Sodium bicarbonate is a chemical more commonly known as baking soda. It can react with and neutralize acids, which makes it a common home remedy for acid stomach. Your body also uses sodium bicarbonate for several different things, including assisting in digestive function. One thing the chemical can't do, however, is help you lose weight.
Sodium bicarbonate has the chemical formula NaHCO3. Even though most of its common uses involve it reacting with acid, it's technically both an acid and a base, meaning it can react with either. In your blood, bicarbonate acts as a buffer, meaning that it helps you maintain the acidity level -- the pH -- of your blood, explain Drs. Reginald Garrett and Charles Grisham in their book "Biochemistry." You also secrete sodium bicarbonate from the pancreas into the small intestine to help neutralize stomach acid that you release.
To lose weight, you have to consume fewer calories each day than you need to fulfill your body's needs. There are several strategies you can use to go about this: You can decrease the number of calories you eat each day, can engage in more activity to burn more calories, or can use a substance -- there are a few -- that increases your metabolic rate, which is the rate at which your cells burn energy. The substances that increase metabolic rate, generally speaking, do so through activating your "fight or flight" mechanism, which is a branch of the nervous system that causes your heart rate and respiration rate to increase, and your cells to consume more energy, explains Dr. Lauralee Sherwood in her book "Human Physiology."
Sodium Bicarbonate and Weight Loss
Because you need sodium bicarbonate to participate in digestion -- it doesn't actually digest your food, but it neutralizes the acidic solution that passes from the stomach into the small intestine -- there's a common misconception that extra sodium bicarbonate will help you digest your food better. There's a further misconception that better digestion helps you lose weight. Neither of these is true. Extra sodium bicarbonate does not increase the efficiency of digestion, and you don't gain body fat and weight by digesting your food better; in fact, the opposite is true.
The best strategies for permanent weight loss don't rely upon substances that temporarily increase metabolic rate; in fact, they don't rely upon supplements of any kind. Eating fewer calories each day and increasing your daily activity will help you lose weight by shifting your caloric balance into the negative. More important, however, as you are more active, you'll increase your muscle mass. Muscle burns many more calories than fat, even when you're not moving, so your metabolic rate will increase and you'll lose weight.
- "Biochemistry"; Reginald Garrett, Ph.D. and Charles Grisham, Ph.D.; 2007
- "Human Physiology"; Lauralee Sherwood, Ph.D.; 2004