Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Natural Apothecary: Baking Soda

The Natural Apothecary: Baking Soda is a how-to guide for using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as an ingredient in household recipes and for dietary benefits. Released 19th March 2019 by Nourish, it's 144 pages and available in paperback format. The author is a physician and nutrition educator.

I am a biomedical engineer with a background in biochemistry. This book is written with the layperson in mind and apart from some technical chemistry based jargon (which to me seems added to provide verisimilitude, that the author is a 'real' scientist), this book should be accessible to most laypeople.  There are some incorrect statements in the book, here's one:
An acidic food is not the same as an acid-producing food. Acidic foods taste acidic because they contain organic food acids (such as citric, acetic, oxalic, malic, pyruvic
and acetylsalicylic acids), ‘organic’ here meaning that they contain only carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.
Organic molecules are, very roughly speaking, ones which contain carbon. Carbohydrates (yes, like sugars and starches) are molecules which contain carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. For what it's worth, acetylsalicylic acid is better known as aspirin.

Another place the author misses the mark in my opinion is proposing baking soda as a potential treatment for gout. When uric acid can't be excreted from the body quickly enough, it can precipitate as crystalline needles which can cause very painful inflammation in the joints especially. The problem with baking soda as a cure is that when we ingest it, it just becomes water and carbon dioxide gas. Our blood is very very very well buffered and elegantly resists changes in pH from the things we eat and drink. It actually turns out that increasing water intake regularly can prevent gout and help with flare-ups. Flushing our systems regularly, exercising sensibly, and getting enough sleep are the biggest health habits we can give ourselves.

I am deeply distrustful of miraculous claims, especially when talking about nutrition. Unfiltered apple cider vinegar won't make you live to be 100, green coffee extract won't make you skinny, and essiac tea will absolutely not cure cancer or aids.

A perusal of the author's other books include the miracle series: The Miracle of Tea, Spices, Honey, Lemons, etc. As a scientist, I admit I am not enthusiastic about bandying around words like miracle, life-saving, life-changing, etc.

The book does not include any sources for the claims postulated, and there's not any included bibliography or peer-review sources. The lack of any sort of source criticism or background makes it difficult to evaluate the veracity of any claims in the book.

All that being said, however, this is not a book which claims to cure cancer, or make you skinny overnight, or cure autism, or any other exploitative treatment. The author clearly has the reader's best interests in mind and the recipes she includes aren't likely to have any sort of deleterious effects. The uses included for baking soda in the book cover a lot of reasonable and useful applications and society and the planet we all live on would be well served by people choosing more safe and earth-friendly cleaning and beauty products. There are some fun and appealing recipes included such as one for easy homemade bath bombs from easily sourced, safe materials.

Two stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

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