If you’ve recently bought bi-carb soda, it’s probably in one of two places – sitting in the back of your fridge to ward off bad odours, or in your pantry with your baking ingredients.
Believe it or not, bi-carb soda, also known as bicarbonate of soda and baking soda, can be useful for a variety of things, including improving your overall health. Its use has been applied to help alleviate symptoms from illnesses, soothing itchy skin, to even brightening your smile.
We spoke with health experts who weigh in on the various health benefits of bi-carb soda. Remember, you should always speak with your doctor before trying anything new to alleviate or treat health ailments.
Bi-carb soda can be the perfect helper for occasional heartburn. “Bi-carb soda can help treat heartburn by neutralising stomach acid because bi-carb soda is a base,” says Dr Niket Sonpal. “Dissolve a teaspoon of bi-carb soda in a glass of cold water and drink the mixture slowly. However, if you are having daily heartburn symptoms, then you should see your doctor – this remedy is for occasional symptoms,” he says.
Bi-carb soda can help soothe those painful lesions. “When you have painful mouth ulcers, rinsing with bi-carb soda and water neutralises the acidic ulcer and can calm the pain down,” says dentist Candy Sebold. “Eating becomes easier.” Try mixing a half-teaspoon of the soda with a half cup of warm water and then rinsing your mouth.
Brushing your teeth with bi-carb soda can help protect your teeth from damaging plaque. “Bi-carb soda is a gentle cleaning agent that effectively removes surface stains from tooth enamel without being excessively abrasive,” says dentist Jared Cox. “Using bi-carb soda can be antibacterial and help eliminate germs associated with plaque. By reducing the number of germs on the teeth, the glossy surface of the tooth enamel is better protected.”
Try mixing a half-teaspoon with a little water to make a paste, then use it as you would your toothpaste.
“Bi-carb soda has been found to remove many stains from teeth so teeth are whitened by its use,” Sebold says. “But bi-carb soda does not contain cavity-fighting fluoride,” she explains. Sebold suggests using bi-carb soda a few times a week, alongside a fluoride-containing toothpaste for the rest of the week. This will “ensure the most favourable outcome in terms of cavity prevention, whitening and safety”.
If you want to effectively clean your produce, bi-carb soda is a potent cleanser – without contaminating your greens with detergents. “Some studies show that soaking fruit and vegetables in a mix of bi-carb soda and water for 15 minutes can kill almost all pesticides,” says Dr Lina Velikova, which is a lot better than peeling off the skins which are rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
If you’re looking for a natural deodorant, bi-carb soda may just do the trick. “The bacteria that make your armpits smell bad converts your sweat into acidic waste products that give sweat its odour,” says Dr Sonpal. “Bi-carb soda can eliminate the smell of sweat by making the odours less acidic. Try patting bi-carb soda onto your armpits and you may notice the difference.”
The same technique can be used to reduce the smell of stinky feet – and even help with bad breath. “Bi-carb soda can neutralise and disrupt the bacteria in your mouth and gums that lead to bad breath,” says Dr Sonpal. “The recipe for bi-carb soda mouthwash is adding a half a teaspoon of bi-carb soda to half a glass of warm water, and then swishing as usual.”
If you spent too long in the sun or skipped a spot with the sunscreen, a bi-carb soda bath can help reduce the pain. “To make a bi-carb soda bath, add 1 to 2 cups of bi-carb soda to a lukewarm bath,” says Dr Sonpal. “Make sure the affected area is soaked thoroughly.”
If you have eczema or another itchy rash, bi-carb soda might be just the salve you’re seeking. The US National Eczema Foundation recommends mixing a 1/4 cup of bi-carb soda into lukewarm water and soaking for up to 15 minutes, then, while the skin is still damp, applying any prescription creams and a creamy moisturiser to seal the skin. If you have an especially itchy patch of eczema, apply a paste of bi-carb soda to help reduce the itching and soothe the spot.
Could taking bi-carb soda help you improve your workout stamina? A 2019 study of cyclists, published in Nutrition, found that high doses of bi-carb soda taken by the bike riders delayed the rise of lactic acid – a byproduct of burning carbohydrates in muscle cells and red blood cells – until post-workout, allowing them to work harder during exercise. (When the acid builds up, performance suffers.) And a similar 2017 study using female college basketball players, published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, achieved similar results, with the players improving in repeated sprints and jumps, and showing an increased ability to withstand a heavier training load.
If you have chronic kidney disease, bi-carb soda may help slow down the rate of decline in your kidneys. A 2019 study of 700 people, published in the Journal of Nephrology, found that the group who took bi-carb soda over the three-year study were less likely to reach end-stage renal failure and require dialysis treatment. This was compared to people in the control group, who received the standard level of care for their kidney disease. Overall, the researchers of the study concluded the use of bi-carb soda is safe and can improve outcomes for the kidneys and patients.
Like everything else in life, ingesting too much bi-carb soda can be too much of a good thing. A tablespoon of bi-carb soda dissolved in a glass of water and taken occasionally is fine, but taking too much could impact your health. “Early, after ingestion of too much bi-carb soda, vomiting and diarrhoea are common as the body tries to correct the high sodium concentration by pulling more water into the digestive tract,” Dr Sopal says. “After absorption, high sodium concentrations can cause seizures, dehydration and kidney failure.” Always be sure to consult with your doctor before supplementing your care with anything, including bi-carb soda.
This article first appeared on Reader’s Digest.