Baking soda is a common household ingredient, but it is also a chemical compound that reacts with many things. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is often used as a home remedy for stomach gas because it reacts with stomach acid to produce carbon dioxide, another gas. This increase in gas can initiate belching and lead to relief, but it can also cause problems. Ingesting baking soda should be done with caution.
How Baking Soda Works
Think of your stomach as a thin, leathery pouch. If you fill it up, it can stretch -- within limits. When you eat, you swallow a certain amount of air with your food. If you eat quickly, drink carbonated beverages with your meal or talk a lot or smoke while eating, excess gas may build up in your stomach. This gas is most likely to cause discomfort if your stomach is already stretched from a large meal. Baking soda's reaction with stomach acid actually causes more gas in the stomach, as carbon dioxide is added to the gas already present. The increase in gas after taking baking soda can trigger belching, which may relieve your stomach gas pains. However, the increased gas may make your discomfort worse if you don't expel the excess gas through belching.
Home Remedy, With Care
The authors of a 1984 article published in the journal "Gastroenterology" found that a half teaspoon of baking soda in a small glass of water is generally safe, because it is unlikely to cause a dangerous level of carbon dioxide production. Use a measuring spoon so you don't add too much baking soda. Mix the baking soda in at least 4 ounces of water and do not take it on an overly full stomach. Children and pregnant women should not take baking soda without first consulting a doctor. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, have heart problems, take any medications or have any other symptoms, talk with your doctor before taking baking soda. Do not take baking soda with antacids.
Dangers of Ingesting Baking Soda
Frequent or excessive use of baking soda can disrupt the chemical and pH balance of your body, especially if you have kidney problems or take water pills. You might even develop abnormally elevated blood sodium and low potassium levels. In rare cases, taking a large amount of baking soda can lead to stomach rupture due to the large amount of carbon dioxide produced. People who have experienced this life-threatening complication had greatly exceeded the recommended dosage of baking soda and had full stomachs from large meals.
For safety and proper diagnosis, discuss baking soda use with your doctor. Seek medical attention if your stomach gas continues or recurs or if your gas is accompanied by other symptoms. If you have taken baking soda to treat stomach gas, seek medical attention if you experience increased thirst, worsening symptoms, cramps, headache, nausea, vomiting material that looks like coffee grounds, changes in breathing, changes in personality, weakness, swelling of the feet, blood in the urine or stool that is bloody or black.
Is This an Emergency?
- Journal of Medical Toxicology: Baking Soda Can Settle the Stomach but Upset the Heart -- Case Files of the Medical Toxicology Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco
- Journal for Emergency Medicine: Homespun Remedy, Homespun Toxicity -- Baking Soda Ingestion for Dyspepsia
- Gastroenterology: Gas Production After Reaction of Sodium Bicarbonate and Hydrochloric Acid
- Annals of Surgery: Rupture of the Stomach Following Ingestion of Sodium Bicarbonate
- Nutrition Research: Acute Sodium Bicarbonate Loading Has Negligible Effects on Resting and Exercise Blood Pressure but Causes Gastrointestinal Distress
- International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism: Effect of Sodium Bicarbonate on [HCO3-], pH, and Gastrointestinal Symptoms
- PubMed Health: Sodium Bicarbonate (Oral Route, Intravenous Route, Subcutaneous Route)
- MedLine Plus: Sodium Bicarbonate
- Medical Toxicology; Richard C. Dart (ed.)