Years ago, before there were so many new drugs with names difficult or even impossible to pronounce, baking soda also known as soda bicarb or sodium bicarbonate was a favorite remedy of the family doctor. It was dispensed as a powder carefully measured out and folded within an individual crisp paper sheet looking very much like chewing gum comes these days. Folding those papers kept the pharmacists of one 100 ago busy indeed. Today, the same medicine comes in tablet form and only recently is its use rapidly increasing, especially for patients with poor kidney function.
Research appearing in the prestigious Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, as well as reviews and findings of many excellent medical centers around the world such as the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, the Beth Israel Hospital of Boston, the William Harvey Research Institute, London and the Royal London Hospital, U.K. strongly suggests that sodium bicarbonate may actually slow the progression of chronic kidney disease.
People with poor kidney function tend to get worse with the passage of time and this worsening constantly accelerates until end stage renal disease leaves little option other than dialysis and eventual kidney transplant.
During this period of progressive kidney failure, the amount of bicarbonate in the blood, as determined by a simple blood test tends to diminish, resulting in a condition known as “Metabolic Acidosis.”
Supplementation with an appropriate amount of sodium bicarbonate will not cure the kidney disease but it does slow the rate of kidney function deterioration to about one third of what it would be without the bicarbonate and it markedly diminishes the likelihood of progression to end stage renal disease.
One of the concerns the researchers had was an increase in the blood sodium level and its potential effect of increasing blood pressure. Neither of these concerns materialized in the studies done. There were no problems associated with elevation of the blood pressure and an actual improvement in general nutrition and quality of life was noted.
In the general population, there is a normal expected age-related decline in kidney function. In the population of people who have kidney disease treated with bicarbonate, the rate of decline of kidney function was similar to the normal age-related decline in the absence of kidney disease.
Bicarbonate supplementation apparently preserves kidney function in patients with chronic kidney disease, delays progression of the condition and also preserves skeletal muscle loss in many cases. Antihypertensive medication and diabetic control are also very important methods of preserving kidney function and they can both be used with sodium bicarbonate.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually on new drug research and yet it’s the simple and inexpensive sodium bicarbonate that is so effective in preventing the rapid ravages of failing renal function and delaying the onset of end stage kidney disease.
Have a question? Call Dr. Okun at 718-241-6767