Foods That Fight Memory Loss

By Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

There’s a new way to potentially prevent Alzheimer’s—a disease that we know frustratingly little about—and it’s not some exotic, expensive or potentially dangerous drug. It’s actually an affordable, natural component that’s found in everyday foods. For the first time, there’s a human study that confirms an association between dietary choline, an amino acid found in eggs and some other foods, and better cognitive performance. The study, from Boston University School of Medicine, appeared in the November 2011 issue of theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


Researchers investigated the dietary habits of 744 women and 647 men ranging from 36 to 83 years of age. None had dementia when the study started. In the early 1990s and then again between 1998 and 2001, participants filled out a questionnaire about their diets—they were asked how often they had eaten particular foods in the past year. After the second questionnaire was given, the researchers performed neuropsychological tests to evaluate the participants’ cognitive skills, including verbal memory (remembering a story) and visual memory (remembering images). They also did MRI brain scans to see if there were any tell-tale lesions in the white matter areas called white-matter hyperintensities (WMH). WMH in the brain is considered a marker of vascular disease and is strongly associated with cognitive impairments that precede Alzheimer’s disease.

The results: First, this study demonstrated that people who were currently eating the most choline performed better on tests of verbal and visual memory, compared with those who currently had the lowest choline intake. Researchers also found that those who had eaten the highest amounts of choline years earlier (as demonstrated by the first questionnaire) were more likely to have little or no WMH. In other words, eating lots of choline may make your memory sharper, and it also may reduce the risk for damage to the brain and even Alzheimer’s disease.


To learn more, I called study coauthor Rhoda Au, PhD, associate professor of neurology at Boston University. Dr. Au emphasized that this is an observational study, so it doesn’t prove cause and effect, but it does show a link between choline and memory. Why? Choline’s crucial contribution to cognition, said Dr. Au, may be as a building block for a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which is known to help transmit information between neurons faster.


How much choline do you need each day? The recommendation from the Institute of Medicine for men is a daily intake of 550 mg and for women, 425 mg. The richest food sources are…

  • 3.5 ounces of beef liver—430 mg
  • One large egg—126 mg
  • 3.5 ounces of salmon—91 mg
  • 3.5 ounces (just under one-half cup) of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower or navy beans—approximately 40 mg.

Other sources of choline include cod, almonds, tofu, milk and peanut butter.

Supplements of choline are available, but high doses (more than 3,500 mg per day for adults over age 18, according to Institute of Medicine) can cause symptoms like vomiting and excessive sweating. So if you want to take a supplement, talk to your doctor first—discuss how much you eat in your diet already so you can figure out whether (and what amount of) a supplement is necessary.

What’s so exciting about this research, in my view, is that while most studies concerning dementia are performed with people who already show signs of it, this study set out to investigate what people can do that might prevent dementia—and the choline connection seems promising. It’s so easy to get more choline in our diets—it’s in our refrigerators right now!

Source: Rhoda Au, PhD, associate professor of neurology, Boston University School of Medicine, and director of neuropsychology, Framingham Heart Study.

The Five Best Supplements You Don’t Know About

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Everyone knows about calcium and fish oil, but there are a whole lot more healthful supplements out there—ones that you may never have heard of but that might do your body some good. To uncover some of these lesser-known supplements, I called five health-care providers who are experts in natural and complementary health—and each one told me about one of his/her favorites. Before you take any of these supplements, always talk to your doctor, because some might negatively interact with drugs or other supplements that you’re taking or cause unwelcome side effects. And first check your multivitamin to see if you’re already getting at least some of these nutrients.


Andrew Rubman, ND, founder and medical director of Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines in Southbury, Connecticut, said that consuming more of the mineral seleniumis a must for many people. It boosts immunity, but we often don’t get enough in our diets—sometimes because common stomach problems interfere with the digestion of the mineral. Selenium is found naturally in soil, so it’s in foods like grains and vegetables (and in some meats, since animals feed on those foods), but unless you eat a lot of those foods and have robust digestion, you’re likely deficient. Plus, due to regional variations in selenium concentrations in soil, even some foods that contain the mineral may not have much. For his patients, Dr. Rubman may prescribe four drops daily of Aqua Sel, a selenium supplement—this provides 380 mcg of selenium. Dr. Rubman prefers this brand because it’s inexpensive and well-absorbed and has a clean taste.


Richard Firshein, DO, director of the Firshein Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City, prescribes N-acetylcysteine (NAC) for people with certain health problems (mentioned below). NAC is a building block of the antioxidant glutathione that helps detoxify foreign substances in our liver and lungs and also fights damaging free radicals. In his practice, Dr. Firshein prescribes a daily dose of 500 mg to 1,000 mg of NAC for patients with chronic asthma or certain liver problems (usually due to excessive alcohol consumption or elevated liver enzymes), and it shows promise as a supportive treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you meet any of these criteria, ask your doctor if NAC can help. NAC is found in small amounts in a variety of protein-rich foods (such as meat, poultry, seafood and others), but Dr. Firshein says that to achieve “therapeutic levels,” it’s best to consume it in supplement form.


I spoke with Thomas Kruzel, ND, of the Rockwood Natural Medicine Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, about coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Dr. Kruzel said that it may be wise to start taking it as you get older if you find that it boosts your energy (some people don’t feel a difference, he said). CoQ10, found naturally in foods such as meat and fish, helps cells produce energy, and as we age, our bodies’ ability to manufacture CoQ10 decreases—unfortunately just as our bodies require more of it to function properly. On top of that, Dr. Kruzel said, commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drugs deplete natural stores of CoQ10. So he prescribes it for patients on statins, those who suffer from fatigue and anyone who requires an extra boost (such as athletes in training). Long-term use is not necessary, he said, except for those on statins, because once you start taking CoQ10 for a little while, the body eventually replenishes its supply. For those of his patients in need, he typically prescribes between 100 mg and 200 mg per day in capsule or gel-cap form.


Jamison Starbuck, ND, in family practice in Missoula, Montana, told me why she often prescribes supplemental iodine. Iodine is a mineral found mostly in seafood that helps the body synthesize hormones, including thyroid hormone. But many of us aren’t getting enough, she said, because iodine has been slowly but steadily leaving our food stream. The chemicals in fertilizers used in modern farming and chlorine added to water bind to iodine and prevent it from being utilized by our bodies. And many people avoid foods with ordinary table salt due to cardiac risk factors, so they don’t get the healthful iodine that has been added to it. Not having enough iodine can lead to symptoms of an underactive thyroid, such as sluggishness, dry hair, a goiter (a swelling in the thyroid gland) and fibromyalgia (aches and pains all over the body). So Dr. Starbuck prescribes up to 50 mg a day in liquid form for people whom she has diagnosed by a urine test as significantly iodine deficient. Caution: Too much iodine can be harmful, So Dr. Starbuck watches her patients for adverse reactions such as headache, rash and racing heartbeat.


Richard Horowitz, MD, of the Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center in Hyde Park, New York, said that alpha-lipoic acid, which is found in foods such as red meat and liver, works as an antioxidant, so it fights disease all over the body. It also regenerates other antioxidants, such as vitamins A and E, and improves insulin sensitivity, so it reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and it may help reduce blood sugar levels. Dr. Horowitz typically prescribes 300 mg to 600 mg per day in pill form…while those patients with diabetes and/or cardiovascular risk factors will often be prescribed up to 1200 mg per day.

Sources: Richard Firshein, DO, founder and director, Firshein Center for Comprehensive Medicine, New York. twitter: @DrFirshein

Richard Horowitz, MD, Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center, Hyde Park, New York.

Thomas Kruzel, ND, Rockwood Natural Medicine Clinic, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Andrew Rubman, ND, founder and medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut.

Jamison Starbuck, ND, naturopathic physician in family practice, Missoula, Montana.

A Mind-set That May Fight Cancer

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

A friend who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer gave me a book that she had just finished reading. She found it so helpful that she thought I would want to share it with Daily Health News readers. I read it over the weekend, and she’s right — it’s quite a story. It’s filled with unusual ideas that may help patients with all kinds of cancer — not only breast cancer — beat their disease. What gives the story a unique twist is that the author, Kim Allison, MD, is the director of breast pathology at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle… and Dr. Allison had been promoted into this position just a few weeks before learning, at age 33, that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer with an average five-year survival rate of only 40%.

Today, four years later, she is healthy — and the book, Red Sunshine: A Story of Strength and Inspiration from a Doctor Who Survived Stage 3 Breast Cancer, explains how she got that way. I called her to find out more.

Knowing how serious her cancer was, Dr. Allison told me, she chose a “take no prisoners” treatment plan that included chemo, radiation and surgery. She decided to have both breasts removed even though she had cancer on only one side. But those aren’t the parts of her treatment that make her story so unique and valuable… it’s the things that she did in addition to that — which doctors almost never tell their patients to do!


As a specialist, Dr. Allison knew as much as anyone could about how to treat her disease medically, but she decided to also develop her own “alternative” treatment strategy so she could feel that she was marshaling every possible resource that might improve her odds of survival.

Even as a healthy person not facing cancer or any other serious illness, I found her approach inspiring. It’s important to note that Dr. Allison isn’t sure that any of the following actions helped cure her cancer, but she did tell me that they made the journey less onerous. “These strategies changed my perspective and helped me get through each day,” she said. Here are some highlights from the book and our conversation…


I adjusted my attitude. Early on, Dr. Allison decided that she wanted to consider her fight an “opportunity to grow and learn about how tough I can be” rather than just questioning why something so bad had happened to her. She decided that the poison being dripped into her veins — a potent drug called doxorubicin, nicknamed the “Red Devil” because of its deep, red color and horrible side effects — should be considered her ally, so she renamed it “Red Sunshine.” “That was an important mental switch, because it made me want to show up for treatment,” she said.

I recruited several great teams. As a busy working mother — with a four-year-old daughter, an infant son and a husband who had recently opened a restaurant — Dr. Allison needed all the help that she could get with her disease and her life. She was fortunate to have friends and family members who were available and willing to assist her. This isn’t always possible, she said, but it never hurts to ask for help. She appointed these people to be “gurus” of different things. For example, one was in charge of music (downloading tunes onto her iPod for her to listen to during chemo) and another, who still lived near her parents in California, was assigned the task of helping her parents cope from afar.

Dr. Allison’s medical treatment team included a pathologist, an oncologist and two surgeons. But she also worked with a physical therapist, who taught her techniques to avoid complications like lymphedema (swelling in the arms) after surgery… a nutritionist (who helped her eat a well-balanced diet)… a personal trainer (who helped her continue to work out by encouraging her to walk and do strength training and yoga)… a naturopath (who advised her on supplements that might help with treatment side effects)… and an acupuncturist (who helped her keep her stress and pain levels under control). This was an expensive group, no doubt, but Dr. Allison told me that many major cancer centers offer some of this support for free — and you often can get insurance to cover at least part of the cost.

I believed in “magic.” Though her career is all about science, Dr. Allison said that she was willing to believe in magic, too. She visited a shaman — a spiritual adviser — an experience she found enriching in ways that she never expected. And, with the help of her mother (who visited regularly) and a friend, she created a “healing ritual” in her backyard. “We stated out loud in a united way that I was planning to destroy the cancer that had grown inside of me. Then I burned an image of my cancer in a fire,” she said.

I’m so glad that Dr. Allison’s cancer is now considered “most likely cured,” since there was no residual cancer after chemotherapy was completed — and she’s feeling great. Only future research can determine whether or not her unusual, two-tiered psychological and medical approach can make a significant difference, in terms of fighting off cancer — but in my opinion, I’m sure it didn’t hurt.


Kim Allison, MD, director of breast pathology, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, and author of Red Sunshine: A Story of Strength and Inspiration from a Doctor Who Survived Stage 3 Breast Cancer (Hatherleigh).

Pinching Back On Salt Restrictions

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

It’s a mantra that we’ve heard for years—cut back on salt! But a new study dashes that advice, demonstrating that it’s not just too much salt that’s bad for our hearts but apparently also too little.

Not all of this surprised me, because many practitioners of natural medicine have long held the view that advice on salt intake should be individualized—and not simply be “less is best” for everyone. So I called the study’s lead author, Martin J. O’Donnell, MB, PhD, an associate clinical professor of medicine at McMaster University in Canada, to learn more about the research.


Dr. O’Donnell told me that his study—published in November 2011 in Journal of the American Medical Association—is the first large study to report potential heart health risks for both low and high salt intake in a single study.

Dr. O’Donnell and his colleagues examined data from nearly 29,000 men and women (all age 55 or over) from 40 countries who either had heart disease or were at increased risk for it because of prior history and co-morbidity factors such as diabetes. They looked at how much sodium was excreted in their morning fasting urine (so it wasn’t self-reported salt intake) at the start of the study. The participants were not aware that their salt consumption was being measured, nor were they asked to raise or lower their intake—they just ate the amount that they normally ate.

What the researchers found was that, over four years, those who consumed higher-than-average amounts of salt and those who consumed lower-than-average amounts of salt experienced more heart problems (including deaths) than those with an average intake.


It’s worth noting that the “average” salt consumption among participants in this study—estimated between 4,000 mg and 6,000 mg per day—is much higher than the recommended upper limits of 1,500 mg per day (the advice of the American Heart Association) or 2,300 mg per day (the recommended dietary guideline from the US Department of Agriculture). And yet in this study it was the people who consumed this much salt who had the least number of heart problems.

The study showed that those with the highest and lowest amounts of sodium excretion had the highest risk. For example, those who consumed more than 8,000 mg daily were at a 50%-to-70% higher risk of suffering a cardiovascular event over the four-year period, compared with the “average” salt group. And, not quite as alarming but still of concern, among those whose daily salt intake was between 2,000 mg and 3,000 mg, the likelihood of dying from a cardiac event related to congestive heart failure rose by 20%, compared with the “average” salt group.

Now, it’s important to note that patients who ate the least amount of salt might have been doing so because they were at very high risk for disease and their doctors had insisted that they cut back severely on salt. In other words, their risk uptick might not be due to their salt intake (or their salt intake alone), but also due to poor health. “We did some analysis to address this issue, but we can’t exclude this possibility—larger clinical trials will be the only way to truly answer this question,” said Dr. O’Donnell.

The mystery is—how could consuming a low amount of salt increase cardiovascular risk? There may be several potential reasons for this, Dr. O’Donnell said, but the most prominent hypothesis is that lower salt intake activates the body’s renin-angiotensin system, which results in narrowed blood vessels, which of course makes it harder for blood to flow to and from the heart.


This study—and others that have recently shown that similarly negative health effects may be associated with a low-salt diet—caught the attention of the government. Congress has already put on hold its plans to legislate lower sodium levels for school lunches, requesting more information from the US Department of Agriculture before putting it to vote. Dr. O’Donnell said that there is “an urgent need to establish a safe range for sodium intake.”

In terms of how much salt you should eat, talk to your doctor about your particular risk factors—and remember that the jury is still out.

Source: Martin J. O’Donnell, MB, PhD, associate clinical professor of medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

A “Berry Good” Solution for IBD?

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

There’s promising news for people who suffer from a very intractable disease. Patients with ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the rectum and the lining of the colon, often have to turn to powerful drugs or surgery to relieve symptoms such as painful abdominal cramping and uncontrollable diarrhea—and relief does not always come. But new research shows that there’s a food that may help these patients find relief naturally—bilberries!

You’ve likely never seen these in the produce section of any supermarket that you’ve visited here in the US. Resembling blueberries in both appearance and flavor, bilberries are much more commonly grown and eaten in Europe. They’re known to be particularly high in anthocyanins—the chemical compounds that give berries their rich, vivid colors—and as we’ll see later, they also have anti-inflammatory properties.

To find out more about new research into why bilberries impact IBD, I called lead study author Gerhard Rogler, MD, PhD, a professor in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at University Hospital of Zurich and Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology in Switzerland. The study was published in the November 2011 edition ofMolecular Nutrition & Food Research.


Prompted by patients who told him that bilberries seemed to improve their symptoms of ulcerative colitis, Dr. Rogler worked with researchers from around Europe to design a mouse study to see if they were right. The mice were all induced with acute ulcerative colitis, and researchers divided them into five groups, as follows…

  • One group (the control group) ate standard mouse food.
  • One group ate food that was 80% standard mouse food and 20% dried bilberries (by weight). Dried bilberries contain about 11.2% anthocyanins.
  • The other groups ate standard mouse food plus an extract consisting of either 10%, 1% or 0.1% bilberry anthocyanins.

The result: Bilberries made a big difference. One week after being on the diets, the group receiving the 0.1% extract showed no reduction in inflammation of the lining of the colon and rectum compared with the control group…the 1% extract group showed a 56% reduction…the 10% extract group showed a 43% reduction…and the group eating a diet of 20% dried bilberries had a 35% reduction.

Dr. Rogler isn’t sure why the 1% extract had the greatest effect, but the fact that bilberries may help at all is good news, because if a human with ulcerative colitis were to experience a similar reduction in inflammation of the lining of the colon and rectum, he or she would likely experience fewer and/or less severe symptoms.

There was another benefit seen for the mice that ate either the actual bilberries or the extract—big reductions in the amount of secreted proteins called IFN-y and TNF that have been shown to be part of the cause in autoimmune diseases.


Dr. Rogler called these study results “quite encouraging,” though he added that further research will be needed to confirm that bilberries would have a similar effect in humans. Future studies will also need to figure out the best amount for humans to eat and whether or not a certain amount of a bilberry supplement would work equally well.

Even though the science is young, since the symptoms of ulcerative colitis can be so severe, Dr. Rogler would encourage patients to talk to their doctors now about at least eating the dried fruit. But it’s crucial to talk to your physician first, because some parts of bilberries may interact with diabetes medications, anticoagulant drugs or supplements that contain chromium (because bilberries contain chromium, too).

How to find the fruit? You can buy dried bilberries online. If you eat them fresh, you would probably get the same amount of anthocyanins as you would in dried, said Dr. Rogler, but they’re hard to keep fresh—especially when shipped—so you’re more likely to find them dried. For example, you can buy four ounces of dried bilberries, a retail herb shop based in Rancho Cordova, California, for about $13. Throw them on your cereal or salad or make your own trail mix for a delicious way to fight disease.

Source: Gerhard Rogler, MD, PhD, a professor in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at University Hospital of Zurich and Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology, University of Zurich, Switzerland.

How Low Should Your LDL Go?

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

“Keep your LDL cholesterol low” is practically a medical mantra now. It’s a greater struggle for some folks than for others — some people are able to achieve a desirable level with little or no effort, while others accomplish it by taking statin drugs. A new tool for lowering LDL emerged about 10 years ago when margarines with plant compounds called phytosterols — known to inhibit absorption of LDL cholesterol in the intestines — started cropping up in supermarkets. Could these be the ideal solution?

Better than Statins?

Phytosterols (as well as phytostanols, a subgroup of phytosterols) exist naturally in some vegetable oils, but in amounts too low to affect our cholesterol levels. Once extracted from these oils, however, they become a food additive or supplement that can deliver quite a cholesterol-lowering punch. Indeed, studies showed that consuming about two to three grams of phytosterols a day (you get this from about four to six tablespoons of the margarine) lowers total cholesterol by up to about 10% and LDL by up to about 14%.

Research had examined the effects of ingesting just two to three grams of phytosterols a day… but what would happen if you doubled or even tripled that intake? It’s known that statin drugs work to only a certain point — they have what’s known as a “leveling off” effect, which means that there is a diminishing effect — doubling the dose won’t double the result. Does this happen with phytosterols, too?

Recently, a Dutch scientist, Ronald Mensink, MSc, PhD, professor of molecular nutrition in the department of human biology at Maastricht University Medical Centre in The Netherlands, conducted a three-week study to answer that question, using the type of phytosterol called phytostanols.

Ninety-three people with mildly elevated LDL cholesterol were divided into four groups — consuming no stanols or three, six or nine grams daily. Results: The more stanols people ate, the lower their LDL dropped. The three-gram group had a 7.4% decrease on average… the six-gram group showed an 11.9% decrease… those consuming nine grams of stanols per day decreased LDL by an average of 17.4%. No adverse effects were found in any of the groups.

But Dr. Mensink urged caution despite the impressive findings — he said that more research is needed before advising any consumption increase, since we don’t yet have data on the long-term safety of consuming higher levels of sterols.

Dr. Rubman’s Advice

When I checked in with Daily Health News medical editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, he agreed that phytosterols — in the form of supplements or food additives — may be helpful. Echoing Dr. Mensink’s cautionary note, he said…

  • People with high LDL (above 150 mg/dl) can benefit from phytosterol/stanol-fortified foods, whether or not they are taking a statin drug.
  • A good phytosterol supplement, such as EP Phytosterols made by Endurance Products (800-483-2532,, $20 for a bottle of 100 tablets, 450 mg each tablet) may be better yet.
  • Until we have further research, consume no more than two to three grams of phytosterols/stanols per day.
  • Don’t take phytosterol/stanol supplements or fortified foods if you already have low LDL (below 100 mg/dl). Yes, they’re natural, said Dr. Rubman, “but they still have druglike properties that actively interfere with cholesterol uptake, just as some drugs do.”

Dr. Rubman pointed out that having high LDL may not mean your body makes too much — there are other potential causes as well. It’s therefore important to work with a knowledgeable doctor who can treat the source and not just the symptom.


Ronald P. Mensink, MSc, PhD, professor of molecular nutrition, department of human biology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, The Netherlands.

Andrew L. Rubman, ND, founder and medical director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut.

Old-Fashioned Health Hero

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

If you ever find yourself packing for an indefinite stay on a desert island, may I suggest that you bring along some baking soda? Just a few months ago, I wrote about how this household staple helped stave off further damage for people with chronic kidney disease (see Daily Health News, May 11, 2010, “5-Cent Cure for Kidney Disease”)… so I decided to explore what other ways this household staple might be helpful for our health. As it turns out, there are plenty — and in a few cases in particular, baking soda is a far safer solution than the chemical concoctions most people turn to in order to solve certain problems!

What we know as “baking soda” actually is properly called bicarbonate of soda or (if you are a chemist) NaHCO3. It’s a natural substance that can be found in dissolved form in many mineral springs and also in our own bodies in bile, where it serves to neutralize the hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach as it passes into the intestines. To learn more, I contacted Vicki Lansky, author of the book Baking Soda: Over 500 Fabulous, Fun & Frugal Uses You’ve Probably Never Thought Of, who has done exhaustive research on the topic. She pointed out that besides being safe and quite effective, baking soda is a very inexpensive antidote to many health problems that plague us today.

Here’s her list of helpful, healthful applications for baking soda…

Easy, effective wash for fresh produce to protect against foodborne bacteria and pesticide residue. The powdery quality of baking soda makes it useful as a gentle scrub for fruits and vegetables, and it’s especially effective for fruit such as pears and apples that you may want to eat raw without peeling. How to use it: Shake some dry baking soda into your hands, rub it over the fruit and then rinse off under your kitchen faucet.

Safe insect repellent to keep ants, cockroaches and other undesirable critters from your kitchen cabinets. Place jar lids filled with water (for the insects to drink) and sprinkle baking soda (for them to eat) nearby on the bottoms of cabinets and under the sink. The chemical reaction of the two together kills the ants. There’s an outdoor version, too — combine a teaspoon of baking soda with one-third of a cup of cooking oil… shake well in a watering can then sprinkle the mixture lightly on plants.

Relief from stinging and itching. If a bee or other insect stings you, make a paste of baking soda and water (aim for the consistency of toothpaste) and rub onto the site — you’ll find that the pain subsides quickly. The reason it works: The baking soda neutralizes the toxins that trigger the pain along with some of the reactive compounds produced in the affected tissue. This paste also is useful in soothing itching from bites by mosquitoes and other insects, as well as for rashes, hives and even poison ivy.

To soothe an upset stomach after a large or troublesome meal. If you can’t get your stomach to quiet down after eating something that disagrees with you (or when you’ve eaten too much), try completely dissolving one-half teaspoon of baking soda in four ounces of water. This is essentially the same compound that your stomach produces to neutralize stomach acid. There are some important caveats: Don’t take within two hours of medications (especially tetracycline, which is used to treat bacterial infections), and don’t take with large amounts of milk (it increases the likelihood of allergic reaction). Don’t use this remedy if you are on a sodium-restricted diet for high blood pressure. And, since frequent gastritis and heartburn can be signs of more serious issues, including heart disease, don’t rely on this remedy more than once in a while. If you are having regular digestive difficulties, see your doctor.

As an underarm deodorant. You can pat a bit of baking soda onto each armpit after a morning shower, just like an old-fashioned dusting powder. While this won’t stop you from sweating, it will diminish the unpleasant odor. Not only is this far less expensive than commercial deodorants, it’s also perfectly safe. Antiperspirants actually plug the sweat glands, and some people think this may cause cancer. (See Daily Health News, April 15, 2010, “The Antiperspirant-Cancer Connection.”) Along the same lines, you also can use baking soda as a foot deodorant — just sprinkle a bit on your feet or in your shoes.

As an exfoliant. Baking soda is a gentle and effective exfoliant that almost all skin types can tolerate and only rarely causes an allergic reaction — it’s a good way to clean and open pores, diminishing whiteheads and clearing oily skin.To remove dead cells on the outer layer of skin, splash some water on your face… put some baking soda into the palm of your hand… and gently rub on the baking soda, using circular motions. Rinse.

And a final tip — baking soda is baking soda, so you can save money by purchasing a store brand instead of the better-known national ones. Not that they’re expensive either, but now that you know about all these nifty uses, you just might find that you’re going through a lot more baking soda than before.


Vicki Lansky, author of more than two dozen books on parenting and household management, lives in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Her Web site is or go to for more information on her book on baking soda.