Sodium bicarbonate already aids you in your daily life, and you may not even know it. Some know it as baking soda through its popularity in oral hygiene products and baked foods. Keep reading to discover its health benefits and possible risk factors.
What is Sodium Bicarbonate?
Sodium bicarbonate is commonly referred to as baking soda, which is a popular food ingredient, medicine, and household product.
Its powerful neutralizing ability can relieve stomach conditions, such as acid indigestion and heartburn. For this purpose, sodium bicarbonate is also known as an antacid medicine .
Some kinds of toothpaste contain sodium bicarbonate for its ability to fight tooth decay and to remove stubborn odors. Sodium bicarbonate works well with fluoride by protecting teeth, killing bacteria, and improving overall dental health .
Sodium bicarbonate is also a popular ingredient for cakes and bread. While providing great texture in foods, sodium bicarbonate can also reduce acidity, and act as a raising and leavening agent [3, 4].
These compounds break apart from each other when dissolved to interact with nearby components, such as free hydrogen .
Mechanism of Action
Excess hydrogen increases the acidity in liquids and can cause severe damage to the body. Sodium bicarbonate can remove excess hydrogen from its environment to reduce acidity. Each sodium bicarbonate molecule can bind to 3 hydrogen molecules [8, 9, 10].
1) Helps Oral Health
There is more to oral health than just anticavity ability. Sodium bicarbonate is an abrasive that polishes and removes stains from teeth. Its teeth whitening activity works great for people who frequent teeth staining liquids such as coffee, tea, and wine [2, 14].
Bad breath is usually why most people brush their teeth. This is usually caused by sulfur-producing bacteria feasting on bits of remaining food particles. Sodium bicarbonate not only helps kill these bacteria but also eliminates foul odor [15, 5, 2].
A study of 270 people showed that oral hygiene products containing sodium bicarbonate were better at plaque removal during tooth brushing .
2) Improves Exercise Recovery
Athletes are familiar with the burning sensation that follows intensive exercise. When muscles do not have enough oxygen, they switch to an alternative energy production process, which produces lactic acid as a byproduct .
In a study of 9 male tennis players, subjects given a placebo experienced standard fatigue and a decline in performance. However, those who consumed sodium bicarbonate were less fatigued and had less acidic blood due to lactic acid .
A study of 10 amateur boxers showed that those who consumed sodium bicarbonate supplements landed more punches on their opponent .
Interestingly, lactate acid concentrations were higher in subjects who took sodium bicarbonate supplements. In a study of 23 subjects who did judo-related exercise, ingesting sodium bicarbonate improved their performance, but they had higher lactate acid levels in their blood .
3) Helps Treat Kidney Disease
During chronic kidney disease, the kidney is unable to properly filter blood. Weaker kidneys cause a build of toxins in the blood. Patients with chronic kidney disease have increased blood acidity levels [21, 22].
Multiple studies (318 patients total) examined sodium bicarbonate supplementation in patients with chronic kidney disease. Sodium bicarbonate slowed the rate of kidney decline in the late stages of the disease [23, 24].
4) Might Fight Cancer
Cancer cells have an unstoppable metabolism to support tumor growth. The space surrounding tumors generally becomes too acidic due to waste products of the cell’s heightened metabolism. Many cancer therapies such as drug administration and the body’s immune system intervention have difficulty reaching tumors due to the acidic barrier .
Sodium bicarbonate reduced the acidity surrounding tumors in laboratory rats. Amounts of tumor cells in rats were also reduced with oral sodium bicarbonate supplements .
5) Helps Treat Hyperkalemia
Sodium bicarbonate does not directly interact with potassium in the body but still can help under certain conditions .
If a hyperkalemic patient has high levels of acidic blood, sodium bicarbonate can reduce the acidic levels. This will reduce potassium levels by moving them from the blood into cells .
6) May Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is commonly known as sugar signaling (transmission) hormone that helps reduce blood sugar after meals. Defects in the insulin transmission process are commonly referred to as diabetes.
The effects of sodium bicarbonate on insulin sensitivity were studied in 1 study 18 healthy postmenopausal women and 1 study of 7 patients with hyperparathyroidism. Subjects showed greater sensitivity to insulin, suggesting that sodium bicarbonate could help prevent diabetes .
However, another in another study of 153 non-diabetic adults, sodium bicarbonate did not significantly improve insulin sensitivity .
7) Reduces Microbe Growth
Sodium bicarbonate reduces fungus growth in common disease-causing fungi .
Streptococcus is the bacteria commonly known to cause strep throat. Sodium bicarbonate can kill Streptococcus bacteria when combined with sodium dodecyl sulfate .
8) Protects Against Drug Toxicity
Sodium bicarbonate can increase the removal of certain types of toxic drugs, including :
- Sodium channel blockers
- Salicylate (an anti-inflammatory drug)
- Toxic Alcohols
9) Protects Skin
Human skin is the largest organ on the body, with some of the most important functions. Keeping the skin healthy not only maintains beauty, but also protects against pathogens, infections, and ultraviolet radiation [R].
Taking baths in overly acidic water can damage skin, causing a scaly appearance. Public water in pools and spas can be highly acidic due to chlorine addition for safety purposes. A meta-analysis showed sodium bicarbonate reduced acidic damage to the skin .
10) May Help with Stomach Pains
Gaviscon is an antacid containing sodium bicarbonate that provides relief from acidic stomach fluids. Heartburn is a common, but a painful condition caused by acidic backflow into the esophagus. A study of 278 patients showed the antacids were able to eliminate heartburn for 24 hours .
11) May Help Burn Fat
The presence of free fatty acids in the blood could be a signal that body fat is being broken down for energy. Sodium bicarbonate increased the amounts of free fatty acids in human blood. Researchers postulate this may be due to its acid-reducing effect .
Limitations and Caveats
Sodium bicarbonate does not seem to be effective for newborns with problems related to blood acid levels and sudden loss of heart function .
Side Effects & Precautions
Sodium bicarbonate via oral consumption may cause a panic attack in those with a panic disorder .
Digestion discomfort is also present with sodium bicarbonate use in some individuals .
Those with chronic kidney disorder have a higher risk of heart failure with a higher amount of bicarbonate in their blood .
Oxygen flow to the heart may also be reduced with the use of sodium bicarbonate in some patients .
Sodium bicarbonate is known to interact with many drugs. Please contact your doctor before using sodium bicarbonate if you are using prescription drugs. Some of its known interactions include:
- Acetazolamide (a drug that increases urine production) 
- Aspirin 
- Salicylate (an anti-inflammatory drug) 
- Sodium channel blockers 
- Enteric-coated tablets (pills that are not digested by stomach fluid) 
Sodium bicarbonate is available on the market in the forms of:
- Baking soda
- Antacid tablets
The common dosage for sodium bicarbonate used in human studies is 500 mg. .
Most users report a disgusting salty taste when sodium bicarbonate is mixed with water. Stomach relief from heartburn and indigestion usually occur within 30 minutes, often followed by a painless bowel movement.
Inflammation from insect bites and skin damage from sunburn were less painful when treated with sodium bicarbonate. Shampoos with sodium bicarbonate were reported to improve hair smoothness and moisture.
A few users mention having no noticeable effect when using sodium bicarbonate for stomach discomfort.