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How Does Sodium Citrate Work?

author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
How Does Sodium Citrate Work?
Close-up of the hand of a lab technician holds two vials of urine to test for pH levels. Photo Credit AlekBo/iStock/Getty Images

From maintaining the pH of your blood to the pH of your urine, your body works to keep balance. If your urine or blood becomes too acidic, your physician may recommend a number of medications to make your urine more basic. One example of such a medication is sodium citrate, which is often paired with citric acid to act as an alkalizer that reduces acidity.


Your physician may recommend sodium citrate when you experience cystitis, a condition that causes inflammation in your bladder due to bacteria, which create an acidic environment in your urinary tract, making urination painful. Your physician also may recommend regularly taking sodium citrate if you have chronic conditions like metabolic acidosis due to a kidney disorder.

Acidic Environment

Sodium citrate is the sodium salt of citric acid, meaning it can act as an alkaline source in the body. While not all sodium-citrate-containing medications have citric acid, ones designed to create a specific pH do. Normal urine levels are typically from a pH of 4 to a pH of 8. The lower the number, the more acidic your urine. Your physician can determine the acidity of your urine via a urine test where pH is measured. Citric acid and sodium citrate may be combined to increase the pH to a desired normal level.

Turning Basic

When you take sodium citrate, it moves through your body. When it reaches your liver, it is converted to bicarbonate, a usable form of base in the body. This helps change the pH in your urinary tract from acidic to more basic. By reducing the acidity of the urinary tract, you can experience a reduction in symptoms. As an added bonus, citrate can bind with acidic materials in your kidneys to prevent calcium oxalate stones from forming.

Negative Interactions

Because sodium citrate changes the pH balance of your urinary tract, it may not interact well if you have certain medical conditions. These conditions include hyperkalemia, which causes excess potassium to develop in the blood. If you experience acute dehydration, are on a sodium-restricted diet or have Addison's disease, you also should avoid taking sodium citrate.

Side Effects

While sodium citrate can effectively reduce acidity in the body, it may affect the potassium levels in your body. The increase in potassium can cause some side effects. These include weakness, numbness, dizziness or feeling lightheaded. You also may experience diarrhea as a result of taking sodium citrate. If you begin to feel like you may pass out, call your physician or seek emergency medical attention to ensure your side effects do not progress.

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