Some people may try to use baking soda for weight loss. Anyone considering using baking soda for this purpose should bear in mind the potential health risks, such as impairing kidney function.

Baking soda is a common household item that people may use in baking and for treating indigestion.

This article explores whether baking soda works for weight loss, as well as the safety concerns and potential side effects of using it, and how to lose weight safely.

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Image credit: Michelle Arnold / EyeEm / Getty Images.

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

People may consume baking soda mixed with water or another liquid in an attempt to lose weight.

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

Scientific research has not found evidence to support this theory. The body naturally regulates its pH levels to ensure 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 people may use to try to lose weight.

In some cases, this may help a person lose weight, but this may not be because of the baking soda.

Some research suggests that consuming more water can help a person lose weight. So, weight loss 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 contribute to a reduction in body fat.

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.

Other adverse effects of ingesting baking soda may include:

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.

Severe side effects

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.

After the body absorbs this sodium, it can cause:

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

Certain people are more at risk of complications from eating baking soda. People who should avoid it include older adults and people who have:

Baking soda may also interact with certain medications, so people should tell their doctor about any medications they are taking before consuming baking soda.

The potential side effects of consuming baking soda in large amounts on its own or with water are potentially severe. 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) recommends that people lose no more than 1–2 pounds (lbs) per week.

Set realistic goals

An important step for weight loss is setting realistic goals. The CDC suggests these goals should be a mix of long- and short-term. For example, losing 10 lbs 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.

Physical exercise

Regular physical activity can help a person to achieve or maintain a moderate weight. However, it also offers other benefits, such as lowering the risk of certain health conditions and improving:

Adults should aim to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity each week.

Healthy eating

Healthful eating habits are vital for losing weight in a sustainable and safe way. Changing eating habits can be challenging, but it is possible to do.

People should avoid sudden, drastic changes to their diet, such as only eating a salad at every meal. Although this approach may lead to short-term weight loss, it is challenging to stick to and may not give people all of the necessary nutrients.

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

  1. Reflect on eating habits and identify any triggers for habits 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 by purposely putting down their eating utensils between bites.

Another strategy is to make a healthful meal plan and 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 one 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.

People should only consume baking soda by itself if a healthcare professional recommends it.

For successful and effective weight loss, people should set achievable goals, choose healthful eating habits, and aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.