In the nearly four years I have been writing about supplements, herbs and smart drugs, it never fails to surprise me when I learn that something completely mundane can carry with it some interesting and useful properties. In this case, it would be baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate. This time, it’s not just for heartburn. Personally, I refrain from using it in this manner and just reach for some mustard.
Bicarbonate and the kidneys
One major function of the kidneys is to maintain a healthy blood pH level.
If blood gets too acidic or too basic, problems can happen. In the case of excess acidity, the body seems to use and lose many of its minerals in order to try and raise the blood’s pH.
Some studies have shown that in cases of metabolic acidosis (body produces too much acid), administration of sodium bicarbonate can slow the progression of kidney disease caused by the condition. 1
Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews suggest that more research will be needed before alkaline therapy with sodium bicarbonate can be recommended for this condition. However, the research that is available looks promising.
Bicarbonate raises blood pH (reduces acidity)
As explained before, the kidneys help maintain a healthy blood pH. Sodium bicarbonate and its cousins can help ensure acidity does not take its toll. Though most healthy people may not have to worry about their blood ever becoming too acidic, a little bit of bicarbonates may not hurt.
Bicarbonate reduces “the burn” during anaerobic exercise
Research suggests that sodium bicarbonate, when ingested 60-90 minutes before anaerobic exercise, can reduce “the burn” caused by lactic acid buildup in muscles. 2
I have yet to try this myself to see if it works, but will edit and update when I do.
Baking soda and sodium intake
Naturally, too much sodium can be a bad thing. Sodium bicarbonate obviously contains a high amount of sodium.
Fortunately, there are other forms of carbonate and bicarbonate salts. I found one such supplement on iHerb called Tri-Salts by Cardiovascular Research, Ltd., containing calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate and potassium bicarbonate.
How to take bicarbonates/baking soda
Obviously, the major difficulty of taking bicarbonate is the fact that it can and will neutralize your stomach acid for a little while. It is used as an antacid, after all. Most sources on the internet say to avoid taking within 30 mins to an hour of eating.
Another method I have seen in some parts is to neutralize it with something like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, then add water. I have done this successfully with no issues, drinking some of it not long after eating. I am not certain if this affects the bicarbonates or if it still provides the same benefits as non-neutralized, unfortunately.
Yet another method is to add trace amounts of bicarbonate to a gallon or so of water. I’m not sure if you will reach the dosage recommendations laid out in research in this way.
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