What Is Sodium Bicarbonate?

Baking soda is used for oral and digestive health

Close-Up Of Baking Soda Spilled From Measuring Spoon On Table

 Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images

Sodium bicarbonate may sound like something you’ve never heard of, but chances are there is some sitting in your kitchen cupboard right now. Otherwise known as baking soda, the chemical compound is a salt made of a sodium cation and a bicarbonate anion.

Baking soda is often found as a fine powder substance despite the fact that it is actually crystalline solid. It is considered a monosodium, only containing one atom of sodium, and has a slight alkaline value.

Sodium bicarbonate a commonly used product for many health ailments, cooking, and to improve exercise stamina and performance.

Uses

There are many uses for baking soda, some of which may surprise you. The chemical compound is used for a variety of different health conditions and can often be found in at-home remedies, as well as some over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The storied history of the use of baking soda suggests that it is one of the most versatile compounds available.  

Oral Health

Baking soda has been shown to have great effects on oral health because of its ability to be dissolved easily. It can act as a bactericide agent against some periodontal pathogens. It has also been used as a general mouthwash, and as an inexpensive way to whiten teeth.

Canker sores have also shown improvement when treated with a baking soda mouthwash, with ongoing treatment soothing the pain that is associated with the small and painful ulcers.

Digestive Health

Heartburn affects roughly 60 million Americans. It is a symptom caused by acid reflux, and leads to pain and burning up through the esophagus and into the throat. When the condition is chronic, it can be difficult to manage.

Because of the neutralizing effects of baking soda, people can find relief from heartburn by mixing a small amount with water. It has also been to help treat bouts of indigestion.

It should be noted that the ingestion of baking soda for prolonged periods can lead to heart problems and metabolic alkalosis.

Athletic Performance

Although studies are varied when it comes to the use of baking soda as an exercise aid, some have suggested that it can lead to enhanced performance by improving levels of stamina. It is thought that the high pH level of the powder is what decreases fatigue in those performing high-intensity exercises.

Use in Treatment

Proper kidney function is important because the kidneys are designed to remove both waste and excess water from the bloodstream that could build up and cause health problems. They also play an integral role in the balance of essential minerals. When the kidneys aren't functioning at their best, this balance is thrown off.

Research has shown that those with less than desirable kidney function might slow the progression of their disease by taking baking soda supplements. Baking soda could also help increase the efficacy of chemotherapy treatments in cancer patients by encouraging a less acidic environment for tumors.

Cleaning and Deodorizing

Baking soda has long been used as a cleaning agent. The strength of the powder can do wonders for tough kitchen or laundry stains. It is suggested that you use enough baking soda to create a paste-like substance when mixed with water for the best results. It has also been shown to be a great way to remove pesticides from fruit.

To get rid of odors, baking soda neutralizes both acidic and basic molecules. Because of this, baking soda can be used to get rid of kitchen odor, especially from the garbage. It can also be used as a personal deodorant, household deodorant for furniture and carpets, and to keep both the fridge and freezer smelling fresh.

Dowsing Kitchen Fires

Grease fires are hard to combat and must never be put out using water. Baking soda can come in handy when there is no fire extinguisher around because it smothers the flame by emitting carbon dioxide. 

Forms

Baking soda most typically comes in the form of a powder, however, it can also be found in capsules, granules, and solutions. Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications contain small amounts of baking soda, including Alka Seltzer.

Risks and Side Effects

Although baking soda is a versatile agent used for many things, it can still pose health risks if ingested too often or in high amounts. Short-term use of baking soda could lead to gastrointestinal distress such as nausea, cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Research has also shown that it can lead to hemorrhagic encephalopathy, a serious condition that can cause shock, thinning of the blood and an inability to clot, liver and kidney problems, and changes in the function and structure of the brain.

Although long-term use may not be the sole cause for some conditions, it can lead to an increased risk of worsening or developing new illnesses. One specific condition known as metabolic alkalosis occurs when the body’s pH reaches dangerously high levels. This can lead to confusion, light-headedness, nausea and vomiting, muscle spasms that don’t’ go away, and hand tremors.

This can be confusing because baking soda can actually help aid in the treatment of metabolic acidosis (when the pH is too low), however, there is always a level of uncertainty when it comes to knowing how baking soda will affect you.

Always speak to your doctor prior to initiating a new supplement regime or using sodium bicarbonate for any condition.

A Word From Verywell 

Although the general use of baking soda is considered safe, it’s important to remember the risks associated with prolonged ingestion of the chemical compound. The use of baking soda for household cleaning and deodorizing has been widely accepted for many years and isn’t likely to pose any health risks when used responsibly.

It’s when at-home remedies and pre-existing health conditions come into play, causing a heightened risk for serious complications. Always speak to your health care professional about your questions or concerns regarding the use of baking soda.

If you are given the go-ahead, it can be an inexpensive and readily available product that you can use in the fight against oral health issues, fatigue while exercising, and household odors.

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