Bicarbonate of soda is a simple, unassuming substance in your kitchen with a surprising array of uses. This humble white powder can do everything from cooking and baking to health and beauty. Bicarbonate can help to leaven bread, make cookies crispy, brighten your smile, and even soothe a stomach ache.
Regarding household essentials, Khanya Mxesibe of Amalinda in East London always includes bicarbonate of soda on her grocery list. She uses it to clean her washing machine because it helps to get rid of the lint and stains that can build up over time.
“I use bicarbonate of soda when I have nausea, diarrhoea or heartburn, and it always works,” Mxesibe says.
A master of all trades
Mxesibe, who suffers from bone problems, finds that soaking her feet in warm water with Epsom salt and bicarbonate of soda provides relief from the pain. After massaging her feet, she says she feels relaxed and refreshed. This simple remedy helps to soothe her discomfort and has a few other benefits, including softening the skin and reducing swelling.
She says, “By mixing it with water and using it to clean the toilet bowl and bathtub, I can get rid of dirt, stains, and odours. It leaves everything looking spotless.”
“When I mix it with toothpaste and use it twice a week, I’ve noticed a significant difference in the whiteness and cleanliness of my teeth. I’m very happy with the results,” she adds.
So many uses
Mellissa Nicholson based in the Northern Cape, says she has found that bicarbonate of soda is very effective for unblocking her house drains and softening her dry, hard skin on her feet.
While bicarbonate of soda has many uses, Nicholson says it did not provide the level of dental care she desired.
Nicholson says, “I used a lot of bicarbonate of soda on my teeth with the toothpaste to brush my teeth to make it whiter, and it left my teeth enamel feeling funny.”
Bicarbonate of soda has even helped Nicholson relieve muscle pain when she adds it to her bath water.
“The alkaline properties of bicarbonate of soda can help to neutralise lactic acid build up in the muscles which contributes to painful muscles,” explains Nicholson.
Is bicarbonate truly amazing?
According to Dr Afifa Titus, who manages #Keready mobile clinics in Cape Town, bicarbonate of soda has numerous uses and properties that make it truly amazing. It can be used as a natural deodorant, hand cleanser, toothpaste, teeth whitener, and even a domestic cleaning agent.
It is especially effective as a remedy for acid reflux, thanks to its antacid properties. However, it should be used in moderation and with caution, as excessive use can cause problems, she cautions.
“Bicarbonate of soda neutralises the stomach acid and relieves the symptoms of acid reflux and potentially other stomach-related problems,” Titus says.
She explains that several studies have indicated that it is highly recommended as a natural remedy for balancing the body’s pH level and, as a result, enhancing overall general health.
“According to one study, the rate of decline in kidney function was greatly decreased in patients who consumed bicarbonate of soda as compared to those who didn’t take bicarbonate of soda.”
When mixed with water and consumed, bicarbonate of soda can help to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) by lowering the acidity of urine, says Titus. This is a common health problem for women and can be caused by a variety of factors.
Beware of potential adverse health effects
While bicarbonate of soda has many health benefits, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks for certain groups of people. For example, people with high blood pressure or kidney disease may need to be cautious, as the sodium in bicarbonate of soda can raise blood pressure and potentially cause further damage to the kidneys. It’s always best to speak to a doctor or other healthcare professional before using any natural remedy, advises Titus.
Ingesting too much bicarbonate of soda can have negative consequences, even in otherwise healthy individuals. The excess sodium can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea, as the body tries to expel the extra sodium. If left untreated, these symptoms can lead to dehydration, seizures, and even kidney failure, she adds.
First, check if it’s okay
She says anyone with a medical condition should always check with their doctor or healthcare provider before consuming bicarbonate of soda. This is to ensure that there are no potential negative interactions with other medications or conditions.
“If the bicarb is being consumed for more than two weeks without relief, it is important for the individual to speak to their healthcare provider.”
Listen how Mellissa Nicholson makes extensive use of bicarb.
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