For generations, baking soda dissolved in water has been considered a time-honored, safe and effective home remedy for occasional upset stomach, indigestion and heartburn. This familiar kitchen staple is also pressed into service for such mundane tasks as deodorizing refrigerators, cleaning teeth and soothing sunburn.
Now, surprising new research shows that baking soda – also known as sodium bicarbonate – can work against destructive inflammation and autoimmune disease on a cellular level by creating a more anti-inflammatory “climate” in the body.
Autoimmune disease, a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body, encompasses such serious diseases as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and lupus.
Unfortunately, treatments for these conditions can involve suppression of the immune system to the point that the patient is at increased risk for opportunistic infections and cancer. So, let’s take a closer look at why baking soda is impressing researchers as a safe, natural alternative weapon against inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
Baking soda promotes an anti-inflammatory environment in the spleen
Recent studies have shown that baking soda influences cells in the spleen to help prevent the inappropriate immune response that characterizes autoimmune disease.
It works something like this:
In addition to filtering blood, the spleen help to store macrophages – white blood cells that constitute the “first line of defense” in immune response.
Macrophages are activated by mesothelial cells in and on the spleen. Like bands of ever-alert sentries, these cells warn organs of foreign invaders and signal the need for an immune response.
While stimulating the stomach to make more digestive acid, baking soda acts on mesothelial cells, helping to prevent “false alarms” that would trigger an immune over-reaction.
At the same time, baking soda actually transforms macrophages into different, less inflammatory versions of themselves.
Baking soda modifies immune system cells to discourage inflammation
In a study published last month in Journal of Immunology, laboratory mice with kidney disease were given a solution of baking soda and water for two weeks.
This simple mixture had a complex – and beneficial – effect.
Researchers found that the population of macrophages in the animals’ spleens shifted from inflammation-promoting M1 cells to inflammation-reducing M2 cells.
When the baking soda solution was administered to healthy mice with normal kidney function, the team found it had the same effect – a lower number of inflammatory macrophages in the kidneys and spleen.
In a later phase of the study, healthy adult volunteers were given a daily dose of 2 grams of baking soda dissolved in 250 mg of bottled water.
The human participants, also, displayed a more anti-inflammatory profile in their kidneys, spleen and blood.
In addition to transforming pro-inflammatory cells to anti-inflammatory cells, the baking soda treatment caused new anti-inflammatory macrophages to be produced. It also caused an increase in T-cells, which regulate the immune response and reduce over-reactions.
Study co-author Dr. Paul O’Connor, a renal physiologist in the MCG Department of Physiology at Augusta University, lauded the use of baking soda in water as “potentially a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease.”
In a separate study, baking soda helped to ease inflammation and reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis.
Baking soda could help prevent the need for dialysis in chronic kidney disease
In a randomized controlled two-year trial published in Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 134 adult patients with chronic kidney disease and metabolic acidosis (high blood acidity) were divided into two groups. One group was treated with 1800 milligrams a day of baking soda supplements, while the other received standard care.
Researchers found that patients in the baking soda group were significantly less likely to experience a rapid progression of kidney disease, with supplemented patients experiencing only two-thirds the decline in kidney function of those in the standard care group.
Even more promising was the fact that fewer patients in the baking soda group developed end-stage renal disease requiring dialysis.
Metabolic acidosis, a common complication of advanced kidney disease, can interfere with the metabolism of protein, while increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. But researchers reported that taking baking soda daily helped to balance acid, potassium and sodium – and improved nutritional parameters.
Although baking soda is high in sodium – and could theoretically increase blood pressure – the team reported that there was no difference in blood pressure control between the two groups.
Baking soda offers many more (often surprising) health benefits
In addition to its ability to decrease inflammation, baking soda has been shown in animal studies to inhibit the metastasis of breast cancer tumors. It is also believed to increase physical stamina, improve athletic performance, and reduce post-workout pain and inflammation.
However, you shouldn’t attempt to use baking soda to treat kidney disease – or any medical condition – without first consulting a trusted medical professional for obvious reasons.
Keep in mind: consuming too much baking soda can be dangerous. Don’t take more than 3 and 1/2 teaspoons a day, or use the maximum dosage for more than two weeks.
And, of course, baking soda is generally believed to be safe when used occasionally for indigestion.
Studies on baking soda have used dosages of around 2 grams (a little under half a teaspoon) – which is roughly the dosage advised for indigestion. Dissolve the baking soda fully in a glass of water, and sip it slowly (drinking it too fast can cause gas and diarrhea).
To avoid chances of a gastric rupture, don’t take baking soda when you’re overly full.
And, if you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you shouldn’t use baking soda.
Simply put, baking soda has a long history as a safe and inexpensive over-the-counter remedy for minor ailments such as heartburn and itchy skin. But exciting new research shows that this trusty standby may help to eliminate potentially life-threatening and difficult-to-treat diseases, as well.
by Lori Alton