DEAR DR. GOTT: I have just learned from a local health food store that on tablespoon of aluminum-free baking soda in one eight ounce glass of water two times a day will “instantly” relieve the severe pain of gout. I tried it and it surely does work! My question: is the baking soda amount okay for ingestion twice a day and have you ever heard of this remedy for gout pain?
DEAR READER: Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is an antacid taken to relieve heartburn and acid indigestion, although it isn’t generally recommended for this use (especially in the elderly) because of its high sodium content. It is also known to cause urine to be less acidic in specific conditions, the reason why it is touted to work for acute cases of gout. Gout is essentially caused by too much uric acid in the body. The product comes in the powder form we commonly see on grocery store shelves (for baking or fridge odors) and also in tablet form. It can be taken up to four times a day, depending on the reason for taking it. For example, as an antacid it should be taken between one and two hours following meals with an eight-ounce glass of water but should not be taken following a very large meal. You can be guided by the appropriate amount to use by reading the directions on the box or by speaking with your physician. Furthermore, sodium bicarbonate should not be taken for longer than a two-week period unless you have been so instructed by your physician. One brand indicates the suggested dose for treating acid indigestion is ½ teaspoon in four ounces of water every two hours, up to a maximum repeat dosage as defined by your physician (usually between three and five teaspoons). There is also a warning to stress that the product should not be taken until the powder is completely dissolved in water and that it should not be taken if a person is overly full from eating too much.
It appears a physician is the only one to tell you how much should be taking and for how long. The reason is likely linked to any medical conditions you might be diagnosed with. For example, you may be told to take a lower dose or not to take it at all if you suffer from hypertension, kidney or congestive heart failure, arm or leg edema, intestinal issues, or if you take vitamins, iron, or antibiotics that contain sulfa.
Side effects include gas, nausea, stomach cramps, decreased appetite, constipation, muscle pain, headache and increased thirst. Symptoms of overdose include thirst, abdominal pain, nausea, severe diarrhea, and severe vomiting.
Other common uses include keeping an open box in your refrigerator to eliminate or reduce odors, keeping drains open by adding 4 tablespoons to sink and/or bathtub drains and flushing with hot water every four weeks, tenderizing tough cuts of meat with 1 teaspoon full per pound of meat rubbed in and then rinsed off before cooking, making a paste with water to rub over itchy insect bites, adding a pinch to your pot of coffee to remove the bitter taste, and adding ½ cup to your washing machine along with your laundry detergent for a fresher wash. I could continue almost indefinitely, but I am sure you get the picture. When used appropriately, the product appears nothing short of a miracle.
I personally have not heard of its use for gout pain but can certainly understand how it could help. Heaven knows a sufferer will be glad to try anything at 2 AM if awakened in excruciating pain from an acute attack of gout. My only concern is the amount, a tablespoon full two times a day. I recommend you watch your blood pressure, discontinue the practice if side effects are noted and report any abnormalities to your physician. Another unusual treatment includes eating cherries, a practice I think I would prefer to indulge in should the need arise. If other readers have heard of this remedy, I would like to hear from them. I will report the findings in a future column.
Readers who would like related information can order my Health Reports “About Gout” and “Compelling Home Remedies” by sending a stamped, self-addressed #10 envelope and $2 US check or money order (for each report) to my attention at PO Box 433, Lakeville, CT 06039. Be sure to mention the title(s) when writing or print out an order form from my website www.AskDrGottMD.com.