The Baking Soda for Heartburn Myth Exposed

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The Baking Soda for Heartburn Myth Exposed

When it comes to treating acid reflux and its symptoms, parents, medical professionals and other experts often rely on baking soda as a heartburn treatment. After all, it is a remedy that is readily available and therefore, easy to obtain. Nonetheless, one can’t help but wonder how effective it is, and what makes it react the way it does in the event of an acid reflux attack.

Acid Reflux: Is It Normal?

Acid reflux is more common than anyone might think. Over 60 million Americans reportedly experience acid reflux at least once a month. In fact, everyone from infants to young children, teenagers, adults and older people can experience it at some point. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid makes its way back up to the esophagus, producing a sour taste in your mouth, along with other feelings of chest and stomach discomfort.

There are times when acid reflux can be caused by your diet. According to Dr. Michael Picco, certain foods, especially the ones that are fried or rich in fat can readily contribute to acid reflux. The same can also be said of chocolate, peppermint and alcohol, as well as nicotine.

Many cases of occasional acid reflux that are largely caused by the diet will respond to small adjustments in eating habits. In fact, small daily lifestyle changes can readily help stop acid reflux from ever occurring again; however, there are cases when acid reflux simply occurs too often. When this happens, it’s time to consider if you are suffering from normal acid reflux, or if your case has already progressed into what is known as GERD.

What to Do When Acid Reflux Becomes Full-Blown GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more serious and chronic form of acid reflux. Just like acid reflux, a person still experiences stomach acid backing up the throat through the esophagus, damaging it over time. This is because regurgitated liquid from the stomach tends to contain both pepsin and acid.

Pepsin is an enzyme that plays a very critical role in helping the stomach break down proteins. On the other hand, stomach acid or gastric acid, which is produced by the body through the parietal cells that line the stomach, also helps break down proteins while helping the body absorb various minerals, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D and iron.
When this happens constantly, it can be uncomfortable; moreover, it can also lead to a more serious condition. Seeing a doctor is important at this point, because having GERD can indicate that your lower esophageal sphincter has become compromised.

According to board-certified internist and gastroenterologist Jay Marks, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) usually plays a crucial role in preventing acid reflux. The LES is a ring of muscles that is typically found around the lower-most end of the esophagus, right where it joins the stomach. What this means is that the LES is responsible for regulating the passage of food and liquid from between the esophagus and the stomach.

Studies have found that patients with GERD tend to have abnormalities in their LES. For starters, the LES may have an abnormally weak contraction, thereby reducing its ability to prevent acid reflux. On the other hand, GERD patients also tend to suffer from abnormal relaxation of the muscles in the LES. These are called transient relaxations.

When transient relaxations occur, the LES relaxes longer than usual. These relaxations typically do not happen when a person’s swallows, as they should. This can possibly lead to heartburn or acid reflux. For patients with GERD, transient LES relaxations tend to occur after meals when the stomach is still distended with food.

Transient LES relaxations can cause much discomfort and sometimes even pain. This kind of abnormality in the LES can also occur in people of all ages, including infants.

What to Watch Out: The Many Symptoms of GERD

GERD is a disorder that can manifest itself in a patient in various ways; however, they may vary depending on the age and severity of your GERD. In the case of an infant, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that the symptoms of GERD may include refusing to eat, weight loss, coughing, gagging, breathing problems, vomiting, and gagging and irritability, especially after feedings. Moreover, GERD can commonly occur in infants, because their LES muscles have not fully developed yet.

For young children, GERD can sometimes be the result of an immaturity of the lower esophageal sphincter function. This causes the gastric content to flow back up the esophagus, causing acid reflux. According to the John Hopkins Children’s Center, children below the age of 12 typically manifest GERD symptoms, such as a dry cough, asthma and trouble swallowing.

Aside from this, Dr. Steven Schwarz also says that both young children and infants can exhibit other symptoms of GERD, including wheezing, sore throat, laryngitis, abdominal pain, recurrent pneumonitis, apnea, chronic cough, Sandifer syndrome, water brash, stridor, bradycardia and apnea.

On the other hand, teens and pre-teens may also experience GERD. In fact, the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition reports that as much as 10 percent of teens and pre-teens in the U.S. suffer from GERD. They often experience the same symptoms that younger children do. Aside from these, they can also suffer from halitosis and regurgitation.

When it comes to adults, the symptoms can become more painful and unbearable. Some of the most common ones include chest pain, difficulty swallowing or dysphagia, sore throat and a dry cough. In addition, the GERD symptoms an adult may experience depends on the severity of the disorder in the patient.

Experiencing Mild GERD

According to Dr. Elias Darido of the Houston Heartburn and Reflux Center, you may be experiencing mild GERD when the symptoms are mild and only occur about once or twice a month. With mild GERD, it is easy to manage the discomfort of the symptoms and you can go about your daily routine without much trouble.

Dealing with Moderate GERD

On the other hand, if you have moderate GERD, you may experience a variety of symptoms, such as chest pain, upper abdominal pain, a chronic cough, asthma, recurrent pneumonia, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, hoarseness, laryngitis, swollen or irritated voice box, dental erosion and bad breath. The discomfort is so frequent and significant that it usually affects your daily activities.

Coping with Severe GERD

Your doctor will diagnose you with severe GERD when your symptoms can no longer be managed with just prescription medication. In cases like this, an anti-reflux procedure is typically recommended to help improve the condition of your LES.

At the severe GERD stage, the physician will determine the severity and frequency of the symptoms you may be experiencing. Nonetheless, heartburn is one common symptom of GERD experienced by all patients regardless of the stage or severity.

Heart Burn: The Most Common GERD Symptom at any Stage

A bout of heart burn occurs as a result of the stomach acid regurgitating back up into the esophagus. Sometimes referred to as acid indigestion, it is often described as a burning pain in the chest, typically behind the breastbone. Moreover, the pain from a heartburn usually worsens when you lie down or bend over. For some people, heartburn can become unbearable, often getting in the way of their daily routine or work.

For some, making a few lifestyle changes and taking over-the-counter medications can help manage the pain and discomfort experienced when suffering from heartburn. For others, though, heartburn and other symptoms of GERD can be treated with the help of medication and natural remedies.

Relief is Here: Understanding Your Choices in a GERD Medication

ZantacThere are a number of medications that are prescribed to treat GERD and its symptoms. These include H2 blockers, which help decrease the acid production in your stomach. Some of the popular H2 blockers prescribed include:

  • Cimetidine or Tagamet
  • Famotidine or Pepcid
  • Nizatidine or Axid
  • Ranitidine or Zantac

These H2 blockers are also prescribed to infants, depending on the severity of the their GERD symptoms.

Should H2 blockers prove ineffective, some medical professionals also prescribe proton pump inhibitors or PPIs. They are also used to help manage GERD and its symptoms for the long term. The most common PPIs are:

  • Omeprazole or Prilosec or Zegerid
  • Lansoprazole or Prevacid
  • Pantoprazole or Protonix
  • Rabeprazole or Aciphex
  • Esomeprazole or Nexium

Strength formulations and dosage levels are typically determined according to a patient’s individual needs.

A Holistic Approach: The Common Natural Remedies for Acid Reflux

There are also some natural ways to treat symptoms by acid reflux or GERD. This is because medications like proton pump inhibitors have been linked to an increased risk of kidney problems. In one study, there was a link found between PPI’s and a number of short term kidney problems, such as an inflammatory kidney disease called interstitial nephritis and also an acute kidney injury.

vegetablesThis is why many patients are now looking for more natural ways to treat their GERD. Here are some natural remedies you can try:

  • Like mom always said, eat your veggies. Having a diet rich in vegetables and other unprocessed foods can help lessen the instances of acid reflux that you tend to experience. This is because it will help restore the delicate bacterial balance in your stomach, and therefore reduce the pain and discomfort that you feel when you experience any of the GERD symptoms. Moreover, it also helps prevent indigestion.
  • Go with aloe vera juice. It has also been said that drinking juice from the aloe plant regularly can help reduce inflammation in your body, which therefore reduces your GERD symptoms. For this remedy to work effectively, experts recommended to drink half a cup of aloe vera juice right before meals.
  • Slippery elm can help, too. Slippery elm is also a popular natural remedy when treating GERD and its symptoms. This is because it naturally helps stimulate nerve endings in the gastrointestinal tract, which in turn, helps increase mucus secretion in the body. This added mucus helps protect the gastrointestinal tract from excess acidity and ulcers, thereby reducing the severity and frequency of an acid reflux.
  • Get your probiotics in yummy yogurt. Eating yogurt regularly can also help prevent and treat symptoms of GERD. First, it is a cool alkaline food that also has a soothing effect in the esophagus. Second, since yogurt is rich in probiotics, it will help strengthen your digestive tract. Third, and lastly, it is also a good source of protein that helps keep acid reflux at bay.
  • Just be sure to go for the plain, unflavored yogurt and not the sugary kind. Add your own fresh fruit and some raw organic honey, instead. If you want to lose a few pounds, go for the fat free varieties, too. You can also add other flavors by using a few drops of vanilla extract or some organic maple syrup.
  • baking sodaReach for that box of baking soda. While some people prefer to turn to herbs and probiotics when experiencing symptoms of heartburn, GERD or acid reflux, there are those, including some of the top experts, who recommend an unexpected home remedy half teaspoonful of the powder: baking soda. Some GERD patients swear that baking soda is the only home remedy you will ever need to treat any symptom of an acid reflux. In fact, many believe in the effectiveness of bicarbonate of soda for heartburn.

Why Use Baking Soda for Your Go-To Acid Reflux Treatment?

Bicarbonate of soda is a popular remedy for acid reflux and heartburn for a number of reasons, including:

  • It helps your body neutralize stomach acids.
  • It works to detoxify your digestive system.
  • It helps maintain a balanced pH level in your blood stream

This way, baking soda help relieve your acid indigestion while lessening the chances that regurgitated liquid will go back up the esophagus. This also means that you will now feel less discomfort, since your bouts of heartburn can now be averted.

At the same time, with your body’s pH level in proper balance, there will be less acidity in your stomach contents. This means you will have far less chances to experience acid reflux. Moreover, having less occurrences of acid reflux in your body means that you can prevent long-term esophageal damage from happening in the first place.

How to Treat Acid Reflux with Baking Soda

consult with your doctor

Photo by Vic / CC BY

The good news is, there are many ways to take bicarbonate of soda in order to prevent your heartburn or acid reflux from ever occurring. Patients can opt to take baking soda as a tablet, capsule, granule or in an oral solution. Before you consider which type of baking soda remedy you want to try, it is best to consult with your doctor first.

Using Baking Soda as an Effervescent Powder

For some patients, the preferred method of treating GERD with baking soda is by regularly taking sodium bicarbonate effervescent powder after meals. The typical dosage for adults and teenagers is between 3.9 to 10 grams or one to 2.5 teaspoons diluted in a glass of cold water.

Meanwhile, patients may also be recommended using sodium bicarbonate powder to help relieve their sour stomach or heartburn. The usual recommended dose is a half teaspoonful of the powder dissolved in a glass of water. This is to be taken every two hours. You may need to experiment a little, because how much baking soda needed for your specific heartburn treatment may depend on the relief you experience. For more advice, talk to your doctor.

Opting for Sodium Bicarbonate Powder: What You Need to Know

At the same time, a doctor may also prescribe sodium bicarbonate powder to help make a your urine more alkaline and less acidic. This is important for a GERD patient, as acidic urine and other acidic pH values in the body can cause a number of serious conditions, including heartburn.

To help make your urine more alkaline, doctors tend to recommend a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate powder dissolved in water taken every four hours. Be careful, though, because the common daily dosage of this powder for a patient should normally not exceed four teaspoons a day.

Treating Acid Reflux with Baking Soda Tablets

For some patients, it is easier to take sodium bicarbonate tablets in order to manage their heartburn and other symptoms of GERD or acid reflux. Typically, adults and people in their teens are prescribed a dosage between 325 milligrams to two grams and take one tablet from one to four times a day.

Doctors recommend a dosage of 520 mg for children between the ages of six and 12; however, you should always check with your pediatrician before administering anything to your child. It is better to be safe than sorry, after all.

You can take sodium bicarbonate tablets to help make your urine less acidic. For this to happen, an adult patient would first take a four-gram tablet, and then follow it up with a succeeding dose of one to two grams every four hours for a maximum of 16 grams per day. Meanwhile, the dosage for a child varies depending on their body weight.

Alka-Seltzer is one of the most popular brand names available today. It is an over-the-counter baking soda remedy to help treat heartburn and acid reflux. At the same time, sodium bicarbonate can also be found in a number of other medications, such as the proton pump inhibitor known as omeprazole.

If taking a tablet or dissolved baking soda in water proves to be too difficult to ingest, some patients can also treat their acid reflux with baking soda by making their own baking soda drink and taking it daily.

Making Your Own Concoction: How Much Baking Soda to Use for Heartburn

People’s tastes vary, so here is a baking soda for heartburn recipe that is palatable, making it easier for you to ingest. There are many ways to prepare a baking soda drink and they are said to be just as effective as taking diluted baking soda plain. Here are some tasty ways to take baking soda for acid reflux:

1. Enjoy it warm and sweetened with honey. If you’re feeling cold and are experiencing heartburn, GERD or acid reflux, this warm drink might just do the trick. Just mix in a teaspoon of baking soda along with a teaspoon of raw honey into a cup of warm water. Stir well to make sure the ingredients are both dissolved completely. The honey will also relieve any burning sensations you might feel from your reflux. Sip and enjoy.

2. Make some lemon water. Just squeeze a half teaspoon of fresh lemon juice into a cup of warm water and mix in a half teaspoon of warm water. Drink this regularly to help get rid of your acid reflux.

3. Take it with some apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach. In a glass filled with eight ounces of water, mix together a quarter teaspoon of baking soda and two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Stir vigorously before drinking this mixture. For best results, it is recommended to enjoy this drink two to three times daily on an empty stomach; however, you should try this drink for no more than five days.

For more severe cases of acid reflux, you may also try to increase the amount of baking soda to two tablespoons. At the same time, it is recommended that you drink this remedy with a straw in order help prevent erosion of your tooth enamel.

To get the best quality apple cider vinegar, be sure to buy the kind that come in glass containers. This is because vinegar packaged in plastic bottles may contain chemical contaminants that have leached out from its packaging. This is due to the acidic nature of apple cider vinegar.

4. Make a fruity baking soda concoction. For something a bit more refreshing, try combining a teaspoon of baking soda, a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and a half teaspoon of lemon juice in a glass of water. Stir well before drinking. Many people say that drinking this concoction regularly can help relieve acid reflux.

Some Warnings About Treating Your Acid Reflux with Baking Soda

Using baking soda for acid reflux may be manageable for some people, but it might cause serious side effects in others. Some common side effects that you could experience include the following:headaches

  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Headaches
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • Increased Thirst

Be sure to watch out for the more serious side effects from ingesting bicarbonate of soda in any form. These include symptoms like:

  • Breathing difficulties.
  • Bloody or tar-like stools.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Frequent urination.
  • Urine with blood.
  • Swelling of limbs and feet.
  • Vomit that may appear like coffee grounds.

For Pregnant Women: A Word of Warning

It is also not recommended to take baking soda for heartburn while pregnant. Rather, a doctor may recommend alternative natural remedies other than baking soda to treat acid reflux in both pregnant women, and for children under the age of six.
Baking soda has been shown to be an effective natural remedy against heartburn and other symptoms of acid reflux and GERD. There are many ways to take it, including a number of refreshing drinks you can make at home. Be sure to consult with your doctor first to determine if it is safe for you to try using baking soda for heartburn treatments.

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