Potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3) is an alkaline mineral that’s available in supplement form.
Potassium is an important nutrient and electrolyte. It’s found in many foods. Fruits and vegetables, such as avocados, bananas, potatoes, and spinach, are excellent sources.
Potassium is necessary for:
- cardiovascular health
- strong bones
- muscle function
It supports the ability of muscles to contract.
This makes it important for maintaining a strong, regular heartbeat, and digestive health. Potassium can also help counter the negative effects of a diet that is too acidic.
Abnormally low levels of this mineral can result in:
- muscle weakness and cramping
- irregular heartbeat
- gastric distress
- low energy
Potassium bicarbonate supplements may help to counter these effects.
In addition to its potential health benefits, potassium bicarbonate has a number of nonmedical uses. For example, it:
- works as a leavening agent to help dough rise
- softens carbonation in soda water
- reduces the acid content in wine to improve flavor
- neutralizes acid in soil, aiding crop growth
- improves the taste of bottled water
- is used as a flame retardant to combat fire
- is used as a fungicide to destroy fungus and mildew
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes potassium bicarbonate as a safe substance when used appropriately.
The FDA limits over-the-counter potassium supplements to 100 milligrams per dose. For potassium bicarbonate, the maximum daily dosage is 200 milliequivalents (mEq) of bicarbonate ion if you are under 60 years old and 100 mEq if you’re older than age 60 years.
Potassium bicarbonate is classified as a category C substance. This means it’s not recommended for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
It’s not currently known if potassium bicarbonate can pass into breast milk or if it will harm a nursing baby. If you’re pregnant or nursing, be sure to discuss your use of this supplement with your doctor.
If you’re not getting enough potassium in your diet, your doctor might recommend potassium bicarbonate supplements. Medical benefits include:
Improves heart health
The endothelium (inner lining of blood vessels) is important for blood flow, to and from the heart. Potassium may also help
Dissolves kidney stones formed by excess uric acid
Uric acid stones may form in people who have diets high in purines. Purines are a natural, chemical compound. Purines may produce more uric acid than the kidneys can process, causing the formation of uric acid kidney stones. Potassium is highly alkaline in nature, making it beneficial for neutralizing excess acid.
Reduces potassium deficiency
Too little potassium (hypokalemia) can result from excessive or long-term vomiting, diarrhea, and conditions that affect the bowels, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Your doctor might recommend potassium bicarbonate supplements if your potassium levels are too low.
Having too much potassium in the body (hyperkalemia) can be as dangerous as having too little. It may even cause death. It’s important to discuss your specific medical needs with your doctor before taking supplements.
Too much potassium can cause:
- low blood pressure
- irregular heartbeat
- numbness or tingling sensation
- weakness or paralysis of the limbs
- nausea and vomiting
- cardiac arrest
In addition to pregnant and nursing people, those with specific disorders should not take this supplement. Others may require a lower dose based on their doctor’s recommendations. These conditions include:
Potassium bicarbonate may interfere or interact with certain medications, some of which affect potassium levels. These include:
- blood pressure medication, including diuretics
- ACE inhibitors, such as ramipril (Altace) and lisinopril (Zestril, Prinvil)
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve)
Potassium may also be added to certain foods, such as no- or low-salt substitutes. In order to avoid hyperkalemia, make sure to read all labels. Avoid products high in potassium if you’re using a potassium bicarbonate supplement.
Potassium bicarbonate is available as an over-the-counter (OTC) product. However, it’s not recommended that you use it without a doctor’s approval or prescription.
Potassium bicarbonate supplements may have health benefits for some people. Certain groups of people, such as those with kidney disease, should not take potassium bicarbonate.
It’s important to discuss your specific medical needs and conditions with your doctor prior to using this supplement. Even though potassium bicarbonate is readily available as an OTC product, it’s best to use only per your doctor’s recommendations.