Drinking baking soda to combat autoimmune disease

Drinking baking soda could be an inexpensive, safe way to combat autoimmune disease

A daily dose of baking soda may help reduce the destructive inflammation of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, scientists say.

“It’s potentially a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease.”

They have some of the first evidence of how the cheap, over-the-counter antacid can encourage our spleen to promote instead an anti-inflammatory environment that could be therapeutic in the face of inflammatory disease, Medical College of Georgia scientists report in the Journal of Immunology.

They have shown that healthy people drink a solution of baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, it becomes a trigger for the stomach to make more acid to digest the next meal and for little-studied mesothelial cells sitting on the spleen to tell the fist-sized organ that there’s no need to mount a protective immune response.

“It’s most likely a hamburger not a bacterial infection,” is basically the message, says Dr. Paul O’Connor, renal physiologist in the MCG Department of Physiology at Augusta University and the study’s corresponding author.

Drinking baking soda, the MCG scientists think, tells the spleen — which is part of the immune system, acts like a big blood filter and is where some white blood cells, like macrophages, are stored — to go easy on the immune response. “Certainly drinking bicarbonate affects the spleen and we think it’s through the mesothelial cells,” O’Connor says.

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.

Clinical trials have shown that a daily dose of baking soda can not only reduce acidity but actually slow progression of kidney disease, and it’s now a therapy offered to patients.

“We started thinking, how does baking soda slow progression of kidney disease?” O’Connor says.

That’s when the anti-inflammatory impact began to unfold as they saw reduced numbers of M1s and increased M2s in their kidney disease model after consuming the common compound.

“The shift from inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory profile is happening everywhere,” O’Connor says. “We saw it in the kidneys, we saw it in the spleen, now we see it in the peripheral blood.”

“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.”

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Story Source: Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sarah C. Ray, Babak Baban, Matthew A. Tucker, Alec J. Seaton, Kyu Chul Chang, Elinor C. Mannon, Jingping Sun, Bansari Patel, Katie Wilson, Jacqueline B. Musall, Hiram Ocasio, Debra Irsik, Jessica A. Filosa, Jennifer C. Sullivan, Brendan Marshall, Ryan A. Harris, Paul M. O’Connor. Oral NaHCO3Activates a Splenic Anti-Inflammatory Pathway: Evidence That Cholinergic Signals Are Transmitted via Mesothelial Cells. The Journal of Immunology, 2018; ji1701605 DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.1701605

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