Sodium bicarbonate, the active ingredient in baking soda, works as a temporary antacid to reduce stomach acid and reduce heartburn, upset stomach and indigestion, according to WebMD. With a doctor’s prescription, patients take it to reduce the acid in urine, helping to prevent kidney stones and gout.
Although sodium bicarbonate acts quickly as an antacid, it is not for long-term use, notes WebMD. Patients with peptic ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease should talk with their doctor about an appropriate antacid for long-term use. Self-treatment that includes daily use for two weeks or longer indicates the need to talk with a doctor concerning a different type of medication.
In patients with gout or kidney stones, a doctor may prescribe sodium bicarbonate to increase the pH of the urine so the body is more effective in its elimination of uric acid, explains WebMD. Doctors sometimes prescribe the medication to increase the effectiveness of other medications the patient is taking or to help the body eliminate too much of a medication. Sodium bicarbonate may be useful in reducing acidosis due to kidney disease.
Some athletes and coaches believe drinking a baking soda solution before a competition can improve their performance. However, this practice is dangerous, states MedlinePlus. Anyone with an overdose of sodium bicarbonate should call the National Poison Control Center or local emergency number.