The pH of a fluid measures hydrogen ion concentration. Normal blood pH is 7.4 but has the potential to range from 7.35 to 7.45. When pH levels drop below 7.35, a dangerous condition known as acidosis can occur. Administering sodium bicarbonate can help raise the body's pH to normal levels.
Sodium bicarbonate increases levels of bicarbonate in the blood, buffers extra hydrogen ions and raises blood pH levels. Taken orally, it can also help to neutralize stomach acids.
Method of Action
Sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3, is a soluble white crystalline powder. When dissolved in water, it breaks down into a sodium ion (Na+) and a bicarbonate ion (HCO3-). The bicarbonate ion is able to combine with excess hydrogen ions (H+) in the blood to form carbonic acid (H2CO3). This reaction removes the excess protons from the blood and raises the pH.
Sodium bicarbonate is available in liquid form and can either be injected or used intravenously. Concentrations of the solution are either 7.5 percent or 8.4 percent and the average pH is 8.0. Tablets and powders of sodium bicarbonate are also available for prescription and are intended for oral administration. A common powdered form of sodium bicarbonate is baking soda.
Injected sodium bicarbonate is used on patients who have severe acidosis, or low blood pH. It is also used on patients with drug intoxications, poisonings, or in cases of severe diarrhea with bicarbonate loss. Oral sodium bicarbonate is most commonly used to treat heartburn or acid indigestion. It can also be administered to aid in raising the body's pH level.
When sodium bicarbonate is administered, regular tests are recommended to monitor the blood's pH. It is possible to overdose and cause alkalosis, a pH that is too alkaline (higher than 7.45). Taking sodium bicarbonate also increases the amount of sodium in the body.