How Baking Soda Fights Inflammation

Baking soda is used for a lot of at-home remedies. These range from whitening your teeth to calming an upset stomach.

Some research shows baking soda may also decrease arthritis-related inflammation. And it may help reduce autoimmune activity. So it could be useful against diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and lupus.

This article walks you through some uses of baking soda, the research on its anti-inflammatory benefits, how to use it, and what potential problems you should be aware of.

Baking soda

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Uses of Baking Soda

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a chemical compound often found in:

  • Cleaning agents
  • Deodorizers
  • Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications like Alka Seltzer

It typically comes in white powder form. But you can also find it in capsules and various solutions.

Baking soda is inexpensive and available at grocery stores. That makes it popular as an add-on treatment for a wide range of ailments.

Health conditions it shows promise for include: 

  • Oral health issues like canker sores. It restores the mouth's proper acid balance.
  • Digestive health issues like heartburn and upset stomach. It cuts down on stomach acid.
  • Kidney disease, by possibly improving kidney function. That may slow disease progression.
  • Increasing effectiveness of chemotherapy treatments. It may do this by lowering inflammation. That may interfere with tumor growth.
  • Body odor, by eliminating the smell of sweat.

Baking soda may also improve stamina levels in athletes.

Anti-Inflammatory Action of Baking Soda

Inflammation is part of many diseases. It causes pain and myriad other symptoms.

A 2018 study suggests baking soda helps create an anti-inflammatory environment. The study involved animals and humans drinking baking soda mixed with water.

One study suggested that regular use could help reduce inflammation from conditions like RA. The baking soda appeared to affect immune cells called macrophages.

Macrophages are involved in the inflammatory process. When they detect a threat (like a virus), macrophages send out signals that cause inflammation.

Researchers say baking soda made macrophages change these signals. Instead of an attack signal, they sent out a calming message. That lowered inflammation.

Experts say this could be a game-changer for people with autoimmune diseases.

What Is Autoimmunity?

Autoimmunity is friendly fire from the immune system. Your system mistakes a healthy cell or tissue in your body for something dangerous. It then attacks that cell or tissue as it would a virus or bacterium. This leads to inflammation and tissue damage. More than 80 autoimmune diseases have been identified.

How To Use It

In the inflammation study, scientists started with a small amount of baking soda. They then gradually increased it. Participants sipped it throughout the day.

The starting amount was 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda mixed in 20 ounces of water. This was taken a few times a week. This amount was increased to 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda with 20 ounces of water.

Talk to your healthcare provider before trying baking soda medicinally. Keep track of any changes you notice, either good or bad.

The study only evaluated baking soda intake for two weeks. Long-term effects are unknown. Ask your provider how long to use it.

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

Side Effects

Baking soda can have some side effects. Some are fairly mild while others may be severe. It may also interact badly with some medications.

Typical side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

A few simple things can help you reduce or avoid these effects.

  • Baking soda may not sit well on an empty stomach. Try drinking it later in the day. 
  • Start with a small amount, like 1/8 teaspoon. Then work your way up to 1/4 teaspoon.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about your sodium levels. Baking soda is high in sodium. So make sure your levels aren't too high before starting.

Serious Side Effects

Baking soda is considered safe when used correctly. Still, talk to your healthcare provider before using it. They may know of potential problems you don't.

Don't ingest high amounts of baking soda or use it for a long time. That can cause many types of serious side effects, including:

  • Respiratory (breathing related)
  • Cardiac (heart-related)
  • Neurological (brain and nerve-related)
  • Kidney-related
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Dangerously low blood potassium levels (hypokalemia)

Drug Interactions

Baking soda may affect how your body absorbs medications. That applies to:

  • Prescription drugs
  • Over-the-counter products
  • Supplements

Ask your healthcare provider and pharmacist if baking soda may cause problems with anything you're taking.

When It's an Emergency

If you're short of breath or your heart is racing, it could be from too much baking soda. Get immediate medical attention.

Summary

Baking soda may lower acidity in your mouth and stomach, fight body odor, improve kidney function, and alter autoimmune activity.

If you want to try it, start slowly with low doses. Then gradually work up to 1/4 teaspoon a day, in 20 ounces of water.

Watch for side effects. Serious side effects are often tied to overuse. Check with your healthcare provider on whether it's safe for you or could interfere with any of your medications.

A Word From Verywell

You probably eat baking soda in foods pretty regularly. That's unlikely to lead to problems.

But when using it medicinally, watch for side effects. No matter how "safe" or "common" something seems, it can still be dangerous in some situations.

Also, baking soda is best used in addition to other treatments. Don't use it in place of medications your healthcare provider prescribes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are there any complications associated with drinking water and baking soda?

    Yes, drinking too much baking soda can be dangerous. Get immediate medical help for:

    • Constipation
    • Convulsions
    • Diarrhea
    • Irritability
    • Muscle spasms
    • Muscle weakness
    • Vomiting
  • Can baking soda help with skin conditions?

    Yes, some evidence supports using baking soda for certain skin conditions. It may help with some fungal and bacterial infections. This includes yeast infections and fungal infections of the skin and nails.

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8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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