The body’s pH balance is also referred to as the acid-base balance. It is the balance between acids and bases in the blood. A pH balance is vital for various body functions to be able to work at its best. Our body is naturally able to maintain a healthy balance between acids and bases. It uses the kidneys and the lungs to maintain the normal blood pH level, which is, on average, at 7,40.
When the lungs or kidneys are not working correctly, the blood level can get imbalanced. This disruption of balance can lead to some medical conditions, such as alkalosis and acidosis.
The lungs control the body’s pH balance by releasing carbon dioxide, which is an acidic compound. It is also a waste product made by the cells of the body, as they take the oxygen. The carbon dioxide is released by the cells into the blood and then taken to the lungs. Every time we exhale, we expel carbon dioxide, which reduces acidity and maintains a healthy pH balance. How deep we inhale or exhale will determine how much carbon dioxide is being released. Our brain monitors this process continuously and works towards making sure that there is a balance of pH in the body.
What Happens When pH is Imbalanced?
Acidosis is a condition that occurs once our blood is too acidic, while alkalosis refers to a state where our blood is too basic. Both of these conditions are different, but they are both caused by a pH-imbalance.
There are different kinds of acidosis. Respiratory acidosis is caused when the lungs cannot remove enough carbon dioxide as we exhale. This is caused by a malfunctioning of the lungs or other conditions. Some other conditions that can lead to respiratory acidosis include pneumonia, asthma, and emphysema.
Taking sleep medications or narcotics can also lead to respiratory acidosis. The brain and nervous system can cause breathing issues, which might also lead to respiratory acidosis. Those suffering from this type of acidosis often suffer from headaches, confusion, extreme sleepiness, and fatigue. When left untreated, respiratory acidosis can become very severe and can lead to coma or even death.
Metabolic acidosis is a condition caused by a buildup of acid in the body, which originates in the kidneys. Metabolic acidosis is caused when the body loses too much base or cannot get rid of excess acid. Some causes of metabolic acidosis include a buildup of lactic acid, which occurs as a complication of seizures, cancer, or alcohol abuse. Having too little sodium bicarbonate in the blood can be a complication of severe diarrhea or vomiting, a buildup of ketones due to a lack of insulin, common in diabetes patients, or due to a failure of the kidneys to release the acid into the bloodstream.
There are also certain substances, which can lead to metabolic acidoses, such as antifreeze, methanol, or aspirin. Some symptoms of metabolic acidosis include extreme fatigue, vomiting, and nausea. Just as it is the case with respiratory acidosis, metabolic acidosis can also become severe if left untreated and lead to coma or death.
There are also two different types of alkalosis: a respiratory and metabolic one. Respiratory alkalosis is caused when there isn’t enough carbon dioxide in the blood. Some causes of respiratory alkalosis include high fever, hyperventilation due to anxiety, aspirin overdose, and sometimes pain. Those who suffer from respiratory alkalosis experience twitching and muscle cramping. Some notice irritability, as well as tingling in the lips, toes, or fingers.
Metabolic alkalosis is a condition that occurs once bicarbonate levels in the blood are too high, or once the body loses too much acid. It can be caused by severe vomiting, an overactive adrenal gland, or overuse of diuretics. Some conditions which might lead to metabolic alkalosis include kidney damage, which might be caused by a severe loss of fluids or by ingesting large amounts of baking soda. Metabolic alkalosis shares the same symptoms as respiratory alkalosis.
How Are Acidosis and Alkalosis Diagnosed?
If you suspect that you might be suffering from a pH imbalance, you must speak to a medical professional as soon as possible. Your doctor will first take your medical history and do several blood tests and urine tests to check whether there is a pH imbalance and what might be causing it. Some tests that you might need include:
- A urine pH level test – where acidity and alkalinity of urine are measured.
- A urinalysis – which can show whether acids and bases are adequately eliminated.
- An arterial blood gas – which checks the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
- A basic metabolic panel – which can check nutrient levels and kidney function.
If you are a diabetes patient, your doctor might also want to check your ketone and glucose levels. In cases where you’ve ingested methylene or ethylene glycol, you might also need an osmolality test.
How is pH Imbalance Treated?
Treating pH imbalances will depend on whether you suffer from alkalosis or acidosis, as well as what is causing it. The goal of the treatment is to restore a healthy pH-balance.
To treat acidosis, your doctor might prescribe:
- insulin and intravenous fluids
- sodium citrate for kidney failure,
- Oral or intravenous sodium bicarbonate doses
- Specific medications to help dilate the airways, raise blood pH level, or create continuous positive airway pressure to facilitate breathing.
Alkalosis, on the other hand, might be treated using oxygen therapy. Also, specific medications might be administered to restore nutrient levels, such as potassium and chloride, slow breathing if the condition is caused by hyperventilation, or fluids and electrolyte drinks to restore electrolyte balance.
In conclusion, the pH balance is crucial for our health. What you eat plays a significant role in your pH levels, and many foods are recommended to maintain a healthy pH balance, such as lemon juice, avocados, and potatoes. Speak to your doctor about steps that you can take to make sure that your pH levels are in check.
For more information, also read:
- How to Check Your pH Balance
- Alkaline Forming Foods For A Balanced And Healthy Diet
- Also, learn more about pH balance and the Budwig diet by downloading our FREE Budwig diet guide
- The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health? – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/
- pH of soul: how does acid-base balance affect our cognition – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4097972/
- A systematic review of the association between dietary acid load, alkaline water, and cancer – https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e010438
- Acid-Alkaline Balance & Health – https://www.huhs.edu/sites/default/files/files/Acid-Alkaline%20Balance%20&%20Health-An%20Examination%20of%20the%20Data.pdf
Article Updated: 6/10/2020