The product commonly known as baking soda is a chemical compound called sodium bicarbonate. This compound is used for various purposes within the home in cooking, cleaning and health care. Its amphoteric and alkaline properties allow many people to use baking soda as an antacid when they are bothered by heartburn or acid reflux. Drinking water that has a small amount of baking soda mixed in will temporarily neutralize some of the acid in the stomach.
Sodium bicarbonate is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used by humans for a variety of applications since antiquity. The compound is useful partially because of its amphoteric properties, which allow it to neutralize both acids and bases. This ability to neutralize acid allows people to use baking soda to relieve indigestion and other stomach complaints. Once ingested, the compound will react to the gastric acid in the human stomach and raise the potential hydrogen (pH level). The body itself uses a different bicarbonate compound to help regulate the level of acidity in the digestive system.
Most home remedies involving baking soda as an antacid recommend dissolving the powder into a glass of water. Recommended dosages vary, but some manufactures advise mixing 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 grams) baking soda with 1/2 cup (about 118 milliliters) water to get relief from the symptoms of heartburn. This dosage can be taken every two hours, with no more than seven doses taken in a 24-hour period. Taking too much sodium bicarbonate can prevent the body from properly digesting food. One should always allow the powder to dissolve completely before drinking the mixture.
The high sodium content means consumers should use caution when taking baking soda as an antacid. This product should not be taken by children under 5 years old, and people who are on a salt-sensitive diet or taking prescription drugs should consult with their doctor or pharmacist. People over the age of 60 should not take more than three doses in a 24-hour period. The volume of gas released as the sodium bicarbonate mixes with the stomach acid means people should not take baking soda on a full stomach if they want to avoid potential injury from the subsequent increase in pressure.
People also should avoid taking baking soda as an antacid for longer than two weeks. Chronic stomach pain and heartburn can be the sign of a more serious condition, and people should see a doctor if symptoms persist. While this natural antacid can be an affordable and effective short-term solution for heartburn and indigestion, there are longer-lasting medications available over the counter and by prescription that can help people suffering from long-term problems related to acid production.