, chemistry and physics) and have been a scientific translator for many decades. I do a lot of work with clinical trial materials in all Phases. Many effective remedies will never have clinical trials. There is no profit in it and no legal need. They are generally done for new drugs seeking marketing authorization from the FDA or other country’s equivalent agency. I have read many piles of related material every year and am not impressed with how “scientific” this all is. It is better than nothing for new drugs, but results are difficult to interpret and medical researchers have a strong tendency to use statistics improperly (in my opinion as a physical scientist). They are just plugging data into their software, but really there are flaws in the whole approach.

        In addition to all the serious problems with representativeness, their methods for thinking there is a definitely a significant difference between two groups are just plain wobbly. At the extremes, you can see the difference between miracle cure and deadly. Everything is murky in between. The FDA is primarily concerned with safety issues, not really so much with efficacy. So the efficacy bar is pretty low and various problems inherent to such studies mean that what works for you may not work for your neighbor. The human body is an incredibly complex system and quite variable, plus all other conditions can’t possibly be held constant. The clinical researchers do the best they can to figure out something, but the results are generally a guideline for possible treatment options to try in an individual case or suggestions for further research, not something all that definite. We have some exciting areas of medicine now that involve science in its traditional meaning, such as targeted drug delivery and identifying genes linked with various diseases, but clinical trials aren’t quite within the definition. They are not totally useless, but their usefulness is limited by their very nature.

        A doctor will act confident when handing you a prescription for an antibiotic or other drug because the “placebo effect” is real and not trivial – the immune system itself is directed by the brain and your confidence in a treatment can enhance its response (and even respond to a sugar pill, it can be that powerful). The real trick in dealing with disease is to kick that immune system into gear, and if it doesn’t respond the drug won’t help. But your doctor knows that there is only a chance that the drug will work for your particular case or that you won’t find the cure worse than the disease due to side effects. In some cases, the odds seem pretty good after many years of experience with the drug beyond any clinical trials. In other cases, we find serious problems with the treatment only long after it has passed all the clinical trials.

        Clinical trials are extremely expensive today and nobody is going to waste money on them for unprofitable products. I strongly advise that you not restrict yourself to treatments that have undergone clinical trials. We have a wealth of experience with other remedies that has been collected over the ages. To dismiss this anecdotal evidence is foolish, and clinical trials themselves are really organized collections of individual anecdotes. (They attempt to quantify the results, so they can make comparisons and use statistics, but there is no guarantee that they are measuring the right thing or that the measurements are sufficiently meaningful, considering how much our bodies fluctuate over the course of a typical day). But in the end, you have individuals of varying genetics and varying personal histories and varying diets and exercise etc. and so it’s extraordinarily difficult to come up with a general “scientific” conclusion. We need controlled circumstances and identical objects to even begin to set up a true scientific experiment. It’s more accurate to say this is in the realm of observation more than experiment, adding to the anecdotal evidence in a methodical way.

        In evaluating both old and new treatments for yourself, realize that trial and error is essential to figure out what works for you. Weigh the costs of treatment. Try the cheap approach first if you can. Look at safety records, including plenty of anecdotal reports from people not in the medical profession or involved in such trials (if they exist). Try to figure out if the treatment is safe for you to try based on that, and pay attention to your own response. A doctor is only a consultant and some are more clever or more knowledgeable than others. They aren’t all Marcus Welby or Dr. House or at the top of their class in medical school. You really have to be your own health detective. Don’t hesitate to seek medical attention when needed, just realize it has serious limits.

  • Davej August 23, 2015, 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the interesting article. First, I would like to say that seldom is there scientific evidence for everything in our lives. We just can’t expect that. Studies are costly and complex and can sometimes not provide the evidence that we need or are looking for, mainly because trying to isolate a cause to effect can be very tricky and hard to do. So…just because there is no scientific evidence doesn’t mean that Coke will not cure or alleviate a stomach or digestive matter. Additionally…you just can’t argue with real world results and outcomes. If something works…then it works. At best…you can attempt to explain why…or just assume it’s a placebo or mental thing. Does Coke work to settle a sick stomach? I’m going to say yes…based purely on results. It worked when I was a kid, now as an adult, and for my sick kid. Maybe there is something about bacteria or viruses that Coke kills or sends down the pipe. Maybe it’s purely a comfort thing. I don’t know…but when someone is sick you go with what works. That said…I’m very anti Coke 99.99% of the time but do admit that some Coke with a meal tends to settle the food and oddl enough, contribute to breaking it down or making it feel like the food is not sitting like a lump in your stomach. So…something to consider.

  • Philip September 16, 2015, 1:38 am

    I have adult acne and nothing seemed to get rid of it except antibiotics which cleared it up for about a month then it started again. I began drinking coke and my skin cleared up. I also had a very dry skin, but since I began drinking coke everyday my skin has started getting a waxy feeling, which I think is stopping the acne. This is totally contrary to all medical advice. I don’t know if I am unique or maybe have low stomach acid and coke is helping me digest my food better, but all I know is that it is helping my skin feel normal again after suffering from adult acne for 10 years .

    • Wendy December 15, 2015, 4:38 pm

      Phil, funny to see your comment about coke, adult acne, and dry skin. I experienced the same relief of symptoms but had been mixing the coke with clear rum. I thought it might have to do with alcohol’s effect on liver and hormones. Never dawned on me that perhaps it was the coke. Maybe it is the acidity that helps in some way. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Lucy September 23, 2015, 4:30 am

    I got sick on an all expenses paid trip to NYC which I won in a competition, I was vomiting violently and diarrhea like never before, but there was a 4th july party to go to on a boat on the Hudson and lots of other treats, so I took to coke (my nana used to reccomend it). For 48 hours I ate hardly anything, coke and a few dry crackers only, I was able to party and dance etc,,, still felt a but queezy but nothing like before. Since then I swear by coca cola for an upset stomach (once the initial ‘can’t hold anything down’ nausea has gone). I was sick yesterday, after a few hours I started the coca cola and now feel much better! Anecdotal but true!

  • mysticladyart October 21, 2015, 9:00 am

    I avoid regular coca cola like the plaque being a bit a healthy eating freak.Seven spoons of sugar in a glass and all that tooth root,,,,,,,,,,,,NO thanks.However my sister in law passed on the tip for flat room temprature coke for children with vomit and the runs.Out of desperation ive tried it on my boys whos ages range from 2 to 20 years.I can agree it is good to use when your child has a nasty bout of vomitting.Its way better than hospital if they get dehydrated.I only give it for one day untill they are better to eat,I would try anything safe fr my kids but try this and a diarolte/electrolte drink too to be on the safe side. I can vouch it worked for my children.If six seven ounces 7 up or coke can help your child its probably better than a stay in hospital.

  • REMREM October 25, 2015, 9:04 pm

    Coke with sugar do rehydrate you. The sugar reduces the level of hydration, but it is negligible amount. You’re still getting hydrated. The difference with or without sugar is not enough to even attempt to measure. Do some research on this if you don’t believe me.

  • Amanda October 28, 2015, 1:17 pm

    I drink 7up and that helps my sour an acid tummy when it builds also keeps me from throwing up also I only east toast easy I’m tummy

  • Roger January 24, 2016, 3:47 am

    I am gluten intolerant, highly intolerant to peppers (green, red, yellow) and suffer with stomach ache after eating meat like pork. Then I cannot eat anything and the only thing that I have found to take away the pain and to start my recovery is ice cold Coke. Don’t know why but there it is. (Almost sounds like an advert for Coke but that is not my reason for sharing).

  • Brandon Watkins February 29, 2016, 8:48 am

    Soda can help your upset stomach because it makes you burp. When you have an upset stomach, you need to burp in order to feel better. If you burp, then all the gas backed up in your system leaves. If you go to the doctor for nausea and he tells you that you need to burp a lot, then drink a ton of sodas and it will get the job done.

  • Freja February 29, 2016, 1:44 pm

    As a rule I do not drink ‘pop’ (fizzy drinks) and am not a great fan of big money brands like Coke… However, I have always found it settles my stomach AFTER a bout of vomiting. Last night I was woken with diarrhoea, nausea and really painful cramps in my stomach (not bowels) and I threw up once but continued having the pain and nausea for many hours, so I did not eat. When I started to feel really hungry around 4pm, I went and bought some coke which I drank with ice and lemon. The pain and nausea stopped by the time I had finished the can and I was soon able to eat some toast without fear of throwing it up again. I don’t know why it works, but it really does and in my personal experience, it always has no matter what the cause of the upset. I think the burping helps but also the acidic ‘stripping’ qualities of coke seem somehow to settle things. I also find Marmite on crispy white toast a really good ‘first meal’ after being sick but I only recommend it if you like Marmite it in the first place! πŸ™‚

  • Nancy February 29, 2016, 4:36 pm

    I suffer from migraines. Sipping ice cold Coca Cola relieves the nausea which
    Helps with the headache, or maybe the other way around. My theory is that
    Whatever triggers the migraine is caught in the stomach lining and the Coke
    Dissolves it.
    Thank you Coca Cola.

  • Hannah Croft March 11, 2016, 5:32 am

    I’m 80% certain that the regular coke I’ve been drinking has actually been upsetting my stomach, can this be the case?

  • vfreeman March 16, 2016, 2:13 am

    I drank Coca-Cola when I got signs of food poisoning, such as; stomach ache, coldness in extremities, and after consuming suspicious food, but I only drank it once.

    Other than that I don’t drink it. The sugar, the BPA, the artificial sweetener, the caffeine and the acid is a trigger for chronic illness if consumed daily.

  • Paul Willems April 23, 2016, 7:09 pm

    Well it worked for me today. I had severe pain. I sipped Coca-Cola once every ten minutes for about an hour and a half and my stomach pain vanished. The only thing I ate today was honey and peanut butter on an English muffin and 4 Oz of orange juice.

    • Michael May 3, 2016, 9:29 am

      I have low stomach acid… will try some Coca Cola Zero with no caffeine as I am intolerant to it and my body hates sugar as well.

      • jwoolman September 14, 2017, 9:38 pm

        Sugar seems required for the effect. But if sucrose or corn syrup bother you, try the actual Coca Cola syrup sold for medicinal purposes in drug stores. The sugar used in them is very simple (glucose is one) and if your body can’t handle glucose at all then you should be already dead… Anyway, it will give you more control over what you ingest.

  • Lina Lokman May 25, 2016, 3:03 am

    I have the urge of vomiting and mild nausea…Just by drinking coke…I cured myself a bit..

  • Paul May 30, 2016, 10:43 am

    I know it may be hard to believe but if you have been to bali and had ball belly the only quick fix is a can of coke..the minute you feel sick..grab a can and down it..why it works i don’t know but the doctors there tell you to do the same..coke does work

  • suzie33 July 12, 2016, 11:31 am

    I had pure watery diarrhea yesterday and I drank apple cider vinegar and water followed by one glass of coke an hour later and it went away completely. I never drink coke by the way. I think it does work to some extent.

    Different things work for different people. You do not alway need scientific evidence. Scientists are often wrong as they use us as expirements all the time. Look at how much dietary recommendations have changed in the past 20 years from high carb to atkins to low carb. You have to try what works for you.

  • Jay July 30, 2016, 4:44 pm

    When I was a kid, and I was “grounded ” for whatever reason, I was required many times to work for my father in the drugstore that he owned. He always had some coke syrup on the shelf along with all the other drug supplies. I asked him what it was used for. He told me that some people get a prescription for the coke syrup for stomach disorder.

  • Jodi July 31, 2016, 4:36 pm

    More anecdotal evidence, I’m looking for scientific evidence too, because this does not make sense to me, but I’m pregnant and morning sick and the only fluid I can regularly keep down is Coke. (Since starting Diclegis, I can handle water at bedtime and first thing in the morning.) Ginger Ale works sometimes, but no other soda has helped nor has juice or popsicles.

  • Heidi August 9, 2016, 2:51 pm

    Try Coke in a glass bottle from Mexico. From what I understand it had more of the stuff that settle stomachs. I give it to my kids when they have the stomach flu and it does seem to help!

  • jamie September 14, 2016, 6:59 am

    Funny that the writers of the article refuse to believe it works but everyone in the comments swears by it…

    • Kyanna October 1, 2016, 7:34 am

      Totally agree! I found out accidentally that coca cola relieved chronic naseau during my last two pregnancies and reflux flare ups because it was one of my odd cravings during my 6th pregnancy, and I say odd because I don’t like carbonated beverages and in particular never cared for coca cola. Well after drinking an ice cold coke my naseau disappears and my reflux symptoms subside…WORKS EVERY TIME!!! I always use it as a last resort and ALWAYS wish I had just drank the coke first instead of suffering for hours or sometimes days before finally drinking an ice cold can of coke. I don’t care that there isn’t any “scientific proof” to substantiate the claims of those of us who have gotten time tested, consistent results from the use of it….IT ABSOLUTELY WORKS FOR ME!

  • jamie September 14, 2016, 6:59 am

    Funny that the writers of the article refuse to believe it works but everyone in the comments swears by it…

  • Tookie Loca September 17, 2016, 2:06 am

    Coke has been my life saver! During my pregnancies I get really sick and suffer with hyperemesis HG, which causes me to vomit ALL day!! The only think I was able to drink was Coke! I needed a fresh bottle daily to survive! I think I would have literally died without it. No lie.

  • Omer October 22, 2016, 11:15 am

    Hope anyone will read this comment πŸ™‚
    First, I totally agree with your scientific-based approach. Let’s, for a second, assume that coke DOESN’T help with stomach ache and so forth. Despite this, one can expect probably 30%-40% of people to say that it helped them. I assume many of you already know what I refer to, but I’ll still give a funny anecdote: I used to play basketball as a teenager, and one time one of our players had some pain (don’t remember when). The coach – after asking for the player’s father’s permission – gave the player half a pill of paracetamol. Only, he didn’t tell him it’s paracetamol, he told him “it’s some very strong pill and therefore I’m only giving you half”. After the game the father came laughing to the coach: “my kid told me that the pill you gave him made him completely blurred and dizzy”.
    BTW, sometimes it’s not just the placebo effect – sometimes the situation really does get better, but it would have gotten better with or without the coke/pill/acupuncture/prayer πŸ™‚

    However, a gastroenterologist that I appreciate once told me, when I had diarrhea to drink coke “because it helps bring back/preserve salts”. It may well be that he told me that just because if it wouldn’t help it wouldn’t do damage (not more than my usual unhealthy diet xD ), but I wonder if it may be that he knew something we don’t. I do however suppose that it’s not something that was scientifically study (it’s also hard to study it, because you can’t, using the current knowledge or lack thereof, have placebo controls, unless both the treatment and the placebo groups have never ever drank coke…).

    • Louloubell December 5, 2016, 6:13 am

      That makes sense about the reserve salts. Phosphoric acid is thought the leach minerals from the bones but maybe in emergency situations it leaches them and makes them available to other parts of the body that need them more. There’s possibly better substances than coke to use, other acids or high phosphorous foods.

  • Pat December 7, 2016, 5:04 pm

    As I’ve gotten older, especially after I started a chemo drug, I often find that my digestion is just not working–it’s nothing I’d take a pill for, but I’m in moderate discomfort much of the time. A regular Coke (ice-cold, for me, and preferably bubbly) almost always helps, whether I burp or not, and within half an hour the stomachache is relieved. The bite of phosphoric acid has always been one of the things that made me prefer it over Pepsi or any other soda, and it really seems to help digestion. For many years I was off caffeine entirely (don’t seem to be as sensitive to it anymore), so it’s not just a question of lifelong habits leading to a placebo effect.

  • Diane December 27, 2016, 6:26 pm

    After having tummy ache and diarrhoea for 3 days and not being able to keep anything down not even water. And having constant feeling of nausea. My mum told me to try flat cola. 20 mins later I couldn’t believe it. The pain was away. My mum has suffered from stomach pains for years as did my gran, they where both advised by the doctor that this would help. Do not know it till you try it..

  • Sandy December 28, 2016, 8:17 pm

    I was literally camping out in the bathroom. Sitting on the throne aND dumped the trash out of the can and was vomiting at the same time. Tried kaopectate. Vomited. Water. Vomited. Begged dh to get me a coke. Took a sip and waited. Was able to fall asleep. Woke up and did not vomit anymore and was able to drink some water and keep it down.

  • sarafina January 11, 2017, 1:23 pm

    ok first of all cola will not sit in our stomach for 365 days so the egg part does not make sense. we all brush our teeth everyday or at least once a year eww gross. I do agree that coke is not good for us I just don’t agree with the video.

  • Alanthe butcher January 18, 2017, 2:25 pm

    Excellent comments (well mainly) following on from a cracking article. I’m on hour 36 of a dose of cramping tummy, liquid faeces and and general washed outness. But the coke is having an effect! Generally if I’m travelling and get a dose of “local tummy” I choose the no food beer, water and whatever is the most potent local brew, failing that high proof Navy Rum or even better Bison Grass Vodka.
    When it’s time to try solids my advise would be steer clear of milk and dairy. Plain white bread with smooth peanut and marmite. (if you like it of course). Peanut butter was invented in America in the 19th century for invalids or post operatively to build a patient up who would struggle with less digestible food.

  • Alisa January 18, 2017, 10:03 pm

    Carbonated drinks make me burp and I feel much less nauseous after burping.

  • Rebecca January 19, 2017, 7:17 am

    I have been nauseous and throwing up for about a week. Read that classic coke could help,I dont know if was power of suggestion or it actually worked but drinking the cola calmed my stomach.

  • Ben February 21, 2017, 6:07 am

    A few years ago I did some voluntary work on an agricultural project in West Africa. One lunchtime everybody ate a variety of beans that they hadn’t grown or eaten before. A few minutes later everybody began to feel queasy and have pangs of stomach pain. My team leader immediately went to the local shop and bought and drank a can of coke. He then had no further stomach issues at all, while everybody else had awful diarrhoea for the next hour (with only one drop toilet shared between them)! Even if that’s a placebo, surely it’s one worth having. I was lucky enough to have been out at lunchtime, so I only saw the aftermath, but it wasn’t pretty!

    I’m only on this article because I had bad stomach pains for most of the morning, then I drank a bottle of coke, and now the pain is significantly reduced.

    I was once advised by a trained doctor, who had significant experience of travelling and living in some pretty rough places, that if I ever get bad sickness/diarrhoea and don’t have access to rehydration medicine – then a bottle of coke with salt mixed in is a very good substitute.

  • Ru March 29, 2017, 12:24 am

    More than 20 years ago, I caught a terrible virus and could not stop throwing up. I was severely dehydrated and dry-heaving, which is beyond horrible. We had no money for a doctor visit, so in desperation my husband went to a pharmacist and asked for help. He was given a small inexpensive bottle of pure cola syrup and was told to pour some over crushed ice and have me sip it. It checked the nausea instantly! I don’t know why it worked, but it was miraculous.

  • fortuna May 10, 2017, 4:19 am

    i rarely drink coke, if i do drink it, it is because of my stomach upset
    i am not sure why i sometimes get stomach upset after meal
    but i find coke or sparkling water with lemon helps to settle down stomach upset

  • ian west June 28, 2017, 2:42 am

    I tried it multiple times over the years for diarrhoea from dodgy food and it works – diet or regular coke or pepsi cola – it seems to be the same. someone said its because the bacteria have little resistance to the phosphoric acid in coke – whereas the hydrochloric acid in your stomach is there all the time, so the bugs have naturally acquired resistance to it. I guess it wont work for virus-diarrhoea but it does for dodgy food bugs (ie travellers tummy etc) – you cant eat anything else though or drink milk etc until you feel “right” – 24 hrs maybe. As for the “moderator” who keeps chipping in with “show us the scientific studies” = how can we? if they aint been done, then that’s that. All I know is, it works, reliably & dependably. No – I don’t work for Coke & normally hardly ever drink it. Logically, fruit juice wont do it though (no phosphoric).

    • jwoolman September 14, 2017, 9:27 pm

      I translate clinical trial materials and there is no way that anybody is going to sponsor an extensive clinical trial for a treatment that costs maybe 15Β’ on sale (I only need six ounces) and can be found in vending machines everywhere. Those trials are very expensive and there are multiple problems with their interpretation except at the extremes – they are done only because they are legally required to avoid treatments that kill half the patients. Cheap home remedies that are obviously safe to try should just be tried to see if they work for you. There is no guarantee that a drug that has passed through all the phases of clinical trials well enough to satisfy the FDA will actually work for YOU. Same as with side effects -some people get them, others don’t.

      Coca Cola has no need to pay for such an expensive trial themselves. They sell plenty just as a beverage. And who else would?

  • Dan June 30, 2017, 3:02 pm

    It is not coke that is good for nausea, it is cola syrup. It used to be widely available in drug store over the counter and cola syrup do ease an upset stomach it is just not coming practice. There is a big difference between carbonated flavored water and cola syrup.

  • Mike July 8, 2017, 12:19 pm

    I love coke, I think it helps a sour stomach. Maybe I like to drink it instead of coffee.I am not sure but I feel like it helps. Man there is nothing better on a hot day than an ice cold coke.

  • jwoolman September 14, 2017, 9:16 pm

    Used to get killer sinus headaches with killer nausea. I could deal with the head pain but the nausea had me curled up in a fetal position for six hours each episode, kind of hoping I would die.

    My aunt mentioned that after surgery, she was so nauseated that pictures of food made her gag. Someone suggested Coca Cola so she tried it. Nausea gone practically instantly. Nothing else had worked in days. (She was a nurse.)

    So I tried Coca Cola, the real thing, no diet stuff. It consistently cut back my nausea from six hours of hell to a half hour of sipping. I only needed six ounces and didn’t bother flattening it. I don’t think the carbonation is a problem if you sip slowly rather than gulp it down like a drink. It basically flattens in your mouth that way. Used to buy a 12pk of cans every year for medicinal purposes (not really a coke fan).

    From comparing with the old timey Coca Cola syrup labels peddled for nausea and such, I assumed the key ingredients for the effect were some kind of real sugar, phosphoric acid, and the kola nut. Carbonation is not needed since the syrup is effective but has no carbonation. But I’m not sure if Coca Cola has had kola nut in it for a long time, so maybe that’s not essential. I don’t think caffeine is essential, but I always used caffeinated coke because it helped with the associated headache. It was still working for me for the killer nausea in the late 1990s, maybe later as well. I don’t get those headaches nowadays so can’t test it. But it’s such a cheap thing to try, why not? If you’re nauseated, a few extra calories won’t hurt either since you probably haven’t been eating (or losing it if you have).

    I think there is something in the secret formula that does help with nausea, though, the effect was pretty dramatic for me and my aunt (and reproducible for me). I don’t recall gas being involved but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t. But then anything carbonated should work and the reports don’t indicate that (my aunt liked 7-Up, for example, she wasn’t a Coke fan, but 7-Up didn’t seem to cut the nausea while Coke did). Ginger or real ginger ale is supposed to be good but doesn’t work well for me. If gas is your problem, try some real peppermint tea. That can make quite a difference in a short time. The warm liquid plus the mint might make it better than mint in other forms.

  • Kate December 5, 2017, 12:46 pm

    A French doctor and a German doctor have both told me to use cola (regular, not diet) for vomiting and diarrhoea if you can’t keep anything down. Every time I tried it, it has worked. It sometimes stops the flow as well! I usually hate drinking the stuff but it really does seem to stop the runs and the throwing up. Today I have food poisoning and sent my husband to the supermarket for some Coke. Already feel better after half an hour of drinking a glass. Now I’m a scientist so I have been having a think about why this might be. One reason could be the acid killing bacteria. Another could simply be that it rehydrates. Yet another could be that one of the secret ingredients is anti-nausea and anti-diarrhoeal. One other thing I thought of is that the phosphate from the phosphoric acid starts off the citric acid metabolic cycle in the body. If you’ve not eaten for a day or two, you’ll be feeling pretty weak but if the cola can help your body extract some energy, you’ll feel much better. Anyway, I wish a chemist could do some research on the exact reason Coke makes you feel better so that we have more than anecdotal evidence πŸ˜€.

  • Roberta Keys December 31, 2017, 6:00 pm

    My children’s pediatrition years ago would tell me to go to a place that sold fountain coke and buy coke syrup. I remember it helping. Just 1/2 to 1 Tsp every once in a while until they could hold it down

Leave a Comment