Bicarbonate of Soda Side Effects

We know it by the not-so-fancy name baking soda.  Bicarbonate of soda or sodium bicarbonate is such a common household ingredient and cupboard staple that we often use it as home remedy without serious regard to its side effects.

For example, we are told we can use baking soda to deodorize underarms, use as toothpaste (when combined with peroxide paste), soften skin (added to bath water), relieve diaper rash, relieve canker sore, or wash fruits and vegetables.  And there’s more.  Find out how else baking soda is used, but be careful with extended application:

  • Face and body scrub;
  • Relief for itchiness caused by bee stings, rashes, poison ivy irritation, insect bites and sun- and wind burn;
  • Hand and fridge deodorizer (works well with shoes, too);
  • Antacid for heartburn, one teaspoon dissolved in one-half glass of water;
  • Gargle;
  • Anti-venom (jellyfish attack);
  • Decongestant (a teaspoon added to vaporizer);
  • Flame retardant;
  • Extender, to keep cut flowers fresh with only a teaspoon added to water in the vase;
  • Rain repellant, to clear up water stains on windshields.

The list could really go on.

One of sodium bicarbonate’s useful applications is in treating gout; only it, too, could cause unpleasant effects.

Gout occurs when urate crystals get comfortable in cool corners like joints in the knee, toes and back.  Urate crystals are sediments of excess levels of uric acid, an overload that may have been caused by faulty purine metabolism (which breaks down into uric acid), or overconsumption of purine-rich foods like anchovies, brains, gravies, kidneys, liver, sardines, and sweetbreads and most seafoods and meats.  Gout is in fact an indicator that the body is highly acidic, a condition that could be brought back to balance with the introduction of alkali in the diet.  However, instead of keeping their diets in line with doctor recommendations, some people dilute a small amount of baking soda with a glass of water and drink the solution. The effects are quite life-threatening, an alkali overdose known as alkalosis.

The normal pH of the blood is very slim – 7.35 to 7.45.  This balance is crucial for the optimum and healthy functioning of the brain, heart, kidneys and lungs, and practically all organs.  Alkalosis is far more difficult to treat than high acidosis.  In toxic levels, patients need to be immediately attached to breathing tubes for mechanical breathing support.

But if you get “lucky” and escape the clutches of serious hospital trouble, some concerning side effects of bicarbonate of soda include:

  • Diarrhea and constipation;
  • Vomiting but still feeling very full;
  • Muscle spasms and convulsions;
  • Frequent urination;
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Further, alkalosis could result to the following conditions/scenarios (especially for sufferers of gout):
  • Dilute the effects of other prescription drugs;
  • Create hypertension;
  • Result to loss of appetite;
  • Cause difficulty of breathing;
  • Result to swollen legs and feet (because baking soda is essentially salt, and salt attracts water);
  • Result to mood swings, agitation, anxiety, nervousness and fidgeting;
  • General malaise.

Health professionals recommend that if one were to self-medicate conditions such as gout using baking soda, why not incorporate alkali foods in the diet instead?  After all, they can be found everywhere.  Foods that are high up in the alkaline alley are sweet and sour cherries (which contains antioxidants to flush out excess uric acid), garlic and ginger (because they are anti-inflammatory too), bananas (rich in potassium, and potassium is base), leafy greens, fruits and dairy products.  As gout is the result of crystal buildup, plenty of water sloshing around the system should facilitate crystal dispersion and evacuation.

Undeniably, baking soda has its place in our cupboards and even in our washrooms.  However, ingesting baking soda, even in small amounts over time, is far from safe.