Health Mistake – Soft Drinks

Sometimes Even Moderation Can Make You Sick

Nectar of the gods is what a friend calls one popular soft drink. Sodas are delicious. It is easy to get carried away and pop the top on several a day. Like most things in life, moderation is the key when drinking sodas – and sometimes even moderation can make you sick.

Take for example my son. A year and a half ago, my then thirteen year old was experiencing extreme aches in his lower gut; not everyday, but only a few days a week. He was, and still is, in very good health – athletic, tall and slender. The pain would develop slowly and remain constant, lasting for half a day to a full day. It was always accompanied by diarrhea.

As anyone would do, I went through a mental checklist of what could be causing the problem. Was it gas related? No, there were none of the typical signs of gas. Was it anxiety related? Possibly, he had recently started a new intense training program with his sport. To combat both of those possibilities he was taking the traditional over the counter antacids, but they were not working very well.

On days he was hurting, he would not get out of bed. After a few weeks of the seemingly sporadic pain, I began to grow very concerned. So, I started studying him: what he was eating and drinking, the time of day the pain started, and how long it lasted. I noticed a pattern. Whenever he would drink a soft drink he would develop an ache in his gut. Why? Until we were able to figure it out, soft drinks were banned from his diet – and that did not earn me the mother of the year award.

I made an appointment with the family doctor to have him checked out. The doctor ordered various tests, and all of the results came back normal. Meanwhile, the gut ache occurrences were not as frequent. I asked the doctor about the possibility of soft drinks being the culprit of the pain and he shrugged it off. He was leaning towards a lactose intolerance, and sent us to a specialist. The specialist also ordered many tests and found the results were normal. He was leaning towards a lactose intolerance, as well. He explained that, even though there is no test for lactose intolerance, the signs were present. It was finally recommended that we remove all foods with lactose from my son’s diet.

The diagnosis really threw me for a loop, as he had been drinking milk his whole life with no resulting health issues. When I asked why would it just now cause a problem with his digestive system, the response was “people change”. We followed the doctor’s orders and removed lactose from his diet. His health continued to improve over the passing weeks.

Was the improvement related to the absence of lactose or sodas? I decided there was one way to find out…..let the soda consumption begin! Within a week the gut aches and diarrhea showed up again. It was so obvious that even my son was sold on the theory. So, no more sodas….period. Since we had also taken lactose out of his diet we decided to slowly integrate it back in to see if his system could handle it. No problems.

That was over a year ago, and the gut aches have completely disappeared. During this last year we have figured out that his system can tolerate ginger ales, and he drinks those in moderation. Occasionally, when he spends the weekend with his buddies, he will “sneak” a soda (non-ginger ale). Inevitably, he will develop a gut ache, though the severity is not at the level it was a year ago.

Scientifically, I do not know why sodas make my son sick. After speaking with a couple nutritionists, I am convinced it is associated with his personal intolerance to an additive. Until we determine the cause, he will have to avoid drinking soft drinks – which is not easy for a teenager to do, but he is learning.

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