Baking Soda Basics?

Lately, I have read recipes recommending adding baking soda to tomato sauces. I thought that was debunked ages ago. Has it made a comeback? Is it really a good antacid?

– November 5, 2010

You’re absolutely right. The notion of using baking soda to cut the acidity of tomatoes is an old idea that may have made a comeback, but that doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t a particularly good idea. If you want to balance the acidity of tomatoes, a better way is to simply add a pinch of sugar.

Sodium bicarbonate is widely used as an antacid and can quickly relieve heartburn or indigestion by neutralizing stomach acid. The more often you need antacids for this purpose, however, the more serious your problem with heartburn or indigestion (and the more sodium you’re ingesting). The most efficient and natural treatment I recommend for heartburn and indigestion is first to adjust your diet. For recurrent symptoms, a safe remedy to consider is deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). Whole licorice can increase blood pressure; no such effect occurs with DGL. You can buy DGL in powder or tablet form. The easiest way to take it is to chew two tablets slowly 15 minutes before every meal and at bedtime, or take one-half teaspoon of the powder before meals.

Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an internationally recognized expert in the fields of integrative medicine, dietary supplements and women’s health, and an authority on botanical medicine, also recommends orange peel extract (containing d-limonene) for treatment of heartburn and has found it very effective. Dr. Low Dog said that d-limonene stimulates esophageal peristalsis, helping move acid and liquids back into the stomach. She recommends buying it as orange peel extract in 1,000 mg doses (standardized to d-limonene 97-99 percent) and taking it once a day every other day for a total of 10 doses over 20 days. After that, take it as needed. Note that some orange peel extracts are standardized to synephrine, a stimulant drug that is generally taken for weight loss. Synephrine-containing products can cause unwanted side effects and are not what you want for heartburn treatment. Dr. Low Dog said that she doesn’t know of any disadvantages to using the orange peel extract for heartburn, but because safety in pregnancy isn’t known, she doesn’t recommend it for women who are expecting.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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