Baking soda is not a treatment for Sweet’s syndrome or myelodysplastic syndromes

Updated 26/01/17.

In 15-20% of patients with Sweet’s syndrome (SS), their condition develops secondary to some form of blood disorder or cancer, particularly a group of blood disorders called myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Depending on what type of MDS you have, MDS may cause problems such as anaemia (a low number of red blood cells) or more severe problems such as leukaemia (a type of blood cancer).

Is baking soda a treatment for Sweet’s syndrome or myelodysplastic syndromes?

No. Baking soda, otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, is not a treatment for SS or MDS.

Recently, sodium bicarbonate has been advocated as a treatment for SS and/or MDS, including by Melissa Mendez who is a transformational nutrition coach with a website called The Pure Appeal (United States). She also has SS and MDS, but has no background in health care or science.

This idea that sodium bicarbonate is an effective treatment for SS and/or MDS is a potentially dangerous claim that is not supported by medical research, and if you have SS or/and MDS, you will need proper medical treatment. In some cases, if you do not receive proper medical treatment, this could result in you becoming seriously ill or even losing your life.

A doctor by the name of Tullio Simoncini is treating patients who have MDS and cancer with sodium bicarbonate. If he’s a doctor, doesn’t that mean it works?

No. Dr. Simoncini, who Melissa Mendez is a supporter of, is a former Italian doctor and known fraudster, and his practice is incredibly dangerous. In 2003, he was struck off the medical register for treating cancer patients with sodium bicarbonate instead of chemotherapy. In 2006, he was found guilty of fraud and manslaughter after a patient died as a result of using his treatments.

Unfortunately, Dr. Simoncini is continuing to tell people that MDS and cancer can be cured with sodium bicarbonate, despite the fact that there is no and has never been any medical research to support his claims. This pseudoscientific claim (false or made-up claim that appears to be scientifically based, but is not) is based on the idea that cancer is caused by Candida (fungus) or Candida albicans which causes the common fungal infection ‘thrush’, and that the body develops cancer in an attempt to protect itself from fungal infection. Sodium bicarbonate supposedly gets rid of the Candida and therefore cures the cancer. This is completely untrue. Cancer is not caused by Candida, and sodium bicarbonate isn’t even a treatment for fungal infections, let alone cancer.

Please treat anyone who advocates, promotes, sells or prescribes sodium bicarbonate as a treatment for MDS and leukaemia and other forms of cancer, with extreme caution. Also, remember that it is not a treatment for SS!

Is it true that an acidic diet can cause cancer, or that an alkaline diet can cure cancer or Sweet’s syndrome? Do I need to take baking soda to make my diet or body more alkaline?

On The Pure Appeal website (22/03/16), Melissa Mendez states that:

‘If baking soda can alter the ph of the body (make it more alkaline) to encourage healing, and it was clearly helping one of the rarest skin disorders (implying that it healed her Sweet’s syndrome), what does this mean for MDS?

Baking soda is almost like the magic bullet to jumpstart your body into full on healing mode. Cancers can not grow in an alkaline state. Even malignant tumors are incredibly acidic, so it only makes sense to go to the opposite end of the spectrum, if you want your body to heal.’

The information that Melissa Mendez has posted is inaccurate and makes no biological sense whatsoever. There is no evidence that an acidic diet can cause cancer or SS, or that an alkaline diet can cure cancer or SS or promote healing. The overall pH or potential hydrogen (pH tells us how acidic or alkaline a liquid is) of the body cannot be altered simply by changing your diet or adding things to it, i.e. make it more or less alkaline or acidic by consuming certain foods, substances or drinks. To begin with, your blood is slightly alkaline anyway, and this is tightly regulated by the kidneys which keep the pH within a normal and narrow range. The pH can’t be changed for any significant amount of time by what you consume, and any extra acid or alkali is simply peed out in urine. It is true that cancer cells are unable to live in a very alkaline environment, but neither can any other cells in the body. Therefore, if an alkaline diet did really have the ability to change the pH of your body, then it would probably kill you.

Even though you say that sodium bicarbonate isn’t a treatment for SS or/and MDS, if I want to try it, is it safe to use?

Sodium bicarbonate can be safe to use, and is commonly given as an antacid, i.e. to reduce stomach acid, but is sometimes used to treat other health conditions too. However, it is not always safe to use, particularly when taken in larger doses. This may be because of side-effects, certain health conditions or medications, pregnancy or breastfeeding. If given in high doses, the consequences may be serious or even fatal.

How is sodium bicarbonate given?

Sodium bicarbonate can be given orally (via the mouth), as an intravenous injection (injection into a vein), or as an intravenous infusion (into a vein via a drip). The way in which it is given depends on what kind of condition the sodium bicarbonate is being used to treat.

What are the side-effects of sodium bicarbonate?

Side-effects can depend upon how the sodium bicarbonate is given but may include:

  • Nausea.
  • Bloating.
  • Flatulence.

Less commonly:

  • Swelling of the hands, ankles and feet.
  • Sudden weight gain.

Rarely:

  • Dizziness.
  • Muscle aches and spasms.
  • Mental or mood changes, e.g. confusion, irritability or memory problems.
  • Vomiting.
  • General weakness.
  • Passing significantly more or less urine.
  • Chest pain.
  • Seizures.
  • When taken with lots of calcium (in the diet, medications or supplements), may cause milk-alkali syndrome.

In which health conditions should sodium bicarbonate be avoided or used with caution?

NOT TO BE USED in those with the following health conditions:

  • Certain breathing problems, e.g. pulmonary oedema.
  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Severe kidney disease.
  • Severe liver disease.
  • High sodium levels.
  • Swollen ankles, legs or feet due to retaining water (peripheral oedema).

To be used with CAUTION in those with:

  • Low calcium levels.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart problems.
  • Kidney disease.

Also, to be used with caution or avoided in those who are on a low-salt diet, pregnant or breastfeeding.

Which medications can be affected by sodium bicarbonate?

When taken orally in particular, sodium bicarbonate can interact with and should NOT BE USED if you are taking the following medications:

  • Aspirin and other salicylates, e.g. salsalate.
  • Barbiturates, e.g. phenobarbital.
  • Calcium supplements.
  • Corticosteroids (steroids), e.g prednisone.
  • Memantine.
  • Medications with a special coating to protect the stomach (enteric coating).
  • Lithium.
  • Quinidine.
  • Water pills (thiazide diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide).

Reduces the effectiveness of and to be used with CAUTION when taking the following medications:

  • Certain drugs that require stomach acid to work, including ampicillin.
  • Atazanavir.
  • Certain azole antifungals (such as ketoconazole, itraconazole).
  • Iron supplements.
  • Pazopanib.
  • Sucralfate.

Sodium bicarbonate may also interact or reduce the effectiveness of some other medications, or should not be used in patients with health conditions that have not been listed above. Please speak to your doctor before use.

Additional note.

Sweet’s Syndrome UK does not promote the use of alternative or nutritional therapies. This is because there is no medical evidence to show that these therapies are effective, or sometimes even safe to use in those with Sweet’s syndrome. If anyone does have information that proves that alternative or nutritional therapies can be used to treat Sweet’s syndrome, I will be more than happy to read it. However, only peer-reviewed medical articles and case-studies will be accepted as evidence. The following will not be accepted as evidence: anecdotal evidence or personal stories; testimonials; YouTube videos; information on blogs or websites where there are no references or links to peer-reviewed medical articles or case-studies, or where the author is not willing to provide this information; blogs or websites where someone tries to pass off their feelings or instincts, beliefs or opinions as facts or evidence.

Thank you.

Michelle Holder.

Other information.

A warning about Polly Heil-Mealey! Sweet’s syndrome cannot be cured with herbs or homeopathic remedies.

Childs, O. (2014) Don’t Believe the Hype – 10 Persistent Cancer Myths Debunked. Cancer Research UK (online).

Chlorella is not a treatment for Sweet’s syndrome.

MDS UK Patient Support Group.

Smith, E. (2015) Alternative therapies: what’s the harm? Cancer Research UK (online). 

© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK

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