Baking Soda Combats Autoimmune Disease, According to Scientists

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Pictured is Dr. Paul O’Connor, renal physiologist in the lab at the Medical College of Georgia Department of Physiology at Augusta University. Credit: Phil Jones, Senior Photographer, Augusta University

Baking soda has numerous medicinal uses and benefits. From acting as a natural deodorant, alleviating heartburn and indigestion, to whitening the teeth, baking soda has a range of applications.

But could baking soda get even better? Science says so. Now, researchers have discovered that baking soda combats autoimmune disease, a debilitating condition that characterizes over 100 different diseases.

What is Autoimmune Disease?

An autoimmune disease is a condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. As a result, the body isn’t able to protect itself from foreign invaders, which increases vulnerability to infections.

Instead of producing antibodies to an unknown trigger (to fight infections), the immune system starts attacking the body’s own tissues.

Examples of autoimmune disease include (1):
– Rheumatoid arthritis
– Lupus
– Inflammatory bowel disease (Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
– Multiple sclerosis (MS)
– Type 1 diabetes
– Guillain-Barre syndrome
– Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
– Psoriasis
– Graves’ disease
– Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
– Vasculitis

The list doesn’t end there – as mentioned above, there are over 100 different autoimmune conditions.

Autoimmune Disease and Inflammation

The connection between autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation are tightly interwoven. Someone can have chronic inflammation without autoimmunity, but autoimmune conditions almost always have some sort of chronic inflammatory input.

Chronic inflammation happens when there is a trigger that initiates the inflammatory response, but that response remains chronic (instead of temporary). With autoimmune conditions, the body’s white blood cells produce a specific antibody to target a particular tissue or enzyme within a tissue of the body. So when someone is suffering from autoimmunity, tissue damage results as a direct effect of the inflammatory process (instead of indirect with just plain chronic inflammation and no immunity).

Baking Soda and Inflammation

A recent study conducted at the Medical College of Georgia claims that baking soda can reduce and remove inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases. The best part? Baking soda is widely available for anyone to use, and it’s cheap as dirt.

The 2018 study, published in The Journal of Immunology, included a sample of rats and healthy medical students. When the participants and animals consumed baking soda mixed with water, they discovered two major things (2):
– Greater stomach acid production (which increases stomach acid for your next meal)
– Prevented the spleen (a major part of our immune system) from mistaking foods that would normally trigger inflammation

But what’s happening here at a molecular level? According to the study, sodium bicarbonate interacts with the mesothelial cells found in the spleen, which increases acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter) activity. As a result, an anti-inflammatory signal is sent to your body to help lessen the immune response.

Renal physiologist, and study 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 (3).”

After making some physiological observations between both participants and animals, O’Connor and his teams’ hypothesis was confirmed. In a press release for Jagwire News in Augusta, Georgia, 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 (4).”

Baking Soda Combats Autoimmune Disease

So what does all of this information have to do with inflammatory autoimmune conditions? While this is the first study of its kind, O’Connor is hopeful. He thinks “this helps explain the cholinergic (acetylcholine) anti-inflammatory response that people have been studying for a long time (5).”

Given that autoimmune conditions are largely inflammatory, baking soda could be a simple, cost-effective means to help out those who are suffering. And while the participants of the study were healthy, it could still prove beneficial in the bodies of those with chronic inflammation.

“You are not really turning anything off or on, you are just pushing it toward one side by giving an anti-inflammatory stimulus,” O’Connor says, in this case, away from harmful inflammation. “It’s potentially a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease (6).”

While the exact ratios of sodium bicarbonate to water have not been made available to the public, you still might want to try it out if you’re dealing with chronic inflammation or have an autoimmune disease.

To make a basic baking soda and water mixture, simply dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in two cups of water, and drink every day. Keeping your baking soda intake to only 1/2 a teaspoon is recommended so that your sodium intake doesn’t get too high.

Precautions Regarding Baking Soda

Because of the high sodium concentration, baking soda should be kept to a minimum if you have high blood pressure, or if you’ve been instructed to keep your sodium intake low.

Taking baking soda can also result in minor symptoms such as:
– Nausea
– Bloating
– Gassiness

Baking soda can also interact with medications like (7):
– Acetazolamide
– Aspirin
– Other salicylate
– Corticosteroids
– Memantine
– Medications with coatings to protect the stomach.

Baking soda can also decrease certain medications’ effectiveness, such as:
– Ampicillin
– Atazanavir
– Azole antifungals
– Iron supplements
– Pazopanib
– Sucralfate

Also, don’t mistake baking soda for baking powder (they’re two very different things!).

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