Sodium Bicarbonate and Blood Clots

Certain alternative medicine regimens advocate the use of orally administered sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) for the prevention or cure of blood clots. What is the rationale behind this treatment, and is there a scientific basis for recommending it?

  1. Blood Clots

    • Blood clots are the body's primary defense against excessive blood loss in case of injury. But sometimes the blood's ability to clot is triggered inside a blood vessel, forming a dangerous clot or "thrombus" that can become lodged in the heart, lungs, or brain and cut off blood flow. Deadly conditions such as embolism or stroke can result. A combination of aspirin, sodium bicarbonate, and citric acid is often recommended in conventional medicine to prevent blood clots, but in this case the aspirin is the active ingredient--the sodium bicarbonate is added as an antacid since aspirin can damage the stomach.

    Causes of Blood Clots

    • Blood clot formation is usually initiated when damage to the inner lining of a blood vessel activates the "coagulation cascade," causing a blood protein called fibrinogen to crosslink into a fibrin clot. Predisposing factors for blood clot formation include cardiovascular diease, certain kinds of cancer, exposure to radiation, and certain genetic conditions that affect fibrin or other proteins involved in blood clotting.

    Sodium Bicarbonate As an Anticoagulant

    • A small, isolated body of medical literature does exist that suggests sodium bicarbonate works as an anticoagulant, or anti-clotting agent, in blood outside the body. No mechanism has been suggested to explain such a phenomenon, however, other than the pH effect described below, and no study has demonstrated it in the body. Sodium citrate is commonly used as a reversible anticoagulant, but the citrate ion plays a central role in the anticoagulation by capturing calcium ions needed for the clotting process to occur. There is no scientific reason to believe that sodium bicarbonate would perform the same function.

    Blood Clotting and pH

    • Blood clotting is a dynamic, rigidly controlled process that takes place within a narrow pH window. Normal blood pH is between 7.3 and 7.4. At this pH, the transformation of fibrin into fibrinogen is balanced by the reverse reaction. It has been shown outside the body that at pH levels slightly below this level (7.1-7.3), the forward crosslinking reaction is favored, and this is the rationale for sodium bicarbonate as an anticoagulant.

    Sodium Bicarbonate Can Raise Blood pH

    • There is little doubt that large doses of sodium bicarbonate, administered intravenously or orally, are indeed effective in raising the pH of the blood, effectively "alkalizing" the body. This phenomenon has been used in the treatment of metabolic acidosis and also to enhance the performance of athletes in certain sprint events by reducing lactic acid buildup. However, there is no evidence to support the necessary presupposition that people who are predisposed to blood clot formation have abnormally low blood pH, and raising the blood's pH beyond its normal 7.3 to 7.4 range provides no added benefit. In fact, alkalizing the blood can have harmful side effects.

    Dangers of Sodium Bicarbonate Overdose

    • Although sodium bicarbonate is quite safe in moderation, taking too much sodium bicarbonate can neutralize stomach acid and thereby interfere with digestion, resulting in abdominal pain. A more serious condition, a sodium imbalance called hypernatremia, can also occur. Hypernatremia can cause extreme thirst, cardiac problems, seizures, or death.


    • There is no basis in the medical or scientific literature for using sodium bicarbonate to prevent blood clots. Although large doses of it can raise the pH of the blood, no evidence exists to show that low blood pH is a factor in the predisposition to blood clots in humans. Overuse of sodium bicarbonate can also cause serious side effects. Talk to your doctor before beginning, changing, or discontinuing any medical therapy, including the use of sodium bicarbonate.

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