This small box that you put in the fridge and freezer to keep smelly gases from spoiling your food may contain the key to reducing the destructive inflammation of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. New evidence from researchers at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) show how a cheap, over-the-counter antacid solution of sodium bicarbonate (commonly referred to as baking soda) can stimulate the spleen to promote an anti-inflammatory environment that could be therapeutic in the face of inflammatory conditions. The results of the new study were recently published in the Journal of Immunology in an article titled "Oral NaHCO 3 Activating a Splenic-inflammatory Inhibition Pathway: Demonstrating that cholinergic signals are transmitted via mesothelial Cells. "
Previous studies have shown that when rats or healthy people drink a sodium bicarbonate solution, it is a trigger for the stomach to produce more acid for the digestion of the next meal and for less-studied mesothelial cells located on the spleen sit down to tell the fist-sized organ that there is no need for a protective immune response.
The spleen response to pH shift is: "It is most likely a hamburger, not a bacterial infection," noted study leader Paul O'Connor, Ph.D., a renal physiologist in the Department of Physiology of MCG.
Mesothelial cells form body cavities, such as the digestive tract, and they also cover the exterior of organs to literally prevent them from rubbing together. About a decade ago, it was discovered that these cells also provide another level of protection ̵
The MCG researchers believe they drink baking soda says the spleen – which is part of the immune system where some white blood cells, such as macrophages, are stored – to facilitate the immune response. "Of course, drinking bicarbonate affects the spleen and we think it's through the mesothelial cells," Dr. O & # 39; Connor. Interestingly, the research team found that the population of macrophages soaked in sodium bicarbonate for two weeks was spiked in the spleen, kidneys, and blood especially by those who had inflammation, called M1, to those who reduced it, called M2. Macrophages, perhaps best known for their ability to consume garbage in the body, such as debris from injured or dead cells, are often the first reaction of the immune system to a call for help.
While studying hypertension and chronic kidney disease in mice, Dr O & # 39; Connor and his colleagues have been thinking about baking soda. "We started thinking about how does baking soda slow the progression of kidney disease?" Dr. O & Connor noted:
One of the many functions of the kidneys is to balance important compounds such as acid, potassium, and sodium. Kidney disease is a kidney disease, and one of the problems that can result from this is that the blood becomes too acidic. Significant consequences may be an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis
"It will ruin the whole system," Dr. O & # 39; Connor. Clinical studies have shown that a daily dose of sodium bicarbonate can not only reduce acidity, but slows the progression of kidney disease, and it is now a treatment for patients. After persistent experiments, the MCG team noticed the anti-inflammatory effect of baking soda and then began to hypothesize when researchers saw reduced numbers of M1s and increased M2s in their kidney disease model after consuming the compound. When the scientists looked at a rat model without actual kidney damage, they saw the same reaction.
"The shift from inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory profile has taken place everywhere," said Drs. O & # 39; Connor. "We saw it in the kidneys, we saw it in the spleen, now we see it in the peripheral blood."
The changing landscape, Dr. O & # 39; Connor, is likely due to an increased conversion of some proinflammatory factors cells to anti-inflammatory, coupled with the actual production of more anti-inflammatory macrophages. The scientists also saw a shift in other immune cell types, such as more regulatory T cells, which typically reduce the immune response and help the immune system not attack our own tissues. This anti-inflammatory shift was maintained for at least four hours in humans and three days in rats.
"We think that the cholinergic (acetylcholine) signals that we know of, this anti-inflammatory response does not innervate the spleen directly from the vagus nerve, but from the mesothelial cells that make these connections to the spleen," Dr. O & # 39; Connor.
Dr. O & C Connor hopes that one day drinking soda can produce comparable results for people with autoimmune diseases.
"You really do not turn it off or on, you just push it to the side by giving an anti-inflammatory stimulus," Dr. O & Connor locked up. "It may be a really safe way to treat inflammatory diseases."