Hi Emily, I’m newly postpartum, and my pelvic floor therapist suggested I stop drinking so much seltzer because it’s a bladder irritant. But I love seltzer. From my googling, it looks like most studies on carbonation and bladder health don’t differentiate between soda (with caffeine and sugar) and seltzer, and they don’t look at overall intake volume either. I haven’t noticed any differences in myself when I just drink water. Is drinking unflavored sparkling water straight from the SodaStream really so bad for you? And if so, why?
—Unofficial SodaStream spokesperson
I am totally with you — I love seltzer, and have since childhood. My family had whatever was the pre-SodaStream equivalent, and my brother used to fizz a combination of orange juice and water. This is not recommended because it gets really, really fizzy and then, some fraction of the time, the top would just fly off and orange juice would hit the ceiling. It’s probably still there in my dad’s house.
Sorry, I got off track.
There are, as you point out, studies on the relationship between carbonation and bladder health in which the carbonation consumption is generally through soda. In addition, these studies (here is an example) aren’t randomized, and we certainly worry that consumption of soda is associated with other characteristics that might affect “stress urinary incontinence,” like obesity.
Having said that, the link with carbonated beverages in particular (as opposed to other sugar-sweetened beverages) is extremely consistent, which makes it seem plausible that the carbonation plays a role. Does this mean you should avoid it? Not necessarily.
I asked my favorite vagina expert, Dr. Sara Reardon, about this. She told me that carbonation can be an irritant, which can cause frequency and urgency — basically, needing to pee all the time, or having a hard time making it to the bathroom. However, the experience is very individual-specific. Some people have this problem and some do not. If you’re struggling with these issues, cutting out seltzer is something to try, especially (Sara’s point again) at times when you may not be able to get to a bathroom quickly. If you aren’t struggling with this problem, there is no other reason to cut out your beloved SodaStream.