You probably have a box of baking soda in your cabinet for baking or in the fridge to absorb odors. But could this pantry staple be an alternative therapy for lung cancer?
While there is some early research on baking soda as a treatment for cancer tumors, there have been no clinical studies to date on baking soda and lung cancer. At this time, there is no evidence that baking soda can slow or stop lung cancer. However, some early studies may highlight a path to future treatments.
In this article, we’ll discuss the research on baking soda and its potential connection to cancer, along with tips on using it safely.
Many scientific studies indicate that consuming baking soda, which is also called sodium bicarbonate, might help in the fight against tumors.
Although some research suggests baking soda can destroy cancer, this finding comes with some important caveats. First, most of these studies used animal models — mice that carry specific types of metastatic cancer (cancer that spreads). Second, none of these experiments have been performed on lung cancer tumors.
Instead, baking soda has been tested on tumors that come from breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma (skin cancer), colorectal cancer, and pancreatic cancer. There is no clear scientific evidence that directly involves people with lung cancer or lung cancer tumors.
There was one clinical trial performed in humans with liver cancer where sodium bicarbonate was used to supplement other chemotherapies that were injected into an artery. The study found that adding sodium bicarbonate significantly reduced tumor size.
These human outcomes are impressive, especially because the clinical trial was a randomized controlled trial. A randomized controlled trial is when people are randomly assigned to different groups to test the effects of a treatment. It’s the gold-standard study design commonly used to compare different treatments. However, the number of people who participated in the study was still small, and researchers couldn’t make any firm conclusions about how sodium bicarbonate affected the overall survival rate.
Even if baking soda is effective, more research is needed to determine when, how, and at what dosage it should be used. Nonetheless, this human data — which includes a set of people who used baking soda with conventional cancer therapy and another individual who used baking soda alone as a cancer therapy — leads us to an important question: Could baking soda be a cancer therapy or would it only be helpful as a supplement to other cancer treatments?
Research in animal models suggests that baking soda may help treat tumors. However, using this ingredient on its own isn’t as effective. Some evidence shows that it can help treat less aggressive cancers. However, when baking soda is used on more aggressive tumors, the cancer keeps growing.
This early research shows baking soda works best when it’s used with other, more scientifically proven cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy (treatments that use your immune system to destroy tumors). These results suggest that baking soda might be best thought of as a supplement or booster — something taken alongside another therapy to increase its benefits.
Note that baking soda won’t make all medications work better. Using baking soda can make some chemotherapy drugs, like chlorambucil, less effective. Because baking soda’s impact on medications can vary, make sure to check with your doctor before adding it to your treatment plan.
So, how does baking soda give certain cancer therapies a boost? Researchers have published a study suggesting how baking soda can help destroy tumors.
This work suggests that baking soda changes the surrounding environment, making it easier for cancer medications to work on solid tumors. In this case, “environment” refers to the surroundings or conditions in which baking soda is used. Cells, including cancer cells, rely on the pH, or acidity level, of the surrounding environment to determine when they should grow.
When the environment around the cells is especially acidic, your cells begin to slow down — they stop growing and their metabolism slows. For cancer cells, this slowdown can be helpful by allowing the tumor to protect itself. The cancer cells are then less likely to be destroyed by different cancer treatments, like chemotherapy. Immunotherapies are also less effective because your immune cells — such as T cells — don’t work as well in acidic conditions.
However, baking soda contains bicarbonate, which causes environments to become less acidic. In response to baking soda, an acidic environment suddenly becomes less acidic, which causes the cells to reactivate. As a result, cancer cells respond to other chemotherapies and immunotherapies.
Despite its potential benefits, baking soda isn’t a magic bullet that solves all ailments. Some athletes believe in “soda loading,” or ingesting baking soda to improve their athletic performance.
However, scientific evidence indicates that this practice may not have a benefit and, in fact, ingesting too much raw baking soda (baking soda that isn’t cooked) can be very dangerous. High doses of raw baking soda lead to several unpleasant side effects, including:
These adverse reactions occur because the human body needs to compensate for too much sodium and too much bicarbonate, which — as described above — changes your acidity level. The body regulates its pH levels to keep a tightly balanced acid-base equilibrium, as even a minor change can lead to serious health problems.
Rather than trying to treat yourself, always check with your doctor about your best treatment options and the safety of taking baking soda as part of your lung cancer therapy regimen, or any treatment. There’s still a lot of uncertainty about baking soda. For example, the appropriate amount of baking soda to take is unclear, and more published results from clinical trials are likely necessary before a consensus will be reached.
Additionally, to avoid adverse reactions, health care professionals recommend that urine and blood samples should be measured for pH while using sodium bicarbonate. Finally, the efficacy of baking soda could change depending on how it enters your body. Although drinking water with baking soda is convenient, the sodium bicarbonate may need to be near your tumor site to have an effect. As a result, a physician-prescribed injection — similar to how the initial clinical trial delivered baking soda — might be more effective.
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Have you ever used baking soda as another cancer therapy? What other homemade remedies have you used to manage your lung cancer symptoms? Share your story and tips in the comments below or by posting on your Activities page.