A new study, conducted by Dr. Paul O’Connor, renal physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia, Department of Physiology at Augusta University, discovered that drinking baking soda may help reduce inflammation in autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis).

The evidence in the study pointed to the fact that baking soda may stimulate the spleen to promote an environment in the body that would help combat inflammatory disease, according to the study authors’ report.

The spleen is an integral organ involved in the immune response, and functions like a huge filter where white blood cells are stored.

In lab studies, when rats (or people) were giving baking soda (also called sodium bicarbonate) to drink, the result was:

• The stomach was triggered to make more acid to digest the next meal.
• Mesothelial cells sent a message to the stomach that there is no need to begin the immune response.

“It’s most likely a hamburger not a bacterial infection, is basically the message,” said Dr. Paul O’Connor.

What are Mesothelial Cells?

The mesothelial cells function to provide a slippery, non-stick layer of protection; these cells have little finger like projections called “microvilli” that are highly aware of invaders—sounding the alarm when the immune response is required.

The Study

The researchers in the study discovered that when a person drinks baking soda, the spleen sends the message, not to open the flood gates on the immune response. “Certainly, drinking bicarbonate affects the spleen and we think it’s through the mesothelial cells,” O’Connor says.

After drinking baking soda dissolved in water for 2 weeks, scientist found that the macrophages–a type of immune cell that engulfs debris such as dead cells—shifted from those that promote inflammation (called M1), to those that reduce inflammation (called M2). Macrophages are among the first cells to become activated once the immune response begins.

When O’Connor was doing research on chronic kidney disease and hypertension (high blood pressure) he started thinking about the action of baking soda. Clinical trials have shown that a daily dose of baking soda can not only reduce acidity but slow progression of the 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. Once they realized that the number of M1 and M2 cells decreased, as a response to drinking baking soda, a light bulb went off in the scientists’ heads.

The researchers asked healthy medical students to drink baking soda in water, and they observed a similar immune response as they did in the rat studies. “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.”

O’Connor plans to perform studies in the future to observe the results of baking soda, in people with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis; he hopes these studies will show similar results in the immune response. “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.”

It’s important to note that no one should ever start taking daily doses of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) without first consulting their physician. Taking too much baking soda could adversely affect a person’s health and may be contraindicated in some instances.