Is Baking Soda a Safe Home Remedy for Heartburn?
Baking soda can be found on many kitchen shelves. It can be used not only for baking but also for cleaning and even for brushing our teeth.
Another interesting fact about baking soda is that it neutralizes gastric acid.
Does that make it an effective home remedy for heartburn? Well, that depends on how we use it.
If you only have occasional heartburn, baking soda is great for some quick relief.
However, it is not wise to use baking soda too often. We will talk about why in a minute.
Home Remedy for Heartburn
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. Reflux is a gastric fluid which flows back up from the stomach into our esophagus.
During reflux, gastric acids and digestive enzymes damage the mucus membranes of the esophagus. They cause inflammation. The nerves in the esophagus become more sensitive to pain. The result of all this is heartburn. The medical term is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
To treat this painful sensation we have to reduce the acidity in the esophagus. Less acidity means less pain!
So how do we do that?
Well, we can swallow something that neutralizes the acidity. That is quite easy. We swallow something that is alkaline.
Alkaline - you might remember that word from chemistry class. Here is a quick refresher:
The acidity in acid reflux is measured using the pH scale. Readings that measure below a pH of 7 are acidic. Anything with a pH greater than 7 is alkaline.
Alkaline and acidic are opposites. They neutralize each other.
Over-the-counter antacids work by the same principle. They contain highly alkaline substances that reduce the acidity in the stomach and esophagus. Swallowing those antacids gives quick relief from heartburn.
However, many people are concerned about the potential side effects of artificial antacids and prefer something homemade. Many antacids contain aluminum, which is suspected to promote the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
A natural alternative to store-bought antacids is baking soda. The chemical term is sodium bicarbonate. It might sound artificial, but our body is very used to it. Bicarbonate is contained in our saliva. Our body releases sodium bicarbonate to neutralize acidity, including acid reflux.
In other words: Baking soda is our built-in anti-heartburn mechanism!
The problem is just that our tissues only release small amounts of sodium bicarbonate.
However, we can drink a mix of baking soda and water to neutralize more reflux than our body could on its own. That makes baking soda a home remedy for acid reflux.
The Difference between Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Sometimes people try to use baking powder instead of baking soda to relieve heartburn. That is pointless. Here is why:
Baking powder consists of both alkaline and acidic components. The alkaline component in baking powder is usually made up of baking soda. Acidic salts provide the acidic component. During baking, both components start a chemical reaction. It is harmless. It simply produces carbon dioxide, the same gas we constantly breathe in and out. The point of this reaction is that the gas gives the dough a light and airy structure.
Back to acid reflux:
The point of using baking soda is to neutralize the acidity in the esophagus and stomach.
Baking powder already contains acids. When you mix it with water, it will keep the same pH. It won’t reduce the acidity in your esophagus either. That is why baking powder cannot reduce your heartburn. Use baking soda instead.
How to Produce Alkaline Water
If you do not have it at home, you can get baking soda at pretty much any grocery store in the baking supplies section. I found it online on Amazon.com.
Once you have the baking soda, you need to dilute it. It would be impossible to properly swallow it as a powder. Plus, it can be irritating in its pure form.
The Mayo Clinic recommends mixing between 0.5 and 1.5 teaspoons of baking soda in a small glass of still water. Just enough so that you can dissolve the baking soda and swallow it. Stir until the baking soda is dissolved. It will not dissolve well. Use room temperature water instead of cold water; this works slightly better. It is fine if you do not get it all dissolved. Once you’ve mixed your solution, you’ve made alkaline water!
I recommend gargling with it before swallowing. It will help to neutralize reflux that might have reached the airways. You might say: “Wait, what? Reflux in the airways, what is that? I don’t have that.” The thing is, most people do not even know that some problems they have; like hoarseness, cough, and asthma, can be caused by airway reflux.
Downside: Avoid with High Blood Pressure
A significant disadvantage of using baking soda is that you will consume substantial amounts of sodium.
This sodium is the same substance that is found in normal table salt. People with high blood pressure are usually advised to keep their sodium intake low, as it can increase blood pressure. However, in recent years, it has been questioned whether this is a universal truth that applies to all groups of patients.
Still, if high blood pressure is an issue for you, I recommend avoiding using baking soda for heartburn and listening to your doctor’s advice on sodium intake. There are plenty of other ways to reduce heartburn that I can show you.
Just a Quick Fix, Not a Permanent Cure
A disadvantage of baking soda is that it won’t work long term.
Our body is not stupid. It tries to keep the acidity in the stomach constant. So, if you regularly neutralize acidity with baking soda, your body will just start to produce more acid. It will diminish the anti-heartburn effect of baking soda.
Another disadvantage worth mentioning is this: when baking soda neutralizes our stomach acid, it immediately produces gas. This gas presses on the sphincter above the stomach, which can cause new reflux. It is not a big deal if you just use baking soda occasionally.
If you have frequent heartburn, something is wrong. You will need a permanent cure, not just a short-term fix.
How to Cure Heartburn Permanently
Medications and home remedies only alleviate the symptoms of heartburn. They do not fight the root of the problem and can cause new symptoms in the long run.
Do you want to eliminate your heartburn permanently and naturally, without side effects?
Then you need to identify and eliminate the triggers for your heartburn.
I’ve already written a book in German on this very topic. It will take a while until the English version is ready.
Until then, I encourage you to read one of my other articles. In these articles, I talk about the root causes of heartburn. Identifying your triggers is the first step in curing the pain.