Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux, can be accompanied by a burning sensation in the chest and a sour taste in the back of the throat. Many acid-reducing drugs are available to relieve these symptoms -- some without a prescription. But if symptoms strike and these medications are not on hand, baking soda may offer relief by reducing stomach acidity. However, this home remedy can have unwanted side effects.
Baking Soda as an Antacid
The stomach makes acidic fluid to help digest food, and a muscular ring connecting the stomach and esophagus stays closed when not swallowing to prevent the stomach's acidic contents from traveling back up into the esophagus. When this back-flow into the esophagus occurs, it causes symptoms such as heartburn. Many home remedies are touted to help acid reflux, but most of these have little research to prove their effectiveness. However baking soda is known to be effective because it works as an antacid -- relieving symptoms by neutralizing the acidic contents of the stomach.
Using Baking Soda as a Remedy
Baking soda generally comes in powder form. When used as an antacid, baking soda is mixed with water until it is completely dissolved. Also known as sodium bicarbonate, it's found in some over-the-counter antacids such as Alka-Seltzer, and is also an active ingredient in a medication combined with the acid-blocking component omeprazole. In a study reported in the 2015 issue of "PLoS One," researchers compared omeprazole alone to the product combining sodium bicarbonate with omeprazole. While both relieved symptoms, more patients taking the combination product had complete relief within 30 minutes compared with patients taking omeprazole alone.
Acid Reflux Treatment
According to the American College of Gastroenterology's 2013 clinical guidelines, effective treatment of acid reflux includes a combination of acid-blocking medications and lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, avoiding lying down within two to three hours of eating and sleeping with the head of the bed elevated. Antacids such as baking soda begin to relieve symptoms quickly and may be appropriate initially. However, medications that stop the stomach from making acid may be needed to promote healing of damaged tissue and maintain ongoing symptom relief.
Warnings and Side Effects
While baking soda may improve acid reflux symptoms, potential side effects of this home remedy -- gas and burping -- could aggravate symptoms. Baking soda also has a high sodium content, so it's not ideal for anyone on a low-sodium diet. In addition, there have been rare cases of stomach rupture when baking soda is taken after a large meal. Because of potential side effects, the use of baking soda as an antacid should be discussed with your doctor. In addition, anyone experiencing severe or frequent acid reflux symptoms should see a doctor for evaluation and management.
Is This an Emergency?
- New Human Physiology: Gastrointestinal Function and Disorders; Poul-Erik Paulev and Gustavo Zubieta-Calleja
- DailyMed: Sodium Bicarbonate Powder
- PLoS One: Challenges of Correlating pH Change with Relief of Clinical Symptoms in Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease: A Phase III, Randomized Study of Zegerid Versus Losec
- Merck Manual: Drug Treatment of Gastric Acidity
- Federal Register: Antacid Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Human Use; Proposed Amendment of Antacid Final Monograph
- American Gastroenterological Association: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- American College of Gastroenterology: Diagnosis and Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease