Food & Drinks

Baking Soda for Ulcers – Myths Vs. Reality

Baking Soda for Ulcers - Myths Vs. Reality

Baking Soda has been distilled from seawater and used for several years. Its chemical name is sodium bicarbonate and is extracted from soda ash found in one of sea salt’s rocks called Trona.

Traditionally it has reaped significant benefits from cooking to cleaning. The medicinal use was explored due to its alkaline properties and strong buffering action.

Stomach Ulcers and baking soda have commonly been associated with each other in traditional medicine. However, antacids and proton pump inhibitors have replaced much use of the simple and conventional medical techniques.

Baking soda is still widely self-administered for relieving gastric discomfort and dyspepsia associated with stomach ulcers. It is mainly because baking soda is a vital buffer that instantly neutralizes the stomach acids, thus healing ulcers by preventing them from acting upon by the harsh and irritating stomach acid.

On the other hand, baking soda can help ulcers by forming a protective barrier against abrasion and irritants when applied to mouth ulcers. Hence, its conventionally protective use has been commercialized and overdosed, causing the rise of myths and unauthentic information.

Some common myths have been busted through a detailed explanation of the actual mechanism in which sodium bicarbonate performs its action: 

Myth: Baking Soda is Antimicrobial 

Baking soda has been advertised as a cheap and easy domestic cleaning agent for hard surfaces. The effervescent reaction between vinegar and baking soda is often used to exhibit the spontaneous chemical reaction that claims to clean surfaces.

Many companies use this principle to promote their products that cure plaque, gingivitis, and even peptic ulcers. Although the latter claim is pretty, this cannot be attributed to baking soda’s antimicrobial properties.

Several researchers have established that baking soda is not effective at killing bacteria. It can be used as a paste to protect and heal ulcers, but it does not decrease the growth or colonization of bacteria or fungi.

Reality: Baking Soda Heals Ulcers 

As stated above, baking soda does not kill bacteria, but it neutralizes the excessive acid production that irritates and slows down the healing of peptic ulcers. In any case, you must take a complete therapy of antibacterial agents to kill H. Pylori bacteria and use baking soda as an adjuvant to healing stomach ulcers faster.

Additionally, baking soda heals ulcers by buffering the gut environment and preventing the acid-induced irritation of the exposed ulcers.

Myth: Baking Soda Prevents the Formation of Stomach Ulcers 

Baking soda is not a preventive measure, but it can be used as a remedy. Stomach ulcers can only be prevented by maintaining good gut hygiene, taking probiotics, avoiding smoking, alcohol, and the long-term use of aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. 

Reality: Baking Soda Prevents Heartburn and Indigestion 

What baking soda does prevent is subsequently heartburn and indigestion due to the formation of stomach ulcers. It does so by neutralizing the stomach acid.

It does not increase the protective mechanism of the gut (mucus secretion, vasodilation, etc. that are responsible for preventing ulcers. It can be used for symptomatic relief from indigestion and heartburn but not for prevention and cure of ulcers.

Myth: Baking Soda is the Go-To Remedy for Acid Reflux 

It is commonly assumed that drinking baking soda solutions or taking pills containing formulations of baking soda can instantly cure gastric acid reflux.

But this is a myth since the recommended first line of treatment by professionals is proton pump inhibitors and antacids: all of which aren’t tailored according to your weight and symptoms.

The popularity of baking soda as a joke remedy for gastric ulcers has caused a growth of cases with the milk-alkali syndrome. Where frequent ingestion of baking soda resulted in excessively increased gut pH, followed by severe alkalosis. 

Reality: Chronic Self-Medication with Baking Soda Can Cause Hypochlorhydria 

When self-administering baking soda, one must be mindful of alkalosis. But in some cases, the body’s homeostatic mechanisms suddenly kick in after detecting the increased alkaline in the gut. It causes negative feedback of increasing the gut’s acid production – this state is called hypochlorhydria.

Thus, baking soda, which was initially ingested for buffering the acid, causes an opposite effect. Most people are unsure about this aspect of normal physiology and continue taking more significant amounts of baking soda to relieve stomach pain as they did initially – only to exacerbate things and end up in the hospital with gaping, inflamed ulcers.

Thus, baking soda is a good remedy for indigestion, dyspepsia, and acid reflux in the short term. But only a professional can guide you better about the dose, duration, and diagnosis.
Photo by Clint Patterson on Unsplash

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