Wonderful World of Bicarbonate and CO2

Description: Diagram of the CO2/bicarbonate physiological buffering system, showing equilibria, Ka values, and comments

My book Sodium Bicarbonate is not only about sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), but also about magnesium bicarbonate and to a lesser degree potassium bicarbonate and calcium bicarbonate. However, the star of the show in this book is bicarbonate. The second star of the show is carbon dioxide (CO2). Most of the conjugate acid of bicarbonate is in the form of dissolved carbon dioxide. The rapid and direct inter-conversion of dissolved CO2 and bicarbonate ion is catalyzed by the enzyme carbonic anhydrase.

Carbon dioxide is a neutral, nonpolar molecule, and can readily diffuse across membranes. Bicarbonate is a charged species of CO2, and does not cross membranes at a significant rate unless facilitated by trans-membrane channels like the magnesium calcium channel.

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) immediately reacts when it mixes with stomach acid. NaHCO(3) + HCl —> NaCl + H(2)0 + CO(2). That is: Sodium bicarbonate + stomach acid yields salt + water + carbon dioxide.

When we talk about bicarbonate we are talking about CO2, because that is what sodium bicarbonate turns to when it reaches the stomach causing an increase in stomach acid production as well as an increase in bicarbonates in the blood. The bicarbonate ion is HCO3-. Bicarbonate  is an important buffer found in blood. Carbon dioxide is present in the blood in a number of forms such as bicarbonate, dissolved carbon dioxide and carbonic acid, of which 90% is bicarbonate or HCO3.

Description: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/90/Bicarbonate-resonance.png

CO2, in the form of bicarbonate, is directly involved in “light reactions.” This “bicarbonate effect” influences molecular processes. The role of carbon dioxide (CO2) or bicarbonate in the photosynthesis was clear to researchers from the very beginning of the history of photosynthesis. Bicarbonate in plants probably links cell metabolism to photosynthetic electron flow.

Joseph Priestley observed in 1775 that “a green matter” deposited on the walls of water containers, formed bubbles of pure “dephlogisticated air” (oxygen).[1] While Ingen-Housz ( in 1779, 1796) discovered the importance of light in this process, it was Senebier in 1782 who demonstrated that the production  of oxygen by plants depends on the presence of CO2.[2] Carbon dioxide is, in fact, a more fundamental component of living matter than is oxygen.

Dr Alina Vasiljeva and Dr David Nias wrote, “At the end of the 19th century, scientists Bohr and Verigo discovered what seemed a strange law: a decreased level of carbon dioxide in the blood leads to decreased oxygen supply to the cells in the body including the brain, heart, kidneys etc. Carbon dioxide (CO2) was found to be responsible for the bond between oxygen and haemoglobin. If the level of carbon dioxide in the blood is lower than normal, then this leads to difficulties in releasing oxygen from haemoglobin. Hence the Verigo-Bohr law.”

Also in the 19th century, Zuntz, in Berlin, recognized that carbon dioxide, unlike oxygen, is not carried by hemoglobin. He showed that, in the blood, carbon dioxide is combined with bases, chiefly as sodium bicarbonate which plays a part in acid-alkaline balance. All the carbon dioxide is dissolved in the plasma, both in simple solution and that combined with alkali into the bicarbonates.

Oxygen and carbon dioxide are not antagonistic. A gain of one gas in the blood does not necessarily involve a corresponding loss of the other. The blood may be high or low in both gases. Under clinical conditions, low oxygen and low carbon dioxide generally occur together. Therapeutic increase of carbon dioxide, by inhalation of this gas diluted in air, is often an effective means of improving the oxygenation of the blood and tissues. Under clinical conditions, low oxygen and low carbon dioxide generally occur together. Therapeutic increase of carbon dioxide, by inhalation of this gas diluted in air, is often an effective means of improving the oxygenation of the blood and tissues“.[3]

The story of bicarbonate and CO2 is a fascinating one full of surprises. My mentor Dr. Christopher Hills (spirulina man) used to tell us students that heaven was exactly upside down to life on earth so if you want to get there do everything opposite to everyone else. When it comes to bicarbonate and CO2 and Oxygen it’s the same story. What we think about CO2 and thus bicarbonate is wrong. Bicarbonate helps our good cells stay alive and kicks the bad, spent or cancerous cells to their grave.
If you talk to Al Gore he will lead you to believe that CO2 is the enemy of mankind. CO2 is actually a planet-saving nutrient that could multiply food production rates and feed the world more nutritious, healthy plants.

CO2 is a vital nutrient for food crops which is the same as saying bicarbonate is vital for food crops. Greenhouse operators know something that the government does not want you to know: and that is that they actually buy carbon dioxide and inject it into their greenhouses in order to maximize plant growth.

If we are under the illusion that bicarbonate and CO2 are poisonous, then we will not be able to see or understand that bicarbonate has the power to restore electron flow and O2 evolution. There is a lot of power in the bicarbonate ion including oxygen generation power. Thus we should not be surprised to learn that bicarbonate increases tumor pH and inhibits spontaneous metastases.

People who live at very high altitudes live significantly longer;
they have a lower incidence of cancer[4]
and heart disease,[5] and other
degenerative conditions, than people who live near sea level.

At high altitude CO2 is in greater presence and O2 is in less. A Russian doctor named Konstantin Buteyko is most responsible for drawing attention to the importance of carbon dioxide for body metabolism and how the lack of it can cause chronic diseases; this constitutes a major breakthrough in medical science. A molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2) consists of one carbon and two oxygen atoms. Colorless and odorless, it is hard to detect. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been in flux throughout the Earth’s history.

The greatest deceivers that ever walked the earth are now declaring CO2 to be a poison when it is in fact a medicine. Dr. Ray Peat says, “Carbon dioxide is being used increasingly to prevent inflammation and edema. For example, it can be used to prevent adhesions during abdominal surgery, and to protect the lungs during mechanical ventilation. It inhibits the formation of inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins[6] and reduces the leakiness of the intestine.[7] Some experiments show that as it decreases the production of some inflammatory materials by macrophages,[8] including lactate, it causes macrophages to activate phagocytic neutrophils, and to increase their number and activity.”[9]

Dr. M. Persson and Dr. Van der Linden have demonstrated that carbon dioxide gas protects against tissue damage in the operative field by maintaining humidity and temperature in the open-heart surgery-related model environment.[10] These scientists are saying that carbon dioxide insufflation into the abdominal cavity results in the reduction of oxidative stress.

In 2009 The Environmental Protection Agency formally declared carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases to be pollutants that threaten public health and welfare, setting in motion a process that will regulate the gases blamed for global warming. The E.P.A. said the science supporting its so-called endangerment finding was “compelling and overwhelming.”

Dr. Gerald Marsh tells us that five hundred million years ago, carbon dioxide concentrations were over 13 times current levels; and not until about 20 million years ago did carbon dioxide levels drop to a little less than twice what they are today.[11] Since 1750 the concentration in the air has risen from of CO2 278 parts per million (ppm) to more than 380 ppm, making it easier for plants to acquire the CO2 needed for rapid growth. Scientists generally suggest that raised CO2 levels will boost the yields of mainstream crops, such as maize, rice and soy, by about 13 per cent.

According to the Verigo-Bohr effect, we can state
that a CO2 deficit caused by deep breathing
leads to oxygen starvation in the cells of the body.

Thus it is an absolute scientific fumble to peg carbon dioxide as a poisonous gas and ridiculous doctors, who don’t know much of anything about bicarbonate and CO2 to come out against sodium bicarbonate and its use in cancer. If it’s good enough to keep people alive while chemotherapy chemicals (very acid) are pumped into the blood stream its more than good enough for use in the treatment of cancer, which is always pH sensitive according to all the science.

Dr. Peat concludes, “On a slightly longer time scale, a reduction of carbon dioxide can increase the production of lactic acid, which is a promoter of inflammation and fibrosis. A prolonged decrease in carbon dioxide can increase the susceptibility of proteins to glycation. The local concentration of carbon dioxide in specific tissues and organs can be adjusted by nervous and hormonal activation or inhibition of the carbonic anhydrase enzymes, that accelerate the conversion of CO2 to carbonic acid, H2CO3. The activity of carbonic anhydrase can determine the density and strength of the skeleton, the excitability of nerves, the accumulation of water, and can regulate the structure and function of the tissues and organs. Ordinarily, carbon dioxide and bicarbonate are thought of only in relation to the regulation of pH, and only in a very general way. Because of the importance of keeping the pH of the blood within a narrow range, carbon dioxide is commonly thought of as a toxin, because an excess can cause unconsciousness and acidosis. But increasing carbon dioxide doesn’t necessarily cause acidosis, and acidosis caused by carbon dioxide isn’t as harmful as lactic acidosis.”


The change of pH value causes the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid that enters the stomach, and the bicarbonates enter the bloodstream. When we say that we alkalize our body, we don’t necessarily mean increasing our saliva pH or urine pH; it means increasing the bicarbonates in our blood. The blood pH does not change, but the ability of our blood to neutralize acid in the body increases quite dramatically.[12] Since bicarbonates enter the bloodstream only when the stomach produces hydrochloric acid, it is important that we drink as high pH value alkaline water as possible, and forget about allopathic pharmaceutical thinking and just use the baking soda as needed.

In the January/February 2003 issue of American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal, Dr. Gospodinka R. Pradova published the result of a 10-year study of industrial pollution in Bulgaria. The study compares two groups of people in a plastic manufacturing plant: one group working in the plant with chemical pollution, the other in the non-polluted office environment of the same company. The conclusion shows that people living/working in a polluted environment have fewer amounts of bicarbonates in their blood than people working in a clean environment.

We live in a world that was changed from an agricultural environment to an industrial environment, which produces more pollution. Our stressful life-styles create more acid, which causes us to use up more bicarbonate. The medical society considers the reduction of bicarbonates in the blood as an inevitable fact of aging.

I and other doctors argue that the reduction of bicarbonates in the blood is the cause of aging and diseases, not the result of aging.  As long as we can replenish bicarbonates in the blood, we don’t have to age so fast. Taking high dosages of magnesium bicarbonate is not as alkalizing as taking sodium bicarbonate but in terms of anti-aging effect magnesium bicarbonate would easily take the prize. The most important function of alkaline water is to increase bicarbonates in the blood because we lose bicarbonates as we age.

Since bicarbonates enter the bloodstream only when the stomach produces hydrochloric acid, it is important that we drink as much mineral rich alkaline water as possible. On an empty stomach, the stomach pH value may be high but the amount (volume) of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is small; therefore, drinking high pH (9.5 to 10) alkaline water will raise the stomach pH relatively high. This causes the stomach to produce more hydrochloric acid, allowing more bicarbonate to enter the bloodstream.

[1] Priestley,  1776

[3] Henderson, Y. Carbon Dioxide. Article in Encyclopedia of Medicine. 1940.

[4] Weinberg, et al., 1987

[5] Mortimer, et al., 1977

[6] Peltekova, et al., 2010, Peng, et al., 2009, Persson & van den Linden, 2009

[7] Morisaki, et al., 2009

[8] TNF: Lang, et al., 2005

[9] Billert, et al., 2003, Baev & Kuprava, 1997

[10] CO2 Field Flooding May Also Reduce Oxidative Stress in Open Surgery;
Masahiko Tsuchiya, MD, PhD et al; A & A August 2009;vol. 109 no. 2 683-684

[11] By Dr. Gerald Marsh: Five hundred million years ago, carbon dioxide concentrations were over 13 times current levels; and not until about 20 million years ago did carbon dioxide levels dropped to a little less than twice what they are today. It is possible that moderately increased carbon dioxide concentrations could extend the current interglacial period. But we have not reached the level required yet, nor do we know the optimum level to reach. So, rather than call for arbitrary limits on carbon dioxide emissions, perhaps the best thing the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the climatology community in general could do is spend their efforts on determining the optimal range of carbon dioxide needed to extend the current interglacial period indefinitely. We ought to carefully consider this possibility before we wipe out our current prosperity by spending trillions of dollars to combat a perceived global warming threat that may well prove to be only a will-o-the-wisp. Dr. Gerald Marsh is a retired physicist from the Argonne National Laboratory and a former consultant to the Department of Defense on strategic nuclear technology and policy in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Administration.

[12] ALKALINE WATER AND STOMACH ACID;  Sang Whang; Science & Health » Article 26; Feb 23 , 2012; http://www.sangwhang.org/?p=247

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