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What Happens When Sodium Bicarbonate and Acid Meet in the Stomach?

By B. Schreiber
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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When sodium bicarbonate and acid meet in the stomach, a chemical reaction occurs that lowers the acidity of the stomach. For this reason, sodium bicarbonate is commonly used in antacids. When taken as an antacid, it works to neutralize stomach acid and produce relief from indigestion. This is because the reaction between these substances happens quickly, soon after the sodium bicarbonate is ingested. While useful as a short-term antacid, sodium bicarbonate's effects don't last very long, and it's not recommended for people with certain health conditions.

When too much of it is produced, the acid that normally aids in digestion can cause upset stomach. Sodium bicarbonate reacts with the hydrochloric acid present in the stomach. This reaction results in a reduction of hydrochloric acid, lowering the overall acidity of the stomach. As measured on the pH scale, the stomach's acidity can go from a very acidic two or three to a seven, which is neutral. For many people with indigestion, the result is fast, short-lasting relief from upset stomach.

Sodium bicarbonate is more commonly known as baking soda and has the chemical formula NaHCO3. The meeting between sodium bicarbonate and acid, in this case hydrochloric acid (HCl), can be given as NaHCO3 + HCl. The products of this irreversible reaction are NaCl, H2O, and CO2. These final products are commonly known as sodium chloride, water, and carbon dioxide, respectively. Other antacids work by producing reactions similar to the one that occurs between sodium bicarbonate and acid.

The carbon dioxide released when sodium bicarbonate and acid react is responsible for some side effects of sodium bicarbonate use. These include burping and gas or a feeling of being bloated in the stomach or abdomen. These effects may be more noticeable after an especially large meal.

Sodium bicarbonate is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, or impaired kidney function. This is due to the large amount of sodium it contains. People on a low-sodium diet could negatively affect their diet by taking a couple doses of some sodium bicarbonate antacids.

In people with kidney disease, taking sodium bicarbonate can possibly cause systemic alkalosis. This is a change in the normal pH of the body, which is maintained in a specific range. People with the above conditions may want to ask their doctor about which antacid to choose. This also applies to people who suffer from frequent indigestion.

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Discussion Comments
By anon999739 — On Mar 07, 2018

@stonemason, unfortunately Sodium bicarb can be very dangerous (and even fatal in extreme cases) to those who cannot take in high amounts of sodium, plus it can also lead to alkalosis (raised blood pH level) which is also very dangerous.

By stoneMason — On Nov 16, 2013

My grandmother told me that when she was young, it was common for people to take some baking soda when they had upset stomach. Apparently, there weren't a lot of over the counter antacid options at that time and even doctors would recommend people to take a little bit of baking soda to relieve acidity and nausea.

Baking soda is still popular as an antacid but for some reason, we prefer to pay extra money to buy it flavored in tablets these days. My dad uses a tablet antacid with baking soda. I told him that he's paying extra just for the brand name and the lemon flavor. But he doesn't like the idea of taking plain baking soda so he doesn't mind paying more.

By fBoyle — On Nov 15, 2013

@literally45-- That's actually a normal reaction. When sodium bicarbonate and hydrochloric acid mix, the result is sodium chloride. But while this happens, foam is created because carbon dioxide is being released.

This is why bloating, foam and belching often occurs when antacids with baking soda are used. But this is not harmful for you. It will reduce acid in the stomach and give relief after a few minutes.

By literally45 — On Nov 15, 2013
I took an antacid with sodium bicarbonate in it last night. I can't say that it worked because soon after taking it, I felt bloated and started to spit out a foamy substance. I think it was the result of the sodium bicarbonate and hydrochloric acid mixing and expanding.

I have no idea if it reduced my acidity, but it made me feel sick. I don't think I will use an antacid with baking soda again.

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