a box of baking soda

You have seen ads for all sorts of pricey heartburn remedies. Some go to work quickly. Others, like the proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) take quite awhile to stifle stomach acid and relieve symptoms. When you are dealing with indigestion from dietary indiscretion you want instant relief. There is a home remedy that goes back for generations. Baking soda to ease indigestion is a time-honored approach that costs pennies instead of dollars. Here is a common question about the sodium in baking soda (sodium bicarbonate):

Baking Soda for Heartburn:

Q. Is it safe to take baking soda and water three times a day? For years I had acid reflux and heartburn and took pills for relief.

Gradually, the pills stopped working. I had surgery to repair a hiatal hernia. That relieved the acid reflux but I still have heartburn. The baking soda helped somewhat but I read it is not good for people with high blood pressure. Are there any other remedies for heartburn?

A. Baking soda in water (1/2 teaspoon in four ounces) is a traditional heartburn remedy that works quite well. It is pretty high in sodium though, with 616 mg in each half teaspoon. If you used this remedy three times a day, the sodium would add up to 1,848 mg. That could be enough to raise blood pressure and explains why you should not use it for more than two weeks.

One other word of warning: don’t take baking soda if your digestive discomfort results from eating far too much, so the stomach is stuffed. One man did this after a giant Mexican meal, and the baking soda in his stomach created so much carbon dioxide so quickly that his stomach exploded! Here’s the link to a report. While this is a rare complication, nobody needs that type of fireworks.

Stories from readers:

Jeanne in Dallas, Texas, says her grandma used “sody” for heartburn:

“My grandmother (I am 88) used to press on her chest and say, ‘I believe I better have a dose of ‘sody’ (baking soda).’ She would put a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water, and her heartburn was cured.

“Try it before any of these ‘nowadays’ cures!”

C. P. in Springfield, MO, agrees:

“Baking soda is the best and simplest way to get rid of acid reflux. A half teaspoon of soda in a half glass of water. Stir and drink. It will stop the acid from coming up, and any belching.”

Other Remedies for Heartburn:

There are some other simple remedies that you might find helpful against heartburn. Try chewing gum after your meal. One clinical trial found that Orbit gum is effective for these symptoms. Another found that an after-dinner walk reduced heartburn.

Another possible approach is an herbal tea of anise, lemon balm, chamomile or ginger. Ginger ale or candied ginger can also help.

Reader Stories for Home Remedies:

Shirley in Ontario, Canada, says ginger and baking soda works:

“When I have bad acid reflux, I take about 1/2 teaspoon of ginger in either warm water or with ginger ale. Some times I take about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in warm water. Both work well. You can adjust the ginger & baking soda.

“I’ve also been on prescription pantroprazole. I’ve been on other PPIs over the years (to protect my stomach from anti-inflammatory drugs). I’ve been taking them for decades. No doctor ever told me, until recently, that these drugs are harmful to the kidneys. I now have [kidney] problems. I no longer take anti- inflammatories.”

John in Houston, Texas, relies on almonds:

“As for reflux and heartburn I have had success eating raw almonds.Eat 6 either before or after a meal to control acid reflux.I keep a jar bedside in case of a flare up.”

Cindy agrees with John:

“I learned from your website the value of almonds to stop heartburn. I carry them everywhere. They work for me every time.”

Simple Approaches for Easing Heartburn:

We are sending you our Guide to Digestive Disorders so you can learn more about these and other simple remedies for heartburn. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope:

  • Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. G-3
  • P. O. Box 52027
  • Durham, NC 27717-2027

It can also be downloaded for $2 from the website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

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  1. Arleen
    Simcoe, Ontario, Canada
    Reply

    My father quite often made a glass of “gingerale” after supper.
    It consisted of powdered ginger & baking soda mixed in a glass of water. I don’t know the proportions.
    It would fizz up and he would ask us kids – “Do you want the top or the bottom”
    The top would tickle your nose because of the fizz. The bottom settled down and tasted pretty good.
    This was before everyone had pop in the house to drink.

  2. Lil
    Florida
    Reply

    My perfect remedy is a teaspoon or tablespoon of yellow mustard taken by mouth. It works in a matter of minutes. You can also use the yellow mustard you get in a pack from the fast food hamburger places. I always travel with one or two packs in my travel case. Try it, it really works.

  3. Paula
    Huntington, WV
    Reply

    Heartburn is easily corrected for some. Place 1-2 capfuls of vinegar mixed in 8 oz of water or ginger tea. If you are trying to get off a PPI med, begin by weening of the PPI, while drinking the vinegar mixture.

  4. Jan
    27215
    Reply

    This is an excellent home remedy. And it is also gives very fast relief. I prefer to put a spoonful in my mouth and then chase it with water.

  5. Art
    Albuquerque, NM United States
    Reply

    Stay away from PPI’s. No more that a 7-10 therapy under medical supervision. I took a Prilosec sample once, and didn’t like the side effects. The long term side effects are even more concerning. These are very dangerous drugs! I had “reflux” (a made up name for what was once called indigestion or heartburn) that antacids wouldn’t touch, so I very reluctantly took that Prilosec.

    Anyway, I was able to cure my problem using simple ACV at night in the chewable tablet form. No reoccurrence, and if it starts acting up again ACV is close at hand in my nightstand. I was only on ACV for a couple of weeks to completely cure my “reflux” with no side effects whatsoever!

    • Cathy
      NC
      Reply

      What is ACV?

  6. Cheryl
    76017
    Reply

    According to recent medical studies, any form of citrus, high acid foods, high fat foods are detrimental to the prevention of reflux. One of the biggest culprits is carbonation so ginger ale is not conducive to prevention. Ginger tea is great though! Many pharmaceuticals have a rebound effect, so nutritional remedies are most conducive to prevention and healing. It takes discipline to adhere to the suggested diets, but the relief is worth any effort.

  7. Doug
    Lucas, Texas
    Reply

    I used to take baking soda occasionally for heartburn at night. One night I took a teaspoon of yellow mustard for a cramp in my foot then realized that my heartburn was instantly gone! Now if I have heartburn I use the yellow mustard instead of the baking soda.

  8. Luke
    Reply

    Get rid of the chicken fat. LOSE WEIGHT, your GERD will vanish.

  9. Debbie
    Georgia
    Reply

    My grandfather used baking soda daily. He developed Alzheimer’s.
    My husband also had to use baking soda daily, 1 teaspoon morning, 1 teaspoon evening. He now has Alzheimer’s. My son in laws grandmother was also a heavy user of baking soda. She developed Alzheimer’s. Can’t help but wonder about its use and connection.

  10. Fran
    Reply

    Slippery elm chewables works for me in a minute.

  11. Sally
    Charlotte, NC
    Reply

    I’ve had some very uncomfortable acid indigestion these past few years which I attribute to stress; I go very easy on acidic foods and beverages and do my best to avoid them. I was started on Nexium and the doctor I WAS seeing suggested I double the dose, most of her patients had. Wasn’t too happy about her “just pop another” advice, then had an endoscopy and was told to go off the Nexium (not too happy about a specialist telling me to dump a pill I should have been weaned off of). Then recently I recalled a natural aid my grandmother used when she had bad heartburn/indigestion. One quarter to one half baking soda, a few drops of lemon juice (helps it dissolve) thoroughly mixed with a small (4 – 6 oz.) glass of water. It has worked like a charm, and it works quickly. Forget Nexium!

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