Does NaHCO3 mean anything to you? Sodium Bicarbonate? How about baking soda? It’s the white powdery substance you’ve likely used in cake and loaf recipes, toxin-free appliance cleaners, or DIY skin care products. Long before it hit North American shelves and quickly became a household staple, ancient Egyptians used sodium bicarbonate to help treat various medical conditions.
As if the powerful powder wasn’t versatile enough, an April 2018 study conducted at the Medical College of Georgia claims that baking soda can potentially reduce and remove inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases. What’s more? The scientists’ methods are not farfetched or lab-limited – they’re safe and available to anyone.
How Does Baking Soda Work to Reduce Inflammation?
Researchers published the recent study in The Journal of Immunology, which included a sample of both rats and healthy medical students. What they found was that upon consuming baking soda mixed with water, the solution communicated a couple of things: It triggered more stomach acid production (which can increase stomach acid at your next meal) and prevented the spleen – a major part of our immune system – from mistaking foods that would otherwise trigger inflammation.
That all sounds great, but let’s break down the process:
- Participants ingest a baking soda solution
- In addition to producing more digestive stomach acid, the sodium bicarbonate also interacts with mesothelial cells found on the spleen, which increase acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) activity.
- As a result, this cascade of effects sends an anti-inflammatory signal to your body saying that can lessen immune response
If you had to pause at the word “mesothelial” you’re not alone. Mesothelial cells are the same type you find lining the outside of organs to prevent rubbing and potentially damaging friction. You will also find similar cells lining your gastrointestinal tract. Scientists believe that after drinking the sodium bicarbonate solution, mesothelial cells actually communicate with the spleen.
In fact, renal physiologist and the study’s co-author Dr. Paul O’Connor thinks “the cholinergic (acetylcholine) signals that we know mediate this anti-inflammatory response aren’t coming directly from the vagal nerve innervating the spleen, but from the mesothelial cells that form these connections to the spleen.”
O’Connor and his team’s physiological observations affirmed their hypothesis. In a press release for Jagwire News in Augusta, Georgia, correspondent Toni Baker writes:
“In the spleen, as well as the blood and kidneys, they found after drinking water with baking soda for two weeks, the population of immune cells called macrophages, shifted from primarily those that promote inflammation, called M1, to those that reduce it, called M2. Macrophages, perhaps best known for their ability to consume garbage in the body like debris from injured or dead cells, are early arrivers to a call for an immune response.”
What Do These Findings Mean for Inflammatory Autoimmune Conditions?
The Georgia researchers will be the first to acknowledge that further study is needed in addition to their preliminary findings. But O’Connor is hopeful and “[thinks] this helps explain the cholinergic (acetylcholine) anti-inflammatory response that people have been studying for a long time.”
What is so exciting about this baking soda solution is how simple, safe, and cost-effective it is! Although, people have and will raise concerns about how well it actually works because the human participants were healthy.
“You are not really turning anything off or on, you are just pushing it toward one side by giving an anti-inflammatory stimulus,” he says, in this case, away from harmful inflammation. “It’s potentially a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease.”
While the exact ratios of sodium bicarbonate to water are not available for public access, you may have or know someone who has an autoimmune disorder and want to try it out. So, what’s the best way to go about preparing your own baking soda water?
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If you ingest half a teaspoon (½ tsp) of baking soda dissolved in two cups of water every day, there shouldn’t be any problems. We suggest using only this much baking soda because you want to keep your sodium intake from getting too high. Additionally, there are some contraindications you should be aware of if you’re thinking of trying this potential remedy for autoimmune disorder.
Sodium Bicarbonate: Cautions, Side Effects, and Interactions
Sodium Content in Baking Soda
Sodium accounts for 27 percent of the weight of baking soda, hence why overconsumption can be dangerous. In 1 teaspoon, that translates to 1259 milligrams of sodium – over half your recommended daily intake. If you have an autoimmune disorder but have high blood pressure or are under orders to limit your sodium intake, please be cautious with this 2-ingredient solution.
Naturally, you may experience the following side effects:
These symptoms are minor and should go away on their own. But, if you do experience any of these, notify your personal health care practitioner as soon as you can:
- Swelling hands, ankles, or feet
- Unusual weight gain
Lastly, it may sound silly but don’t mistake baking soda for baking powder.
Baking Soda Interactions
As a rule of thumb, do not make alterations to any medications without first consulting your doctor. While we’re in favor of using natural remedies for autoimmune disorders, we realize that some people are currently on some of these over-the-counter medications which can interact with sodium bicarbonate.
- Other salicylates
- Medications with coatings to protect the stomach
Sodium bicarbonate can also decrease certain medications’ effectiveness (i.e., drugs that require stomach acid). These can include:
- Azole antifungals (e.g., ketoconazole and itraconazole)
- Iron supplements
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.
 Ray, S. C., Baban, B., Tucker, M. A., Seaton, A. J., Chang, K. C., Mannon, E. C., . . . O’Connor, P. M. (2018, April 16). Oral NaHCO3 Activates a Splenic Anti-Inflammatory Pathway: Evidence That Cholinergic Signals Are Transmitted via Mesothelial Cells. Retrieved from http://www.jimmunol.org/content/early/2018/04/14/jimmunol.1701605
 Drinking baking soda could be an inexpensive, safe way to combat autoimmune disease. (2018, April 25). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180425093745.htm
 Baker, T. (2018, April 25). Drinking baking soda could be an inexpensive, safe way to combat autoimmune disease. Retrieved from http://jagwire.augusta.edu/archives/52953
 Sodium Bicarbonate Oral : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-11325/sodium-bicarbonate-oral/details
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