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Beware of home remedies for excess acid

By Land Line staff

Following the publication of a letter to the editor about acid reflux problems, Land Line began receiving readers’ suggestions about home remedies to treat the condition. 

One common suggestion has been to mix baking soda with water for a homemade antacid. Others suggest drinking milk to reduce acid. 

Land Line staff checked out the suggestions. A variety of university medical researchers and other health organizations warn against using baking soda or milk as a remedy for excess acid. Here are some of the comments we found:

  • “Solid food and milk are not recommended as antacids. While they may decrease pain briefly, they actually stimulate the secretion of acid … Do not use household baking soda to neutralize acid in the stomach.” 
    – University of Maryland Medical Center;
  • “Do not take baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). It tends to make you hold fluid and swell.”
    – University of Michigan Health System;
  • “The sodium content of baking soda is not healthy, particularly for people with heart problems, high blood pressure or kidney disease.”
    – The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders;
  • Regarding baking soda vs. antacids, “The baking soda will neutralize more acid … (But) It turns out that the antacids are best because you would not want to completely neutralize your stomach acid. … If a person ingested too much baking soda, they could actually be in danger of changing the pH of their stomach and blood dramatically. … For example, we would not be able to digest our food properly if our stomach was not at an acidic pH.
    – Indiana University Chemistry Department;
  • “Although these liquids (baking soda in water and milk) create temporary relief … eventually they aggravate the situation by adding gas and fluid to your stomach, increasing pressure and causing more acid reflux. Further, adding more sodium to your diet may increase your blood pressure and add stress to your heart, and excessive bicarbonate ingestion can alter the acid-base balance in your body.
    – Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research;
  • Some people who have problems with excess stomach acid or ulcer-type symptoms actually have a stomach virus. The bug, Helicobacter pylori, can be eliminated with a specific type of antibiotic. 
    – University of Kansas Medical Center.