Baking soda is a common household item that people may use in baking and for treating indigestion. Some people try to use baking soda for weight loss.

People considering using baking soda for this purpose should bear in mind the serious health risks.

Below, we explore whether baking soda actually works for weight loss, as well as the safety concerns and potential side effects of using it. We also explain how to lose weight in a healthful way.

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Image credit: Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images.

Some people consume baking soda as a way to lose weight. They may drink it with water or another liquid.

However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that baking soda helps a person lose weight.

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is slightly alkaline. Some people believe that ingesting alkaline substances promotes weight loss.

However, scientific research has not found evidence to support this theory. The body naturally regulates its pH levels to ensure that it is not too acidic or alkaline. What a person eats has very little effect on this process.

Therefore, consuming baking soda to make the body more alkaline and promote weight loss is very unlikely to work.

Drinking baking soda with water is one method that people may use to try to lose weight.

In some cases, this may help a person lose weight, but probably not because of the baking soda. Research suggests that consuming more water can help a person lose weight. Therefore, any weight loss that a person experiences from drinking baking soda with water may be due to the water rather than the baking soda.

By drinking more water, people may not feel the need to eat as much. In addition, having higher amounts of water in the body may promote the breakdown of fats.

Consuming baking soda can cause a variety of side effects. If people ingest baking soda, they will need to urinate more, which doctors call bicarbonate diuresis.

By urinating more than usual, the body loses chloride, sodium, potassium, and water, all of which are necessary for normal bodily functions.

Too much baking soda can impair the way the kidneys work, potentially preventing the kidneys from filtering out the baking soda properly.

In extreme cases, dehydration from needing to urinate and being unable to replenish the water in the body may cause serious complications.

In one case study, an individual experienced hemorrhagic encephalopathy, which involves bleeding and inflammation in the brain, after ingesting a large amount of baking soda.

The authors suggested that this may have happened because consuming large amounts of baking soda can cause higher-than-normal levels of sodium in the blood, known as hypernatremia.

In severe cases, hypernatremia may cause the neurons and cells in the brain to shrink. This shrinkage may cause brain hemorrhages because it increases the tension on veins in the cranium, which eventually ruptures the blood vessels.

People often experience vomiting and diarrhea after ingesting too much baking soda. The reason for this is that the high amount of sodium pulls water into the digestive tract to help absorb it.

After the body absorbs this sodium, it can cause seizures, dehydration, and kidney failure.

People may also find it difficult to breathe after ingesting too much baking soda. If the body becomes too alkaline, it works to restore its acidity by keeping carbon dioxide inside the lungs rather than breathing it out.

Another very serious potential side effect of ingesting too much baking soda is stomach rupture, which can happen due to the rapid formation of gas in the stomach.

People are more likely to experience a stomach rupture after drinking alcohol or eating a large meal, as these activities increase the amount of gas already in the stomach.

Poison Control recommend that people do not ingest baking soda by itself for any reason unless a healthcare provider directs them to do so. In that case, they should only take baking soda as their healthcare provider recommends.

Certain people are more at risk of side effects than others. People who should avoid using baking soda include older adults and those who have alcohol use disorder, a lower volume of blood in the body, or kidney or lung disease.

People should always contact their healthcare provider if they are using baking soda for anything other than baking or cooking.

The potential side effects of consuming baking soda in large amounts on its own or with water are potentially very serious. A person who has done so may need emergency medical attention.

People are more likely to reach and maintain their goal weight by losing weight gradually and steadily.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that people lose no more than 2 pounds (lb), or 0.9 kilograms, per week.

Physical activity

An important step for weight loss is setting realistic goals.

These goals should be a mix of long- and short-term, each with a reward at the end. For example, if a person wants to lose 10 lb, that could be a long-term goal.

A short-term goal could be the number of steps a person aims to take each day to lose that weight. Other short-term goals could be walking to and from work or going for a 20-minute bicycle ride over the weekend.

Short-term goals should be specific and realistic.

For one reason or another, such as a longer day at work or family commitments, people may not reach their short-term goals. This is completely normal, and people should just try to set new, achievable goals as soon as they can.

Healthful eating

Healthful eating habits are vital for losing weight in a sustainable way. Most people form their eating habits during childhood, and it can be difficult, but not impossible, to change them.

It is important not to make sudden, drastic changes to the diet, such as only eating a salad at every meal. Although this approach may lead to short-term weight loss, it is very difficult to stick to and may not give people all of the nutrients that they need.

Instead, the CDC suggest a three-step approach for developing more healthful eating habits:

  1. Reflect on eating habits, both good and bad, and identify any triggers for those that are unhealthful.
  2. Replace less healthful eating habits with more healthful ones.
  3. Reinforce the new eating habits.

For example, if a person realizes that they eat too quickly, they can consciously focus on eating more slowly. They can do this by purposely putting down their eating utensils between bites, among other tactics.

Another strategy is to make a healthful meal plan, then meal prep for the following week. A person can make all of their meals for the week during the weekend. Doing this can help reduce the temptation of buying takeout or fast food.

As with physical activity goals, it is important that people do not think that 1 day of eating with their old habits means that all of their efforts are pointless.

Setbacks do happen, but it is important that people start afresh the next day and continue reinforcing their new, healthful habits.

There is no scientific evidence that baking soda is effective for weight loss.

In fact, there are many potentially dangerous side effects of ingesting baking soda in large amounts on its own or with water.

Poison Control say that people should not consume baking soda unless a healthcare provider recommends it.

There are other ways to lose weight that will likely be more effective.