How Baking Soda Fights Inflammation

Baking soda can be used for many different types of at-home remedies, from whitening your teeth to calming an upset stomach, and some recent research shows that it may also be effective at reducing arthritis-related inflammation.

According to scientists, baking soda could help the painful symptoms associated with inflammatory diseases—like rheumatoid arthritis—by encouraging the body to calm its autoimmune response.

Baking soda

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Uses of Baking Soda

Baking soda (known as sodium bicarbonate) is a chemical compound that’s often found in cleaning agents, deodorizers, and some over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as Alka Seltzer. It typically comes in white powder form, though it can also be found in capsules and other solutions.

Because baking soda is inexpensive and easily accessible at your local grocery store, it's often a popular option for many people looking to supplement their medical treatment plans for a wide range of ailments.

Some of the health conditions that baking soda shows promise in treating include: 

  • Oral health issues, such as canker sores, by restoring acidic balance in the mouth
  • Digestive health issues, like heartburn and upset stomach, by cutting down on stomach acid
  • Kidney disease, by potentially improving kidney function and slowing the progression of disease
  • Chemotherapy treatments, increasing efficacy by creating an anti-inflammatory environment that may prevent tumor growth
  • Body odor, by acting as a deodorizer and eliminating the smell of sweat

Baking soda may also be helpful as an exercise aid, potentially enhancing athletic performance by improving stamina levels.

Anti-Inflammatory Action of Baking Soda

A 2018 study in the Journal of Immunology focused on a theory that baking soda may assist in creating an anti-inflammatory environment in the body. After testing this theory out on both animals and humans, scientists found that regularly drinking a mixture of baking soda and water over a period of time was helpful in reducing inflammation associated with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Specifically, the study found that after two weeks of drinking the baking soda and water tonic, the baking soda appeared to direct immune cells (known as macrophages) to work on reducing inflammation, instead of prompting it. In other words, baking soda helped boost the body's anti-inflammatory response, putting out a calming signal instead of an emergency attack signal.

Experts say this finding could be a potential game-changer for people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's joints and other healthy tissues.

How To Use It

In the study, scientists combined 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda with 20 ounces of water, and the mixture was sipped throughout the day. To recreate this at home, though, how much baking soda you should use may vary as each person's body is different.

Experts suggest starting by mixing 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of water, and drinking it a few times a week. Keep track of any improvements noticed to discuss with your doctor. Because the study only evaluated baking soda intake for two weeks, it's likely best to keep your baking soda consumption to a minimum—no longer than a month.

Always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement routine, or using baking soda for any type of health condition.

Side Effects

There are a few side effects to be aware of when consuming baking soda to reduce arthritis inflammation. Most commonly, short-term use of baking soda could lead to stomach issues, such as nausea, cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea.

To help reduce the chances of these side effects, you may want to following these recommended tips to safely and effectively try out the baking soda remedy:

  • Baking soda may not sit well on an empty stomach in the morning. Instead, you might try drinking the baking soda mixture during the day—perhaps before lunch or after dinner. 
  • If you’re uncertain how your body will tolerate the tonic, start with 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda and work your way up to 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, as used in the study.
  • Check with your doctor about your sodium levels before trying this mixture. Because baking soda is high in sodium, you’ll want to make sure your levels are balanced enough to begin.

Warnings and Interactions

Baking soda is considered to be generally safe when used correctly. But despite evidence showing baking soda may be an effective anti-inflammatory remedy in some people, experts caution that you shouldn't ingest it without consulting your doctor or another health care professional.

That's because there are a number of potentially serious adverse respiratory, cardiac, and neurological side effects that could come with consuming baking soda too often or in excessive amounts over a prolonged period of time.

This includes heart and kidney issues, electrolyte imbalances, and the risk of your blood potassium levels getting dangerously low (hypokalemia). If you notice feeling short of breath or your heart racing, you've likely consumed too much baking soda and should seek medical attention immediately.

Because baking soda lowers the levels of acid in your stomach, it's also possible that it can affect the rate at which your body absorbs other medications. It's a good idea to check with your doctor about when it's best for you to safely consume the baking soda mixture so that it doesn't interfere with any other medications you may be taking.

There are some potential complications of accidentally misusing baking soda as a home remedy. Take extra precaution by discussing with your doctor first, especially if you have cardiac issues (such as irregular heartbeat) or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

A Word From Verywell

Chances are, you've come across baking soda as a household cleaning product, deodorizer, or stain remover at some point in time. This type of limited exposure to baking soda isn't likely to pose serious health risks, if used safely and responsibly.

But ingesting baking soda for possible relief from certain health conditions is a different scenario, and you should know that any at-home remedies have a potential to cause side effects or complications.

If your doctor approves trying out a baking soda tonic to combat inflammation, it can be an inexpensive and accessible tool to add to your medicine chest. Just know that baking soda should not be considered a cure-all, and should not be used in place of any doctor-prescribed treatment.

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