Can Baking Soda Help With Heartburn?

If you're familiar with the painful, burning feeling caused by acid reflux, you're far from alone. According to the Tampa Bay Reflux Center, the experience is shared by 20–30% of American adults every week. That's a lot of heartburn and a testament to our national love of spicy and fried foods. For many, heartburn relief can be found in over-the-counter or prescription medicine. But for some, the remedy is as close and affordable as the box of baking soda in the pantry.

Baking soda — aka sodium bicarbonate — is a natural antacid. It's highly alkaline, with a pH of 8 to 8.4, and is therefore able to immediately neutralize the stomach acids, which have a very acidic pH of between 1.5 and 3.5 (via Parade). Stephanie Schiff, registered dietitian and nutritionist, told Parade, "It's a great occasional treatment because it's very inexpensive, but it works in a similar way to over-the-counter antacids."

A little baking soda in water can provide instant relief

But experts also warn that baking soda should only be used for short-term relief and not by everyone. According to Medical News Today, people with heart, kidney, or liver disease, edema, and various other medical problems should not use baking soda to treat heartburn. The same goes for pregnant people and young children, unless advised by their doctor.

Also, while in small, diluted amounts, baking soda is generally harmless, it's actually possible to overdose on it — a condition called "soda loading" — which is toxic and dangerous. Ingesting too much baking soda can lead to muscle spasms and weakness, as well as gastrointestinal problems and vomiting (via LiveStrong).

Still, for healthy adults and older children, drinking half a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with four ounces of water can provide instant, safe, and cheap relief from heartburn. Just don't overdo it.