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Wonderful World of Bicarbonate and CO2

Published on May 27, 2013

Description: Diagram of the CO2/bicarbonate physiological buffering system, showing equilibria, Ka values, and comments

My book Sodium Bicarbonate is not only about sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), but also about magnesium bicarbonate and to a lesser degree potassium bicarbonate and calcium bicarbonate. However, the star of the show in this book is bicarbonate. The second star of the show is carbon dioxide (CO2). Most of the conjugate acid of bicarbonate is in the form of dissolved carbon dioxide. The rapid and direct inter-conversion of dissolved CO2 and bicarbonate ion is catalyzed by the enzyme carbonic anhydrase.

Carbon dioxide is a neutral, nonpolar molecule, and can readily diffuse across membranes. Bicarbonate is a charged species of CO2, and does not cross membranes at a significant rate unless facilitated by trans-membrane channels like the magnesium calcium channel.

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) immediately reacts when it mixes with stomach acid. NaHCO(3) + HCl —> NaCl + H(2)0 + CO(2). That is: Sodium bicarbonate + stomach acid yields salt + water + carbon dioxide.

When we talk about bicarbonate we are talking about CO2, because that is what sodium bicarbonate turns to when it reaches the stomach causing an increase in stomach acid production as well as an increase in bicarbonates in the blood. The bicarbonate ion is HCO3-. Bicarbonate  is an important buffer found in blood. Carbon dioxide is present in the blood in a number of forms such as bicarbonate, dissolved carbon dioxide and carbonic acid, of which 90% is bicarbonate or HCO3.


CO2, in the form of bicarbonate, is directly involved in “light reactions.” This “bicarbonate effect” influences molecular processes. The role of carbon dioxide (CO2) or bicarbonate in the photosynthesis was clear to researchers from the very beginning of the history of photosynthesis. Bicarbonate in plants probably links cell metabolism to photosynthetic electron flow.

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Joseph Priestley observed in 1775 that “a green matter” deposited on the walls of water containers, formed bubbles of pure “dephlogisticated air” (oxygen).[1] While Ingen-Housz ( in 1779, 1796) discovered the importance of light in this process, it was Senebier in 1782 who demonstrated that the production  of oxygen by plants depends on the presence of CO2.[2] Carbon dioxide is, in fact, a more fundamental component of living matter than is oxygen.

Dr Alina Vasiljeva and Dr David Nias wrote, “At the end of the 19th century, scientists Bohr and Verigo discovered what seemed a strange law: a decreased level of carbon dioxide in the blood leads to decreased oxygen supply to the cells in the body including the brain, heart, kidneys etc. Carbon dioxide (CO2) was found to be responsible for the bond between oxygen and haemoglobin. If the level of carbon dioxide in the blood is lower than normal, then this leads to difficulties in releasing oxygen from haemoglobin. Hence the Verigo-Bohr law.”

Also in the 19th century, Zuntz, in Berlin, recognized that carbon dioxide, unlike oxygen, is not carried by hemoglobin. He showed that, in the blood, carbon dioxide is combined with bases, chiefly as sodium bicarbonate which plays a part in acid-alkaline balance. All the carbon dioxide is dissolved in the plasma, both in simple solution and that combined with alkali into the bicarbonates.

Oxygen and carbon dioxide are not antagonistic. A gain of one gas in the blood does not necessarily involve a corresponding loss of the other. The blood may be high or low in both gases. Under clinical conditions, low oxygen and low carbon dioxide generally occur together. Therapeutic increase of carbon dioxide, by inhalation of this gas diluted in air, is often an effective means of improving the oxygenation of the blood and tissues. Under clinical conditions, low oxygen and low carbon dioxide generally occur together. Therapeutic increase of carbon dioxide, by inhalation of this gas diluted in air, is often an effective means of improving the oxygenation of the blood and tissues".[3]

The story of bicarbonate and CO2 is a fascinating one full of surprises. My mentor Dr. Christopher Hills (spirulina man) used to tell us students that heaven was exactly upside down to life on earth so if you want to get there do everything opposite to everyone else. When it comes to bicarbonate and CO2 and Oxygen it’s the same story. What we think about CO2 and thus bicarbonate is wrong. Bicarbonate helps our good cells stay alive and kicks the bad, spent or cancerous cells to their grave.
If you talk to Al Gore he will lead you to believe that CO2 is the enemy of mankind. CO2 is actually a planet-saving nutrient that could multiply food production rates and feed the world more nutritious, healthy plants.

CO2 is a vital nutrient for food crops which is the same as saying bicarbonate is vital for food crops. Greenhouse operators know something that the government does not want you to know: and that is that they actually buy carbon dioxide and inject it into their greenhouses in order to maximize plant growth.

If we are under the illusion that bicarbonate and CO2 are poisonous, then we will not be able to see or understand that bicarbonate has the power to restore electron flow and O2 evolution. There is a lot of power in the bicarbonate ion including oxygen generation power. Thus we should not be surprised to learn that bicarbonate increases tumor pH and inhibits spontaneous metastases.

People who live at very high altitudes live significantly longer;
they have a lower incidence of cancer[4]
and heart disease,[5] and other
degenerative conditions, than people who live near sea level.

At high altitude CO2 is in greater presence and O2 is in less. A Russian doctor named Konstantin Buteyko is most responsible for drawing attention to the importance of carbon dioxide for body metabolism and how the lack of it can cause chronic diseases; this constitutes a major breakthrough in medical science. A molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2) consists of one carbon and two oxygen atoms. Colorless and odorless, it is hard to detect. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been in flux throughout the Earth’s history.

The greatest deceivers that ever walked the earth are now declaring CO2 to be a poison when it is in fact a medicine. Dr. Ray Peat says, “Carbon dioxide is being used increasingly to prevent inflammation and edema. For example, it can be used to prevent adhesions during abdominal surgery, and to protect the lungs during mechanical ventilation. It inhibits the formation of inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins[6] and reduces the leakiness of the intestine.[7] Some experiments show that as it decreases the production of some inflammatory materials by macrophages,[8] including lactate, it causes macrophages to activate phagocytic neutrophils, and to increase their number and activity.”[9]

Dr. M. Persson and Dr. Van der Linden have demonstrated that carbon dioxide gas protects against tissue damage in the operative field by maintaining humidity and temperature in the open-heart surgery-related model environment.[10] These scientists are saying that carbon dioxide insufflation into the abdominal cavity results in the reduction of oxidative stress.

In 2009 The Environmental Protection Agency formally declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants that threaten public health and welfare, setting in motion a process that will regulate the gases blamed for global warming. The E.P.A. said the science supporting its so-called endangerment finding was “compelling and overwhelming.”

Dr. Gerald Marsh tells us that five hundred million years ago, carbon dioxide concentrations were over 13 times current levels; and not until about 20 million years ago did carbon dioxide levels drop to a little less than twice what they are today.[11] Since 1750 the concentration in the air has risen from of CO2 278 parts per million (ppm) to more than 380 ppm, making it easier for plants to acquire the CO2 needed for rapid growth. Scientists generally suggest that raised CO2 levels will boost the yields of mainstream crops, such as maize, rice and soy, by about 13 per cent.

According to the Verigo-Bohr effect, we can state
that a CO2 deficit caused by deep breathing
leads to oxygen starvation in the cells of the body.

Thus it is an absolute scientific fumble to peg carbon dioxide as a poisonous gas and ridiculous doctors, who don’t know much of anything about bicarbonate and CO2 to come out against sodium bicarbonate and its use in cancer. If it’s good enough to keep people alive while chemotherapy chemicals (very acid) are pumped into the blood stream its more than good enough for use in the treatment of cancer, which is always pH sensitive according to all the science.

Dr. Peat concludes, “On a slightly longer time scale, a reduction of carbon dioxide can increase the production of lactic acid, which is a promoter of inflammation and fibrosis. A prolonged decrease in carbon dioxide can increase the susceptibility of proteins to glycation. The local concentration of carbon dioxide in specific tissues and organs can be adjusted by nervous and hormonal activation or inhibition of the carbonic anhydrase enzymes, that accelerate the conversion of CO2 to carbonic acid, H2CO3. The activity of carbonic anhydrase can determine the density and strength of the skeleton, the excitability of nerves, the accumulation of water, and can regulate the structure and function of the tissues and organs. Ordinarily, carbon dioxide and bicarbonate are thought of only in relation to the regulation of pH, and only in a very general way. Because of the importance of keeping the pH of the blood within a narrow range, carbon dioxide is commonly thought of as a toxin, because an excess can cause unconsciousness and acidosis. But increasing carbon dioxide doesn’t necessarily cause acidosis, and acidosis caused by carbon dioxide isn’t as harmful as lactic acidosis.”


The change of pH value causes the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid that enters the stomach, and the bicarbonates enter the bloodstream. When we say that we alkalize our body, we don’t necessarily mean increasing our saliva pH or urine pH; it means increasing the bicarbonates in our blood. The blood pH does not change, but the ability of our blood to neutralize acid in the body increases quite dramatically.[12] Since bicarbonates enter the bloodstream only when the stomach produces hydrochloric acid, it is important that we drink as high pH value alkaline water as possible, and forget about allopathic pharmaceutical thinking and just use the baking soda as needed.

In the January/February 2003 issue of American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal, Dr. Gospodinka R. Pradova published the result of a 10-year study of industrial pollution in Bulgaria. The study compares two groups of people in a plastic manufacturing plant: one group working in the plant with chemical pollution, the other in the non-polluted office environment of the same company. The conclusion shows that people living/working in a polluted environment have fewer amounts of bicarbonates in their blood than people working in a clean environment.

We live in a world that was changed from an agricultural environment to an industrial environment, which produces more pollution. Our stressful life-styles create more acid, which causes us to use up more bicarbonate. The medical society considers the reduction of bicarbonates in the blood as an inevitable fact of aging.

I and other doctors argue that the reduction of bicarbonates in the blood is the cause of aging and diseases, not the result of aging.  As long as we can replenish bicarbonates in the blood, we don’t have to age so fast. Taking high dosages of magnesium bicarbonate is not as alkalizing as taking sodium bicarbonate but in terms of anti-aging effect magnesium bicarbonate would easily take the prize. The most important function of alkaline water is to increase bicarbonates in the blood because we lose bicarbonates as we age.

Since bicarbonates enter the bloodstream only when the stomach produces hydrochloric acid, it is important that we drink as much mineral rich alkaline water as possible. On an empty stomach, the stomach pH value may be high but the amount (volume) of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is small; therefore, drinking high pH (9.5 to 10) alkaline water will raise the stomach pH relatively high. This causes the stomach to produce more hydrochloric acid, allowing more bicarbonate to enter the bloodstream.

[1] Priestley,  1776

[3] Henderson, Y. Carbon Dioxide. Article in Encyclopedia of Medicine. 1940.

[4] Weinberg, et al., 1987

[5] Mortimer, et al., 1977

[6] Peltekova, et al., 2010, Peng, et al., 2009, Persson & van den Linden, 2009

[7] Morisaki, et al., 2009

[8] TNF: Lang, et al., 2005

[9] Billert, et al., 2003, Baev & Kuprava, 1997

[10] CO2 Field Flooding May Also Reduce Oxidative Stress in Open Surgery;
Masahiko Tsuchiya, MD, PhD et al; A & A August 2009;vol. 109 no. 2 683-684

[11] By Dr. Gerald Marsh: Five hundred million years ago, carbon dioxide concentrations were over 13 times current levels; and not until about 20 million years ago did carbon dioxide levels dropped to a little less than twice what they are today. It is possible that moderately increased carbon dioxide concentrations could extend the current interglacial period. But we have not reached the level required yet, nor do we know the optimum level to reach. So, rather than call for arbitrary limits on carbon dioxide emissions, perhaps the best thing the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the climatology community in general could do is spend their efforts on determining the optimal range of carbon dioxide needed to extend the current interglacial period indefinitely. We ought to carefully consider this possibility before we wipe out our current prosperity by spending trillions of dollars to combat a perceived global warming threat that may well prove to be only a will-o-the-wisp. Dr. Gerald Marsh is a retired physicist from the Argonne National Laboratory and a former consultant to the Department of Defense on strategic nuclear technology and policy in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Administration.

[12] ALKALINE WATER AND STOMACH ACID;  Sang Whang; Science & Health » Article 26; Feb 23 , 2012;

# # #


Learn Dr Sircus protocol including dosages, methods, side effects and contra-indications. This bundle includes the special edition of Transdermal Magnesium Therapy, Treatment Essentials and Sodium Bicarbonate eBooks.

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Dr. Mark Sircus AC., OMD, DM (P)

Director International Medical Veritas Association
Doctor of Oriental and Pastoral Medicine

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  • Rachel Danke-Rebman

    I have ALS. Lou Gehrig’s Disease. With ALS, the Co2 builds up in our blood as we lose the ability to breathe. My FVC is around 70% but my CO2 is WAY too low-it’s 15 points below low normal in a healthy person! I’m OPPOSITE of what I should be for having ALS! My oxygen is 98%. My blood potassium level is 3.9 mmol/L and my blood sodium level is 142 mmol/L. What could be causing this?? My pulmonologist says it is saving my life. I hyperventilate easily yet I barely breathe. If I cough, I get very dizzy from the air intake. I take less than 11 shallow breathes per minute. Also, my blood pH is 7.59. I am autoimmune with antiphosholipids antibodies (IgM Phospholipid AB) in the 15 MPL (weak) range. I tested ANA positive. Any answers would be greatly appreciated!

    • Rachel Danke-Rebman

      Also I will be 5 years into the disease on Feb. 22, 2018.

    • Angela Tate

      You need to get tested for Lyme disease. Most of the time ALS is misdiagnosed and ends up being Lyme disease

      • Rachel Danke-Rebman

        I have Lyme Disease. Doctors refuse to treat because I have ALS. ALS is a disease of gross medical neglect. I am malnourished but they won’t give me nutritional I.V.’s. I have gut dysbiosis but they won’t treat it. I have yeast infections but they won’t treat. Heavy metals, no treatment. Extreme toxicity, no treatment. I am told to go home and die. I use many natural things and treat myself but it is so expensive and I only have about $100 a month to buy supplements. I’ve been sick for 30 years and they told me it was in my head until I got paralyzed, then they told me to go home and die.

        • Angela Tate

          Order Results RNA for Lyme disease. This stuff has been by far the best stuff I have bought for Lyme disease. Go to Facebook and join Lyme disease groups .I’m in several of them and most everyone will help.

  • Russ Mo

    I can’t tell from the article whether drinking the odd glass of sparkling mineral water is a good think or not – unless I missed the relevant section.. ? Thanks

  • SunnyCO

    “it is important that we drink as high pH value alkaline water as possible, and forget about allopathic pharmaceutical thinking and just use the baking soda as needed.”
    This statement confuses me! Isn’t high pH value alkaline water simply purified water that has bicarbonates (calcium/magnesium/potassium/maybe sodium) added? Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to purchase a bottle of Tri-salts $8 (100 servings) as opposed to $2 for a bottle of high pH water (and mineral water)? Unless of course your a stockholder in hi pH water stock LOL.

  • Patricia

    A recent blood test showed my CO2 at 18. I have Conn’s syndrome even after the removal of one adrenal gland with a large cyst. So I keep my BP in check with a low sodium diet. Is there a simple dietary option other than sodium bicarbonate to change the blood Ph?

    • Steve Crim

      Consider Potassium Bicarbonate

  • Stephanie

    My blood test showed my carbon monoxide levels was very high! How can I correct this at home and lower my levels?

    • Hi
      CO2 levels in the blood usually show abnormality in breathing. Hi breathing levels are one way our body attempts to get rid of excess CO2 Breathing retraining with Dr. Sircus or use of a breathslim may help you get better breathing balance.
      Claudia French

  • Mary Kopf

    Hi, I’m writing to inquire if Dr. Sircus sells his books wholesale? I would like to carry them in my store. Please contact me at:
    Mary E. Kopf
    dba: Sunshine Health Foods, Inc.
    410 Trainor Gate Road
    Fairbanks, Alaska 99701
    Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response.

    • Hi Mary,

      I am forwarding your request to IMVA Publications. You should be hearing from them in the next day or two.
      Thank you for your interest in Dr. Sircus’ books….they will be a great addition to your store!
      Claudia French

    • Mary, the only book available in hard copy at this time is the Transdermal Magnesium Therapy book published with I Universe. You can contact them for their wholesale prices. Later this year the Sodium Bicarbonate book will be published in hard copy but the rest of the books are all e-books right now.
      This book is available in hard cover, soft cover and as an e-book. This publisher will be happy to work with you on however many you want to order for your store. They can ship to the US and to stores internationally. Give them a call!
      Claudia French

  • 7LibertyForAll

    Dr. Sircus, I am very puzzled as to why the ingestion of bicarbonate would not DECREASE stomach acids. Would you please explain this? At this point, this makes no sense to me.

    • I was under the same impression as i take baking soda to relieve heart burn. I thought heart burn was caused by too much acid and after i take the baking soda mixture it is instant relief. That is why i don’t understand the increase in stomach acid when you take baking soda.

      • Rebekah

        How much do we take?
        And how often…..for how long a regimen?
        Everyday? For prolong periods? Or daily as part of a health supplement!?

        • Deborah,

          Magnesium bicarbonate in our drinking water is a wonderful thing to have daily……forever…….with the magnesium bicarbonate we are studying in Mark’s new group there are two recommended dosages, one for daily maintenance use and a stronger dose for heavy therapeutic application which can be changed to the maintanance dose once problems resolve. I hope you have joined this group!

      • Mimi Burnham

        Actually, the “instant relief” would have to come NOT from the baking soda, but from the body’s production of more hydrochloric acid, which must happen pretty quickly after the baking soda enters the stomach.
        It’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

        • Nostents4me

          There is however a but. Going right back to the CO2 earlier in the article. Stomach acid HCl is made by our protonpumps that make it from NaCl, CO2 and H2O. HCl into the stomach and NaHCO3 into the blood. Rate limiting is amount of CO2 in the blood. Hyperventilation or no exercise lowers blood CO2. Butyeko breathing and exercise can restore higher healthy blood CO2 resulting in better stomach acid better uptake of nutrients etc.. Never hyperventilate.

    • Read Dr. Sircus article again and then take a look at this article by another doctor. In it he explains why heartburn is not caused by stomach acid.:

      Inability to produce adequate hydrochloric acid is what causes us problems, not the opposite!

      • 7LibertyForAll

        Yes, I’ve known for some years that it is inadequate HCl in the stomach that is behind heartburn and GERD and I’ve never bought the nonsense that CO2 is a dangerous gas. On the contrary, I learned in elementary school many years ago that trees / vegetation take in CO2 and give off O2. I guess they stopped telling that truth to school children some years ago.

        So (1) does bicarbonate used for indigestion actually neutralize those acids produced by the fermentation or rotting of food that hasn’t been digested—is this what it is doing? (2) By using bicarbonate, does this help to correct the low acid production in the stomach?

        It makes sense to me that if I drink an alkaline substance I will be serving to neutralize my stomach acids. Why is this NOT so? I’d really like to understand these things.

        Thank you

        • 7LibertyForAll

          Apparently there are a few of us who’d love to have you folks comment on my questions…..Claudia, Dr. Sircus. Any chance of that?

          • As Dr. Sircus explains in his essay on pH and alkalinity (near the bottom of this essay) you will see that taking the bicarbonate raises the pH of the stomach which in turn triggers the stomach to produce more HCL.. to again bring the pH down to where it is needed to be for digestion, which then relieves the problem.

          • 7LibertyForAll

            Thank you very much, Claudia! Very good article…..

          • Yes it is a good article, I appreciate the way Dr.Sircus can put it together and simplify it for easier understanding.
            Glad you liked it!

    • Jim Trompe

      it does decrease stomach acid, then your body makes more acid and releases more bicarb in the blood, thus net change is more alkaline.

      • 7LibertyForAll

        Ah, that would make sense. Thanks for the reply, Jim.

        • Jim Trompe

          But I believe if its getting rid of chronically low stomach acid problems its likely doing it another way. For me very acidic urine=hypothyroidism(which is associated with low stomach acid). Also fluoride may interrupt proper stomach acidification and alkaline urine increases fluoride excretion something like 16x according to one study.