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How to Use Baking Soda to Ease Indigestion:

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a simple and inexpensive remedy for heartburn. But what about the sodium content? Is so much sodium bad for your health?

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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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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