Baking Soda for Heartburn: An Expert Doctor Explains What To Know
Need instant relief from that pesky heartburn? Find out why a household staple could be a solution, according to a Cleveland Clinic expert—and who should avoid baking soda for heartburn.
Heartburn, that unwelcome fiery sensation that seems to ignite right behind your breastbone, affects more than 60 million Americans at least once a month, according to data from the National Institutes of Health. Perhaps you’ve felt its sting after eating a spicy meal. If it’s so easy to get, though, shouldn’t it be easy to fix? Some people find themselves looking for home remedies, such as baking soda for heartburn.
The Cleveland Clinic explains that while heartburn may feel like it’s emanating from your heart, it’s actually a mischievous play of acid reflux in your esophagus, the pathway that connects your mouth to your stomach. This common condition, when occurring frequently, is labeled as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a more severe form of acid reflux that demands attention as prolonged neglect can escalate to esophageal damage and heighten esophageal cancer risks.
The culprit behind this discomfort is the lower esophageal sphincter, a valve meant to seal your stomach post-eating, as described by Claire Beveridge, MD, a gastroenterologist from the Cleveland Clinic. When it doesn’t work right, “That’s when you can get that heartburn feeling in your chest and a sour, acidic taste in your mouth,” Dr. Beveridge explains in the institution’s Health Essentials blog.
Amidst various remedies, that simple, pantry-staple solution can help: Baking soda may promise relief from this acidic ordeal.
Here’s how baking soda for heartburn can help
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, emerges as an effective remedy for heartburn thanks to its alkaline properties. Jesus Lizarzaburu, MD, a family medicine physician in Yorktown, VA explains the science: Our stomach uses acid to digest food, but an excess or lingering presence of acid can lead to heartburn. Baking soda steps in by neutralizing this unwanted acid.
“When baking soda and acid come into contact, a chemical reaction occurs that increases the pH level of the acid, effectively neutralizing it and relieving the burning sensation associated with heartburn,” Dr. Lizarzaburu notes. This simple, natural solution harnesses the power of basic chemistry to combat the discomfort of heartburn, which is precisely why it’s a common ingredient in many over-the-counter antacids.
Here’s how to use baking soda for heartburn relief
To use baking soda for heartburn relief, Dr. Lizarzaburu suggests you dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water (six to eight ounces) and drink it.
However, he cautions that baking soda is a temporary solution, soothing symptoms without tackling the root cause. For those who frequently reach for this home remedy, a conversation with your doctor about more permanent solutions is advisable, ensuring heartburn doesn’t become a persistent intruder in your life.
Further, don’t take anything without consulting with a licensed healthcare provider first.
Here’s why you shouldn’t use baking soda for heartburn often:
- High sodium content: Baking soda’s high sodium levels can lead to an uptick in blood pressure and may increase the risk of heart disease.
- Acid-Base imbalance: Regular use can disrupt your body’s natural pH balance, potentially leading to metabolic alkalosis, marked by elevated bicarbonate in the blood.
- Digestive disruption: Excessive neutralization of stomach acid can impede digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
- Medication interference: It may interact with certain medications, altering their effectiveness and causing possible drug interactions.
- Risk of overuse: Its capacity to quickly alleviate symptoms can lead to overreliance, posing serious health risks.
Here’s who should steer clear of baking soda for heartburn:
- Individuals with kidney disease: The added sodium can be difficult for compromised kidneys to process, potentially causing fluid buildup and elevated blood pressure.
- Individuals with heart disease: The risk of fluid retention could exacerbate heart conditions.
- Those on sodium-restricted diets: Given its high sodium content, it can further elevate sodium levels.
- Individuals with stomach ulcers or digestive issues: Baking soda might disturb the stomach’s acid levels, worsening ulcers or other conditions.
- Children: Their bodies may not efficiently handle the sodium content.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women: The effects of baking soda consumption during these periods are not thoroughly researched, making avoidance a wise choice.
Again: Always seek your doctor’s guidance for any health concerns or before initiating any new health practice, including drinking baking soda for heartburn.