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. — ScienceDaily – April 2018
A daily dose of baking soda may help reduce the destructive inflammation of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, scientists say.
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 when rats or 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.
Mesothelial cells line body cavities, like the one that contains our digestive tract, and they also cover the exterior of our organs to quite literally keep them from rubbing together.
They have little fingers, called microvilli, that sense the environment, and warn the organs they cover that there is an invader and an immune response is needed.
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.
The conversation, which occurs with the help of the chemical messenger acetylcholine, appears to promote a landscape that shifts against inflammation, they report.
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
One of the many functions of the kidneys is balancing important compounds like acid, potassium and sodium.
With kidney disease, there is impaired kidney function and one of the resulting problems can be that the blood becomes too acidic, O’Connor says. Significant consequences can include increased risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
Clinical trials have shown that a daily dose of baking soda can not only reduce acidity but actually slow progression of the kidney disease, and it’s now a therapy offered to patients.
When they looked at a rat model without actual kidney damage, they saw the same response. So the basic scientists worked with the investigators at MCG’s Georgia Prevention Institute to bring in healthy medical students who drank baking soda in a bottle of water and also had a similar response.
“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.”
The shifting landscape, he says, is likely due to increased conversion of some of the proinflammatory cells to anti-inflammatory ones coupled with actual production of more anti-inflammatory macrophages.
The scientists also saw a shift in other immune cell types, like more regulatory T cells, which generally drive down the immune response and help keep the immune system from attacking our own tissues.
That anti-inflammatory shift was sustained for at least four hours in humans and three days in rats.
Part of the new information about mesothelial cells is that they are neuron-like, but not neurons O’Connor is quick to clarify.
When they removed or even just moved the spleen, it broke the fragile mesothelial connections and the anti-inflammatory response was lost, O’Connor says. In fact, when they only slightly moved the spleen as might occur in surgery, the previously smooth covering of mesothelial cells became lumpier and changed colors.
This unpredictable, yet drastic, result of merely moving organs around during unrelated surgeries could explain the sometimes surprisingly troublesome aftereffects of surgery.
In my own case, just days after I had laparoscopic abdominal surgery to have my tubes tied, I started having symptoms of menopause. In my case, it resulted in mysterious and intense anxiety, which I’d never felt before in my life (unlike the depression that I’ve struggled with since I was 15).
Doctor after doctor and even a highly regarded gynecological specialist kept insisting it could not be related to my surgery, which did not include anything but the fallopian tubes. I thought I was losing my mind.
Then I saw a PCP for my ongoing pain and also mentioned my anxiety. This doctor finally told me that my surgery may have “shocked” my ovaries, causing them to stop producing estrogen, so she prescribed me tiny amounts of estrogen.
24 hours after the first pill, my anxiety lifted. Over the years, I’ve tried to stop taking estrogen but then the anxiety reemerges with a vengeance, so there’s no doubt that my doctor was right: the laparoscopic surgery had drastically affected my ovaries just because they were nearby.
The arrogance of assuming that my ovaries “could not possibly have been affected” because “that wasn’t the site of the surgery” is sadly typical in the medical field, which has become far too specialized.
Our bodies, on the other hand, are generalists and capably handle an incredibly wide variety of environmental insults. But these don’t include surgical procedures. I’m not surprised that even just “handling” internal organs (even to push them aside) during a surgery elsewhere, causes a dramatic response by the body.
“We think this helps explain the cholinergic (acetylcholine) anti-inflammatory response that people have been studying for a long time,” O’Connor says.
Studies are currently underway at other institutions that, much like vagal nerve stimulation for seizures, electrically stimulate the vagal nerve to tamp down the immune response in people with rheumatoid arthritis.While there is no known direct connection between the vagal nerve and the spleen — and O’Connor and his team looked again for one — the treatment also attenuates inflammation and disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis,
After my experience, I would say it’s impossible to assume that there’s no connection between these two internal body parts that lie so closely together in the body cavity.
O’Connor hopes drinking baking soda can one day produce similar results for people with autoimmune disease.
“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.”
This is especially true because we don’t have good medicines for chronic inflammation and must resort to steroids with all their nasty side effects.
The spleen also got bigger with consuming baking soda, the scientists think because of the anti-inflammatory stimulus it produces.
Other cells besides neurons are known to use the chemical communicator acetylcholine.
Baking soda also interact with acidic ingredients like buttermilk and cocoa in cakes and other baked goods to help the batter expand and, along with heat from the oven, to rise.
It can also help raise the pH in pools, is found in antacids and can help clean your teeth and tub.
Well, this is the first time I’ve heard of a medical treatment that’s also good for cleaning “your teeth and tub” (what an odd choice of words!)
See also this article from Medical News Today: Baking soda: A safe, easy treatment for arthritis?