Baking soda is often touted for its many uses, ranging from household cleaning to dental care and more.
Now, treating rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may be added to its ever-growing list of purposes.
For your overall health, it’s important to maintain a proper pH balance in your body. An environment that’s too alkaline or too acidic can result in a wide array of health problems and negative physical symptoms.
Experts say baking soda can help alkalize a highly acidic environment in your body. Many holistic and naturopathic doctors, as well as nutritionists, health coaches, and dietitians tout the idea that an alkaline body environment is better than an acidic one.
While that’s true in general, it’s still important to note that being too acidic or too alkaline can result in medical concerns.
In April 2018, the Journal of Immunology medical journal published a study that concluded that drinking water mixed with baking soda could possibly reduce the chances of getting inflammatory conditions
Paul O’Connor, PhD, an associate professor and director of the physiology graduate program at Augusta University in Georgia, was the lead author on the study.
Dr. Connor introduced baking soda to two cases of test subjects. These tests subjects included both healthy humans and rats. Dr. Connor also introduced six human controls.
After two weeks of drinking the baking soda and water mixture, scientists found that their immune cells (macrophages) appeared to change jobs.
Researchers said that the macrophages began to focus on reducing inflammation instead of promoting it.
Essentially, the baking soda acted as a way to naturally stimulate or “turn on” the macrophages’ anti-inflammatory response. Chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis could benefit from these anti-inflammatory properties.
How baking soda works
Baking soda — also known as sodium bicarbonate — appears to tell the body to calm down its autoimmune response. Instead, it helps to strengthen the anti-inflammatory response.
So, cells from the spleen and stomach can tell a faulty immune system that there’s likely no need to turn itself on, only to attack. The baking soda seemed to alert macrophages and mesothelial cells that the body wasn’t under actual attack.
Researchers noted a shift in healthy human subjects from autoimmune and inflammatory actions to anti-inflammatory ones in the stomach, spleen, kidney, and peripheral blood.
The shifting landscape is likely due to an increased conversion of proinflammatory cells to anti-inflammatory, plus the production of more anti-inflammatory macrophages and a shift in regulatory T cells.
This combination of processes drives down the immune response and could potentially help to keep the immune system from attacking its own tissues, which occurs in autoimmune diseases.
How to use baking soda
How much baking soda you should use likely varies from person to person.
In her blog, Julie Hand, a certified holistic health and nutrition counselor, recommends starting with one-eighth of a teaspoon in a regular size glass of water and then build up to a fourth of a teaspoon.
She warns that if you feel short of breath or your heart starts racing, then you've overdone it.
People who are in danger of alkalosis wouldn’t benefit from ingesting sodium bicarbonate or further alkalizing their body’s pH levels.
This potentially could be an inexpensive, safe, accessible, and effective way to treat conditions such as RA and other autoimmune diseases. You should always talk to your doctor before starting a regimen like this.
“It’s potentially a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease,” O’Connor said in a statement.
That’s not all it has been shown to do, either.
Michelle Neilly, an integrative nutrition health coach in Pennsylvania, told Healthline that “while there is no fix-all miracle cure out there, there is a reason that home remedies like apple cider vinegar and baking soda have been around for ages.
“This could really help RA patients with inflammation.”
Editor’s note: This piece was originally reported on May 5, 2018. Its current publication date reflects an update, which includes a medical review by Nancy Carteron, MD, FACR.