Can You Use Baking Soda for Heartburn Relief?

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux that occurs when gastric juices back up from the stomach into the esophagus, irritating the cells that line the food pipe. In addition to heartburn, acid reflux can cause you to develop a cough, bad breath, and trouble swallowing.

Repeated episodes of heartburn usually signal the presence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This is most often triggered by lifestyle factors, such as laying down after a big meal or eating junk food.

However, a number of other health conditions, including hiatal hernias, peptic ulcers, obesity, inflammation of the esophagus, weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), and gastric motility disorders, can also cause heartburn.

Research shows that 20%, or more than 60 million Americans, experience heartburn at least once a month. Some studies even suggest that more than 15 million Americans experience heartburn symptoms at least once per day.

To manage symptoms of heartburn, some people look to home remedies, such as drinking a solution of baking soda and water. But do such natural treatments really work? This article will look at the potential benefits of baking soda for heartburn, as well as side effects and other proven remedies.

Baking soda drink

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What Is Heartburn?

Heartburn is most commonly a symptom of acid reflux that occurs when gastric juices back up from the stomach into the esophagus, irritating the cells that line the food pipe. As discussed above, there are several other causes of heartburn.

Repeated episodes of heartburn usually signal the presence of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If left untreated, GERD can cause a number of medical complications such as throat cancer (Barrett’s esophagus) and inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis). 

Symptoms

Many things can trigger or intensify your heartburn, or acid reflux, causing you to develop a wide range of symptoms. Triggers may include the foods you eat, like caffeine and spicy foods, and lifestyle habits like lack of exercise and smoking.

Heartburn is in and of itself a symptom of acid reflux, but it is often accompanied by additional symptoms, including: 

  • A burning sensation in the chest. Irritation of the tissues in the esophagus results in an uncomfortable burning sensation in the chest, usually behind the breast bone. 
  • Sore throat. Acid reflux can cause regurgitation and inflammation of the adenoids, resulting in a sore throat. 
  • Sour or bitter taste in the mouth. The backflow of gastric contents can sometimes cause you to have an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
  • Trouble swallowing. Also known as dysphagia, difficulty swallowing can occur when food does not pass normally from the mouth through the esophagus to the stomach. Sometimes this can feel like a burning or choking sensation in the chest.
  • Chronic coughing. A persistent cough is one of the most common symptoms that accompanies heartburn.

Baking Soda and Heartburn Relief

Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, is an alkaline chemical compound. It comes in the form of a tablet, solution, or granule (like the powder used in baking).

Because of its alkaline properties, sodium bicarbonate can be used to relieve heartburn. It works by neutralizing excess stomach acid. It belongs to a group of medicines called antacids.

Sodium bicarbonate may also have some off-label use as a treatment for ulcers (in the stomach or duodenum) and to make the blood and urine more alkaline in certain medical conditions. As with any supplement or medication, it's important to speak with your healthcare provider before trying.

How to Use Baking Soda for Heartburn

Sodium bicarbonate has an alkaline pH, which helps to neutralize the acidity in your stomach. Usually, a half teaspoon of baking soda mixed in a 4-ounce glass of water is enough to help relieve your heartburn symptoms.

You can try this method every four hours or as directed by a healthcare provider, but if this doesn’t help after three or four tries, you may want to try another treatment method. If you regularly use this method for two weeks, but still have symptoms, it may signal a larger problem that needs to be checked out. 

If you don’t like the taste of baking soda or don’t want to measure an exact amount of baking soda (remember the baking soda to water ratio is very important for effectiveness), then you might want to consider using Alka-Seltzer. This common brand-name over-the-counter (OTC) medication contains sodium bicarbonate, and it contains flavorings that make the drink more palatable.

If the baking soda is providing you with temporary relief, but you are seeking a longer or more potent effect, you may want to consider Zegerid (sodium bicarbonate, plus the proton pump inhibitor, omeprazole) for more long-lasting relief.

Efficacy of Baking Soda for Heartburn

Using baking soda may be an effective way of treating occasional acid reflux, especially if you take it as prescribed.

It helps to take the same dose at the same time each day. Do not take it more often or continue taking sodium bicarbonate for longer than prescribed to avoid side effects and medical complications.

Studies show that antacids, like sodium bicarbonate, can transiently neutralize acid in the esophagus, but do not significantly affect gastric pH or prevent subsequent heartburn episodes.

For that reason, antacids are not recommended for the treatment of frequent heartburn. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) provide a sustained inhibition of gastric acid production and are superior to antacids for control of gastric acid and treatment of frequent heartburn.

Side Effects

While baking soda has been shown to be an effective treatment for heartburn it should be used with care and under the direction of a healthcare professional. Common side effects of baking soda include:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Increased thirst
  • Stomach cramps

Usually, these symptoms will go away if you stop using baking soda, but if any of your side effects persist or your heartburn symptoms are not relieved with other forms of treatment, contact your healthcare provider. 

You don’t want to overdo the baking soda method. Taking too much antacid can alkalinize, or increase the blood's pH. This can lead to a condition called metabolic alkalosis, which is a medical emergency so it is important that you use this medication as prescribed or closely follow the instructions on the box.

Of note, antacids should not be given to young children (up to 6 years of age) unless prescribed by their healthcare provider. This is because an adolescent's body is more sensitive to the active ingredients in the drug. As a result, your child may develop digestive issues including stomach upset, loose stool, or constipation.

Heartburn Home Remedies

Using natural remedies—herbal and lifestyle modifications alike—is a go-to approach that many people try to help treat their acid reflux. Some commonly used home remedies include:

  • Making herbal tea. Herbs such as ginger, chamomile, aloe juice, and licorice serve as digestive aids.
  • Using the apple cider vinegar technique. Like baking soda, taking a spoonful of apple cider vinegar with some water can serve as a digestive aid. 
  • Chewing sugar-free gum. Chewing sugar-free gum for 30 minutes can increase saliva production providing a soothing effect on the belly and decreasing the production of acid in the stomach.
  • Eating a banana (or another high alkaline food). Bananas are high in potassium, making them a fairly alkaline food. This means it is the perfect food to counter the stomach acid that is irritating your esophagus.
  • Saying no to cigarettes and other tobacco products. Smoking reduces saliva production, thereby increasing the production of stomach acid. 
  • Staying upright after dinner. Anything that pushes on the belly or negates gravity from keeping your food (and stomach acid) down can cause or exacerbate your heartburn, so it’s best that you don’t lay down immediately after you eat. You may also want to unbuckle your belt buckle or wear loose-fitting clothing to relieve any tension around your abdomen as well.

It's important to note that herbal remedies do not undergo testing for safety and effectiveness by the federal government. They are not FDA approved and often do not have to meet the same standards for manufacturing and packaging that prescription drugs do.

You should never take an herbal remedy in place of traditional medication or without first disclosing this information to your healthcare provider. 

Summary

Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda, is a common remedy for heartburn. This pantry staple is naturally alkaline, which help neutralize excess stomach acid. To use baking soda at home, drink 1/2 teaspoon mixed into 4 ounces of water to relieve heartburn symptoms. Sodium bicarbonate is also available in over-the-counter medications, like Alka-Seltzer and by prescription. Always check with your healthcare provider before trying any natural treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Baking soda is an important ingredient in many commonly prescribed and OTC antacids that are well-liked because they provide a quick onset of relief for mild or moderate bouts of heartburn and ease of use.

Remember that sodium bicarbonate is just one of many tools to treat heartburn, and if your symptoms persist you should seek medical attention from a healthcare professional. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does heartburn feel like?

    Everyone experiences heartburn differently, but the most common description is a burning sensation in the chest or abdomen behind the sternum. Sometimes a sour taste in the mouth or a feeling that there is a lump in your throat may accompany your chest pain. 

  • How long does heartburn last?

    Heartburn can last anywhere from several minutes to a few hours, depending on the underlying cause.

  • What causes heartburn?

    Heartburn is caused by a variety of conditions. In fact, anything that disrupts the esophagus can cause you to experience heartburn, hence the importance of getting a proper medical evaluation of your symptoms.

    Some of the mechanisms that can contribute to heartburn include direct irritation of the esophagus, weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), gastric motility disorders, and hiatal hernia.

  • What foods neutralize stomach acid?

    Mixing baking soda or apple cider vinegar with water can help neutralize stomach acid. Eating alkaline foods—mainly foods that are high in potassium like bananas, cauliflower, and broccoli—can also neutralize stomach acid.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. MedlinePlus. Sodium bicarbonate.

  3. McRorie JW Jr, Gibb RD, Miner PB Jr. Evidence-based treatment of frequent heartburn: the benefits and limitations of over-the-counter medications. J Am Assoc Nurse Pract. 2014;26(6):330-339. doi:10.1002/2327-6924.12133

  4. Jensen S, Skriver S. Self-treatment with baking soda can lead to severe metabolic alkalosis. 2014;176(25A):V11120678.

  5. Harvard Health. Herbal remedies for heartburn.

By Shamard Charles, MD, MPH
Shamard Charles, MD, MPH is a public health physician and journalist. He has held positions with major news networks like NBC reporting on health policy, public health initiatives, diversity in medicine, and new developments in health care research and medical treatments.