Acid reflux is a digestive condition where stomach acid flows from the stomach back into the esophagus (the tract that connects your mouth to your stomach).
This backwash of acid can irritate your esophagus and cause heartburn. Heartburn is the burning feeling that can occur anywhere from the middle of your abdomen to your throat.
Other symptoms of acid reflux can include:
- bad breath
- pain in your chest or upper stomach
- nausea and vomiting
- difficulty or painful swallowing
- sensitive teeth
- problems with breathing
- bad taste in your mouth
- a nagging cough
If the symptoms remain consistent and worsen, then it may have progressed into gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This means that the acid reflux happens at least twice a week, interferes with your daily life, and has possibly damaged your esophagus.
If you’ve been diagnosed with GERD, follow your doctor’s instructions for managing your symptoms. If you suspect you have GERD, see your doctor to avoid long-term complications.
Many pharmacies and stores sell over-the-counter (OTC) acid reflux medications like Tums or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). But there’s one inexpensive treatment you may already have at home: baking soda.
Baking soda is a popular method for treating digestive problems like heartburn, acid indigestion, and upset stomachs, but it can only be used on an occasional basis. Read on to learn about how it works, how to use it, and more.
The key to baking soda’s ability to treat acid reflux lies in its active ingredient: sodium bicarbonate. OTC antacids like Alka-Seltzer contain sodium bicarbonate, which is what makes them work.
Your pancreas naturally produces sodium bicarbonate to protect your intestines. Baking soda is thought to mimic the effects of this process. As an absorbable antacid, sodium bicarbonate quickly neutralizes stomach acid and temporarily relieves symptoms of acid reflux.
Caution: The sudden decrease in stomach acidity can cause acid rebound (increased acid production). Relief may only be temporary, and your symptoms of acid reflux may return even worse than before.
The same type of baking soda you use to bake or to absorb smells from your fridge can neutralize stomach acid. It’s also cheaper in that form, compared to OTC medications.
For people who don’t like the taste of baking soda, there are OTC and prescription tablets. Most of them dissolve easily in water. See the instructions on the box for the recommended dosage.
Some of these other forms include:
Alka-Seltzer is the most common brand-name OTC medication that contains sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is also used in some medications with the PPI omeprazole (Zegerid) to make omeprazole more effective, rather than being used for immediate relief of symptoms.
Always ask your doctor for instructions if you’re unsure about the dosage of baking soda you should use for treating acid reflux symptoms. The amount of baking soda recommended is based on age.
Baking soda is meant to provide short-term relief, and isn’t intended as a long-term treatment for acid stomach symptoms.
The recommended dose of sodium bicarbonate powder is:
|Children||must be determined by a doctor|
|Adults and teenagers||1/2 tsp. dissolved in a 4-ounce glass of water, may be repeated in 2 hours|
Remember, too much baking soda can cause acid rebound and make your symptoms worse. You’ll also want to make sure the baking soda is completely dissolved in at least 4 ounces of water, and sipped slowly.
Baking soda is intended to be used for immediate relief of heartburn and indigestion, but not for regular use or treatment of GERD. See your doctor if your acid reflux lasts more than 2 weeks. Your doctor may recommend other medications like H2 blockers or PPIs.
Ask your doctor if baking soda is a good alternative treatment for you. They’ll be able to tell you if baking soda will interact with your medications or increase your sodium levels.
See a doctor immediately if you have severe stomach pains after taking your dosage.
Pregnant women and children under the age of 6 should avoid baking soda for acid reflux treatment.
What to avoid
- taking more than 3 1/2 tsp. of baking soda (seven doses) in a day
- taking more than 1 1/2 tsp. of baking soda (three doses) in a day if you’re over 60 years old
- using baking soda if you’ve been diagnosed with GERD
- taking the maximum dosage for more than 2 weeks
- taking the dosage when you’re overly full, to avoid gastric rupture
- drinking baking soda solution too quickly, as it can lead to increased diarrhea and gas
- avoid using baking soda if you’re following a low-sodium diet.
Side effects of baking soda may include:
- stomach pain
The most common cause of baking soda toxicity is overuse. Long-term and overuse of baking soda can increase your risk for:
- hypokalemia, or potassium blood deficiency
- hypochloremia, or chloride blood deficiency
- hypernatremia, or rise in sodium levels
- worsening kidney disease
- worsening heart failure
- muscle weakness and cramps
- increased stomach acid production
People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol also have a greater risk for serious complications. The sodium in baking soda can increase dehydration and worsen other symptoms.
Seek medical attention right away if you have these symptoms:
These lifestyle changes have shown to be effective for GERD symptoms:
- avoiding meals that are high in fat for 2 to 3 hours before lying down
- working toward weight loss, if you’re overweight
- sleeping at an angle, with your head raised 6 to 8 inches
While avoiding certain foods seems to help some people with acid reflux, the American College of Gastroenterology updated their 2013 GERD guidelines to not recommend global food elimination.
The updated guidelines no longer recommend eliminating of the following things from your diet:
- spicy foods
- tomato products
Baking soda is a good treatment for immediate relief from occasional acid reflux. The recommended dosage for adults is one 1/2 tsp. dissolved in a 4-ounce glass of water. It’s best to sip this drink slowly to avoid side effects like gas and diarrhea. You can repeat every 2 hours.
But baking soda isn’t recommended as a long-term treatment, especially if you have GERD or need to be on a low-salt diet.
Talk with your doctor if your acid reflux interferes with your daily life or occurs two or more times per week. Your doctor can recommend treatments that may more effectively help your symptoms.
- Acid reflux (GER & GERD) in adults. (n.d.). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults
- Al-Abri SA, et al. (2013). Baking soda can settle the stomach but upset the heart: Case files of the Medical Toxicology Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco. DOI:
- Katz PO, et al. (2013). Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. https://journals.lww.com/ajg/Fulltext/2013/03000/Guidelines_for_the_Diagnosis_and_Management_of.6.aspx
- Smoking and the digestive system. (2013). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/-/media/Files/Digestive-Diseases/Smoking_Digestive_System_508.pdf
- Sodium bicarbonate. (2020). https://examine.com/supplements/sodium-bicarbonate/