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

Updated and links added 26/01/17.

In 15-20% of people with Sweet’s syndrome (SS), their condition can develop secondary to blood cancer and other forms of cancer, particularly a group of blood disorders called myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). There is more than one kind of MDS, and symptoms can vary, depending on what type you have. In some people, MDS can progress to a rare type of cancer called acute myeloid leukaemia.

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.

Fairly recently, sodium bicarbonate has been advocated as a treatment for SS and/or MDS by Melissa Mendez who is a transformational nutrition coach with a website called ‘The Pure Appeal’ in the United States. She has also publicly stated that she was diagnosed with SS and MDS in Oct. 2015.

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.

Melissa Mendez supports the work of a doctor called Tullio Simoncini. He was treating patients who have cancer with sodium bicarbonate. If he’s a doctor, doesn’t that mean it works?

No. Dr. Simoncini is a former Italian doctor and known fraudster, and his practice is very 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, the myth that MDS or other forms of cancer can be cured with sodium bicarbonate is still being spread, despite the fact that there has never been any medical evidence to support this claim. 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.


Is it true that an acidic diet can cause MDS or other forms of 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 (MM means make it more alkaline) to encourage healing, and it was clearly helping one of the rarest skin disorders (MM is implying that it helped to heal her SS), 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. 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 the pH of the body 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 Sweet’s syndrome or/and cancer, 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, sodium bicarbonate can interact with some medications, 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 some medications, 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.


Further information.

Alternative and nutritional therapies that don’t work, should be used with caution, or completely avoided in patients with Sweet’s syndrome.

American Cancer Society (2017) Myelodysplastic Syndromes (online).

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

MDS UK Patient Support Group.

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

The British Bone Marrow Registry (2017) How can I help? (online). This is a UK organization that manages the donation, storage and transplantation of blood, organs, tissues, bone marrow and stems cells, and researches new treatments and processes.

The National Marrow Donor Program (2017) Be the Match (online). This is a US organization that for the past 25 years has managed the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world.


Additional note.

Sweet’s Syndrome UK does not promote the use of alternative or nutritional therapies. This is because there is no 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 – Michelle Holder, Sweet’s Syndrome UK.

Keep safe!

© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK

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