Indigestion, or dyspepsia, is a general term for discomfort, pain or burning in the stomach or upper abdomen. This common problem can be caused by a variety of conditions. Some people experience indigestion when they eat certain foods or drinks. Others have this problem all the time. There are many over-the-counter and prescription medications available to treat indigestion, yet some people prefer to use home remedies. One popular remedy is baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate. This compound can neutralize stomach acid and ease indigestion. Let’s take a closer look at how baking soda may help relieve indigestion and explore other natural options.
What Is Baking Soda?
Baking soda is a white powder that is commonly used as a leavening agent in baking. It’s also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda.
Baking soda is a basic compound. This means it has a pH greater than 7. When it’s added to an acidic compound, it neutralizes the acid and increases the pH.
For this reason, it is often used as an antacid to treat heartburn and indigestion. It’s also used to relieve stomach discomfort caused by indigestion or an upset stomach (1).
How Does Baking Soda Work?
When stomach acid refluxes or backs up into the esophagus, it causes a lot of discomfort. It happens when the valve between the stomach and esophagus doesn’t work properly.
When acid reflux becomes chronic, it’s known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (5).
Symptoms of acid reflux and GERD include (5):
- Heartburn – a burning sensation in the chest
- Regurgitation – a feeling of food or liquid coming up into the throat or mouth
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest pain
- Bad breath
The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. This is a burning sensation that starts in the lower part of the chest and may spread to the throat (5).
Acid reflux and GERD are often treated with antacids. These medications neutralize stomach acids and relieve symptoms (5).
Baking soda is thought to work by immediately neutralizing stomach acid. This gives the esophagus time to heal and prevents further damage to the digestive system (1).
Baking soda is generally considered safe and effective for occasional use. However, it’s not recommended as a long-term solution since it can be harmful if used too often (1). It also doesn’t work for all kinds of heartburn or indigestion. Be sure to talk to your doctor about whether it’s safe for you and if you find you need it more than just occasionally, discuss a different solution with your doctor.
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Possible Side Effects
Baking soda is considered a safe home remedy for indigestion if used occasionally. However, there are some potential side effects to be aware of.
When taken in large amounts, baking soda can be toxic (11). The recommended dosage for adults is ¼ to 1/2 teaspoon dissolved in ½ cup (4 oz or 125 ml) ounces of water (1). Don’t take it within 2 hours of any medications as it can affect how your body absorbs them or the way they work.
Baking soda should not be given to children under the age of six years old unless your doctor tells you to.
Baking soda can cause gas and bloating. It can also cause stomach cramps and an increase in stool volume (11). If you experience these side effects, stop taking baking soda and see your doctor.
When used as directed, baking soda is generally safe for most people. However, it’s important to talk to your doctor before using this or any other home remedy. This is especially important if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have any medical conditions or take medications.
Natural Alternatives To Baking Soda
There are many other natural options that can be used to relieve indigestion. These include:
Certain herbs, such as ginger, chamomile and mint, have been traditionally used to relieve indigestion. These herbs can be brewed into tea and taken after meals (8).
Ginger is a common home remedy for nausea and vomiting. It’s also been shown to be effective in treating indigestion. It contains a compound called gingerol, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (14).
Chamomile is a flowering plant that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions. It contains a variety of phytochemicals which may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (14).
Mint is a common ingredient in many digestive supplements. It’s also been shown to be effective in treating indigestion. Mint contains a compound called menthol, which may have a soothing effect on the stomach (7).
These are live bacteria that can be found in yogurt and fermented foods. They help to keep the gut healthy and may help reduce symptoms of indigestion. Sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut (6).
Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions. It’s also been shown to be effective in treating indigestion (2).
Regular exercise can help to reduce symptoms of indigestion. This is because it helps to promote regular bowel movements and keeps the digestive system working properly (15).
Abdominal massage is a type of massage that is used to stimulate the digestive system. It may help by stimulating the digestive system (12).
There are a variety of supplements that are sometimes taken to relieve symptoms of indigestion. These include herbs such as ginger, chamomile and mint. Probiotics and enzymes are also thought to be effective in treating some types of indigestion.
These are just a few of the many natural options that can be used to relieve indigestion. Talk to your doctor before trying any new treatment, especially if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding or taking any medications.
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How To Prevent Indigestion
Prevention is always better than cure. There are many things you can do to help prevent indigestion, such as:
Eating Smaller Meals
Large meals can cause indigestion, especially if you eat them quickly. This is because your stomach can’t digest a lot of food at once. Try to eat smaller meals more often during the day.
Chewing Food Thoroughly
Indigestion can sometimes be caused by not chewing your food properly. Take your time when you’re eating and chew each bite slowly and thoroughly.
Avoiding Trigger Foods
There are certain foods that can trigger indigestion in some people. Common trigger foods include spicy food, fatty food, and chocolate. If you notice that certain foods make your indigestion worse, try to avoid them.
Avoiding Acidic Foods
Acidic foods can also sometimes trigger indigestion. This includes citrus fruits, tomatoes, and vinegar. If you’re prone to indigestion, try to avoid these foods if they seem to make your indigestion worse.
Lying Down After Eating
Your stomach needs to be in an upright position to properly digest food. That’s why lying down or taking a nap shortly after eating can make indigestion worse.
Staying upright for at least an hour after eating can help prevent indigestion. Taking a short walk after a meal can be even better.
Not Wearing Tight Clothes
Wearing tight clothing can put pressure on your stomach and make indigestion worse. Try to wear loose, comfortable clothing if you’re prone to indigestion.
Stress can make indigestion worse. The connection between stress and indigestion is not fully understood, but it’s thought that stress may increase the production of stomach acid (13).
There are many different ways to manage stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and counseling.
Making Some Lifestyle Changes
Making some lifestyle changes can also help prevent indigestion. If you smoke, for example, you’re more likely to experience indigestion. Quitting smoking can help reduce the risk of indigestion (13).
Excess weight can also contribute to indigestion. Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese may help prevent or relieve symptoms.
If you drink alcohol, try to limit your intake. Drinking too much alcohol can irritate your stomach and lead to indigestion. The same applies to caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, and soda.
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When To See A Doctor
You should see your doctor if you have heartburn that:
- Occurs more than twice a week
- Is not relieved by over-the-counter antacids
- Is severe and interferes with your daily activities
- If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain with swallowing
- Unintentional weight loss
- Black stools
- Vomiting blood
These symptoms may be signs of a more serious condition. Early diagnosis and treatment of health conditions are always preferable to late diagnosis and treatment.
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Indigestion is a common condition that can be caused by many different things. There are many natural remedies that can be used to relieve symptoms. Baking soda is one of them.
Making some lifestyle changes can also help prevent indigestion from occurring. By following the tips above, you can help prevent indigestion or make it less severe.
If you’re experiencing frequent or severe indigestion, talk to your doctor. They can help determine the cause and recommend treatment options.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Baking Soda for Heartburn (n.d., badgut.org)
- Clinical study on the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux by acupuncture (2010, pubmed.gov)
- Esophageal cancer: results of an American College of Surgeons Patient Care Evaluation Study (2000, pubmed.gov)
- Esophagogastric junction outflow obstruction: Where are we now in diagnosis and management? (2019, nih.gov)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Probiotics: A Systematic Review (2020, nih.gov)
- Herbal remedies for dyspepsia: peppermint seems effective (2008, pubmed.gov)
- Herbal remedies for heartburn (2021, harvard.edu)
- Hiatal Hernia (2022, nih.gov)
- Peptic Ulcer Disease (2021, nih.gov)
- Sodium bicarbonate Side Effects (2022, drugs.com)
- Studying the effect of abdominal massage on the gastric residual volume in patients hospitalized in intensive care units (2018, nih.gov)
- The Association Between Reflux Esophagitis and Psychosocial Stress (2013, nih.gov)
- The health benefits of 3 herbal teas (2021, harvard.edu)
- You Suffer from Acid Reflux? Try These Exercises to Get Instant Relief (n.d., liebscher-bracht.com)