10 Healthy Uses for Baking Soda
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, has several benefits that go beyond baking, from reducing heartburn to soothing itchy skin.
Beyond baking and bad odors
If you've recently bought baking soda, it's probably in one of two places. Either it's sitting in the back of your fridge to ward off bad odors. Or, maybe it's in your pantry for when you want to stress-bake cookies during coronavirus quarantine.
Believe it or not, baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, can be useful for a variety of things, including improving your overall health. Its use has been applied to help alleviate symptoms from illnesses, soothe your skin, to even brighten your smile.
We spoke with health experts who weigh on the various health benefits of baking soda. Remember, you should always speak with your doctor before trying anything new to alleviate or treat health ailments.
Baking soda can be the perfect helper for occasional heartburn. "Baking soda can help treat heartburn by neutralizing stomach acid because baking soda is a base," says Niket Sonpal, MD, adjunct assistant professor of clinical medicine, department of basic biomedical sciences, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. "Dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of cold water and drink the mixture slowly. However, if you are having daily heartburn symptoms, then you should see your doctor—this remedy is for occasional symptoms," he says. Try these other natural home remedies for occasional bouts of heartburn.
Soothe canker sores
Baking soda can help soothe those painful lesions. "When you have painful mouth ulcers, rinsing with baking soda and water neutralizes the acidic ulcer and can calm the pain down," says Candy Sebold, DDS, a family dentist in Brooklyn, New York. "Eating becomes easier." Try mixing a half-teaspoon of the soda with a half cup of warm water and then rinsing your mouth. Learn other ways you can help stop canker sore pain.
Brushing your teeth with baking soda can help protect your teeth from damaging plaque. "Baking soda is a gentle cleaning agent that effectively removes surface stains from tooth enamel without being excessively abrasive," says Jared Cox, DDS, of Today's Family Dentistry in Searcy, Arkansas. "Using baking soda can be antibacterial and help eliminate germs associated with plaque. By reducing the number of germs on the teeth, the glossy surface of the tooth enamel is better protected." Try mixing a half-teaspoon with a little water to make a paste, then use it as you would your toothbrush.
"Baking soda has been found to remove many stains from teeth, so, teeth are whitened by its use," Sebold says. "But baking soda does not contain cavity-fighting fluoride," she explains. Sebold suggests using baking soda a few times a week, alongside a fluoride-containing toothpaste for the rest of the week. This will "ensure the most favorable outcome in terms of cavity prevention, whitening, and safety," according to Sebold.
Clean your food
If you want to effectively clean your produce, baking soda is a potent cleanser—without contaminating your broccoli with detergents. "The best way to prevent ourselves from digesting pesticides is to peel off the skin of fruit and veggies, but some studies show that soaking fruits and vegetables in a mix of baking soda and water for 15 minutes can kill almost all pesticides," says Lina Velikova, MD, PhD, a medical director at Synevo Bulgaria, a medical diagnostic laboratory.
If you're looking for a natural deodorant, baking soda may just do the trick. "The bacteria that make your armpits smell bad converts your sweat into acidic waste products that give sweat its odor," says Dr. Sonpal. "Baking soda can eliminate the smell of sweat by making the odors less acidic. Try patting baking soda onto your armpits and you may notice the difference."
The same technique can be used to reduce the smell of stinky feet—and even help with bad breath. "Baking soda can neutralize and disrupt the bacteria in your mouth and gums that lead to bad breath," says Dr. Sonpal. "The recipe for baking soda mouthwash is adding a half a teaspoon of baking soda to half a glass of warm water, and then swishing as usual."
Soothe a sunburn
If you spent too long in the sun or skipped a spot with the sunscreen, a baking soda bath can help reduce the pain. "To make a baking soda bath, add 1 to 2 cups of baking soda to a lukewarm bath," says Dr. Sonpal. "Make sure the affected area is soaked thoroughly." Check out some other at-home sunburn remedies to help you soothe the pain.
Soothe eczema (and other itchy rashes)
If you have eczema or another itchy rash, baking soda might be just the salve you're seeking. The National Eczema Foundation recommends mixing a 1/4 cup of baking soda into lukewarm water and soaking for up to 15 minutes, then, while the skin is still damp, applying any prescription creams and a creamy moisturizer to seal the skin. If you have an especially itchy patch of eczema, apply a paste of baking soda to help reduce the itching and soothe the spot. Discover the nine things you need to know about eczema.
Boost your sports performance
Could taking baking soda help you improve your workout stamina? A 2019 study of cyclists, published in Nutrition, found that taking high doses of baking soda taken by the bike riders delayed the rise of lactic acid—a byproduct of burning carbohydrates in muscle cells and red blood cells—until post-workout, allowing them to work harder during exercise. (When the acid builds up, performance suffers.) And a similar 2017 study using female college basketball players, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, achieved similar results, with the players improving in repeated sprints and jumps, and showing an increased ability to withstand a heavier training load.
Slow kidney disease
If you have chronic kidney disease, baking soda may help slow down the rate of decline in your kidneys. A 2019 study of 700 people, published in the Journal of Nephrology, found that the group who took baking soda over the three-year study were less likely to reach end-stage renal failure and require dialysis treatment. This was compared to people in the control group, who received the standard level of care for their kidney disease. Overall, the researchers of the study conclude the use of baking soda is safe and can improve outcomes for the kidneys and patients.
Reasons to skip baking soda
Like everything else in life, ingesting too much baking soda can be too much of a good thing. A tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in a glass of water and taken occasionally is fine, but taking too much could impact your health. "Early, after ingestion of too much baking soda, vomiting and diarrhea are common as the body tries to correct the high sodium concentration by pulling more water into the digestive tract," Dr. Sopal says. "After absorption, high sodium concentrations can cause seizures, dehydration, and kidney failure." Always be sure to consult with your doctor before supplementing your care with anything, including baking soda.
- Niket Sonpal, MD, adjunct assistant professor of clinical medicine, department of basic biomedical sciences, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
- Candy Sebold, DDS, a family dentist in Brooklyn, New York
- Jared Cox, DDS, of Today's Family Dentistry in Searcy, Arkansas
- Lina Velikova, MD, PhD, a medical director at Synevo Bulgaria
- Journal of Nephrology: "Treatment of metabolic acidosis with sodium bicarbonate delays progression of chronic kidney disease: the UBI Study"
- Nutrition: "High doses of sodium bicarbonate increase lactate levels and delay exhaustion in a cycling performance test"
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: "Effects of Three-Day Serial Sodium Bicarbonate Loading on Performance and Physiological Parameters During a Simulated Basketball Test in Female University Players"
- National Eczema Foundation: "Eczema and Bathing"