Health information

What is dangerous acid-base imbalance

Our metabolism is based on complex biochemical processes during which various enzymes inside the body break down food into proteins, fats and carbohydrates. For the optimal functioning of these enzymes, extracellular fluid is needed in which they "live." And this fluid must be balanced. This means that it should contain the optimal amount of acids and bases. Any change in acid-base balance leads to various disorders and diseases.

Basic information about acid-base balance

Most of us do not fully understand what an acid-alkaline balance is, and moreover do not realize the seriousness of the consequences of its violation.

Acid-base balance is a state in which a certain ratio of cations and anions (positively and negatively charged ions), contained in body fluids, is maintained. Acids are chemical compounds that contain positively charged hydrogen ions. Bases are compounds with negatively charged ions. By the way, the bases can be soluble and insoluble. Those that are able to dissolve in water, called alkali. Both acids and bases are an integral part of the proper functioning of the human body.

What is the imbalance of alkalis and acids

Acid-base balance plays a fundamental role in the functioning of all cells and organs of the human body. But when the pH is broken, it leads to serious disruptions in the work of the whole organism.

Normally, a stable ionic composition is maintained inside the cells. A certain concentration of components is contained in the substance surrounding the cells, as well as in other body fluids. When their chemical characteristics are violated, they talk about acid-base imbalance. Often, such an imbalance leads to the fact that the medium becomes either too acidic or excessively filled with alkalis. This happens if as a result of enzymatic reactions in the body produced an excessive amount of acids or bases.

The balance of acids and alkalis is achieved when the pH of the blood is in the range of 7.35-7.45. A higher blood pH indicates the predominance of alkaline components in it, a lower one - the predominance of acids. An imbalance dangerous for the body occurs when the pH of the blood drops below 6.8 or exceeds 7.8. In such cases, denaturation of proteins occurs (their molecule changes), cellular enzymes cease to function, respiratory gas exchange is disturbed. Acid-base imbalance can manifest itself as acidosis or alkalosis. Both of these conditions are life-threatening, but we'll talk about them in more detail a little lower.

Regulatory systems of the body

The human body naturally produces acids and bases every day. In this process, an important role is assigned to the so-called buffer systems, which are responsible for maintaining a stable pH. If they are overloaded or stressed, their work may be disrupted. For example, in chronic acidification, the body will attempt to neutralize the acid, using bases contained in bone tissue. If the process is delayed, it will lead to loss of bone strength. Therefore, it can be argued that acid-base imbalance is also dangerous for the buffer systems of the body.

Maintaining the right pH level is mainly responsible for the kidneys and liver. These organs, together with the blood buffer system, the digestive tract and the skeleton, are an integral mechanism for neutralizing possible acid-base disorders. If kidney function is impaired, it can lead to a decrease in body pH, and then to persistent acidosis. As for the liver, its function is the breakdown of fatty acids, the metabolites of which are then excreted by the kidneys.

The lungs are the second important system needed to maintain proper acidity. During breathing, a person exhales carbon dioxide, the increased concentration of which in the blood causes a decrease in acidity. The work of the respiratory system that regulates carbon dioxide levels is based on hyper- or hypoventilation. In the first case, we are talking about excessive ventilation, in the second - insufficient. With hypoventilation, a pH disorder may occur in the form of respiratory acidosis. If the ventilation is, on the contrary, excessive, then respiratory alkalosis is possible. By the way, if the function of the lungs for any reason is impaired, the kidneys perform additional work to neutralize the pH - the acid is removed from the body with urine.

As for the blood buffer system, in the process of maintaining the acid-base balance, it has one very important feature. The addition of acids or bases to it does not fundamentally change its own pH, but depending on the situation, the buffer blood can become a “donor” of “acidic” hydrogen ions.

The intestinal tract is involved in cleansing the body. But in some cases, the digestive system can cause a violation of the acid-base balance. This can occur in the case of severe long-term diarrhea, during which bicarbonate ions, which are responsible for the alkalinity of the medium, are intensively removed from the body.

Bones are the largest buffer system for storing essential minerals. The body can get access to this reserve at any time when the need arises. Alkalis from bone storehouses are used when it is necessary to neutralize excess acid in the body. But if the increased acidity persists for a long time, this can lead to excessive leaching of bicarbonate minerals from bone tissue. As a result, it negatively affects the density and mass of the bones, causing frequent fractures and diseases of the musculoskeletal system.

Another important buffer system is connective and muscle tissue, in which excess acids are temporarily stored. Regulatory functions are also performed by the skin. She along with then removes excess acid. And blood contains bicarbonates, which can bind with acids to neutralize them.

Causes of acid-base imbalance

The causes of acid-base imbalance include:

  • dehydration;
  • eating acidic foods;
  • high-protein diet in the absence of a sufficient amount of carbohydrates;
  • alcohol and caffeinated beverages;
  • smoking;
  • drugs;
  • taking certain medications, including diuretics;
  • air and water pollution;
  • chemicals in personal care products;
  • bad ecology;
  • frequent use of household chemicals;
  • emotional shock;
  • lack of sleep;
  • excessive exercise;
  • severe infectious disease;
  • violation of the buffer systems;
  • chronic kidney disease, diabetes.

Varieties of acid-base imbalance

Acid-alkaline imbalance can manifest itself in the form of alkalosis - when the amount of alkaline substances in liquids increases, or acidosis - when the level of acids increases. In turn, these processes can manifest themselves as:

  • metabolic acidosis;
  • respiratory acidosis;
  • metabolic alkalosis;
  • respiratory alkalosis.

Metabolic acidosis

Metabolic acidosis can be caused by acute metabolic disorders that occur in some infectious diseases and critical conditions. Chronic metabolic acidosis usually develops imperceptibly over many years. It happens in people with diabetes, kidney disease.

The following factors lead to increased production of acids in the body:

  • abuse of food rich in animal protein;
  • excessive exercise;
  • stress;
  • inflammatory processes;
  • low-carb dieting.

By themselves, these factors are not dangerous to humans, but if they persist for a long time, the risk of acidosis increases.

The signs of metabolic acidosis are rather vague and nonspecific. These may include symptoms such as chronic fatigue, weakness, a decrease in bone mass and density, and problems with the skin, nails, and digestion. Violation of the acid-base balance in the direction of increasing acids can also affect the functioning of the peripheral and central nervous system, causing brain clouding, anxiety, muscle spasms.

Respiratory acidosis

Respiratory acidosis develops due to the inability of the lungs to remove excess carbon dioxide from the body. In many ways, signs of impairment are similar to metabolic acidosis.

This type of acid-base imbalance may appear while taking certain medications, after a chest injury or airway obstruction. A specific symptom is slow and shallow breathing of the patient.

Causes of Acidosis

Acid-alkaline imbalance, manifested by acidosis, can appear due to various factors and carry with it dangerous clinical consequences. As a rule, the acidity of the body increases as a result of disruption of the organs designed to regulate pH. Most often this happens against the background of some diseases. And this:

  • renal failure;
  • impaired respiratory function, for example, in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure;
  • diabetes mellitus, in which ketoacidosis develops;
  • chronic diarrhea;
  • hypoxia, during which lactic acidosis develops;
  • poisoning by alcohol, salicylates, ethylene glycol.

Metabolic alkalosis

This condition is said when, due to certain metabolic processes in the body, the content of bicarbonate (alkalis) greatly increases.

This condition is usually associated with an overdose of sodium bicarbonate, drug use, severe dehydration, including prolonged vomiting, diarrhea.

Respiratory alkalosis

This pathological increase in the body alkalis, caused by enhanced excretion of carbon dioxide. Respiratory alkalosis can occur due to hyperventilation of the lungs, and also occurs in patients after a painful shock. Sometimes the cause of this disorder is excessive physical exertion, fever, some lung diseases (pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, COPD). In some cases, it may develop after long-term use of certain drugs.

Causes of alkalosis

The cause of alkalosis is often a deficiency of potassium and / or hydrogen. This is possible in the case of:

  • use of glucocorticosteroids, which cause a decrease in the concentration of potassium and an increase in sodium in the blood serum;
  • excessive loss of "acidic" hydrogen ions (for example, as a result of prolonged and severe vomiting);
  • leaching of potassium after taking diuretics;
  • hyperventilation of the lungs, during which the concentration of carbon dioxide responsible for "acidity" decreases.

What is dangerous acid-base imbalance

When systemic electrolyte disturbances occur in the body, it creates an adverse effect on the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

The increase in the alkaline component causes:

  • decrease in the level of electrolytes in the serum;
  • heart arrhythmia;
  • seizures (sometimes reminiscent of epilepsy);
  • numbness and spasm of the hands (the so-called "obstetrician hands" syndrome - due to the characteristic position of the hands);
  • eyelid convulsions and photophobia;
  • angina (contraction of the coronary arteries);
  • spasm of the mesenteric arteries (causes abdominal pain);
  • spasm of the respiratory tract (larynx, bronchus), causing shortness of breath;
  • spasm of cerebral vessels (manifested as a migraine);
  • reduction of peripheral vessels of the arms and legs (causes Raynaud's symptom).

Excessive acidity causes:

  • the intensification of gluconeogenesis (enhanced glucose production in the liver);
  • lipolysis (fat tissue breakdown);
  • catabolism (decay) of proteins;
  • heart rhythm disorder;
  • skeletal muscle weakness;
  • sour breath.

The effects of acidification

If alkalosis is a less common form of acid-base imbalance, then acidosis occurs quite often. One of the first signs of body acidification are dark circles under the eyes. In addition, there may be frequent headaches, indigestion, pimples and pustules, a tendency to colds, dizziness, nausea, bitterness or a sour taste in the mouth, a tongue attack, physical weakness.

Excessive acid in the body can cause various health problems:

  • on the part of the gastrointestinal tract, it is acute or chronic inflammation of the gastric mucosa, intestinal mycosis, constipation, digestive problems, bloating, gallbladder disease;
  • on the part of muscles and joints - gout, muscle pain, damage to the intervertebral discs, acute and chronic back pain, osteoporosis, arthritis, rheumatoid diseases;
  • hair loss, brittle nails, tooth decay, periodontal disease, dry skin, fungal infections, acne, skin problems, cellulite;
  • on the part of the metabolic system, it is overweight, sudden need for sweets, diabetes, kidney stones, elevated cholesterol;
  • on the part of the cardiovascular system, it is hypertension, diseases of the blood vessels, impaired blood supply to the arms and legs, causing a sensation of cold in the limbs, dizziness, migraine, myocardial infarction;
  • chronic pain, depression, decreased performance, general malaise, inability to cope with stress, decreased libido, fatigue.

How to maintain acid-base balance

It will take a little time and some changes in lifestyle to bring the body out of the state of chronic acidosis and return the acid-base balance.


While animal proteins are converted into acids during metabolism, fruits and vegetables are metabolized to bases. Therefore, plant food is the best natural remedy against the increased acidity of the body. In addition, fruits and vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties, which is also important in the program of restoring acid-base balance. Another important component of a healthy diet is water. Drinking plenty of water helps maintain the performance of buffer systems.

After analyzing the modern popular dishes, the researchers came to the conclusion that today people focus on products that increase the acidity of the body. That is, a modern diet leads to acidification of tissues and liquids, which, according to the researchers, has a very negative effect on health. Even a relatively small increase in the level of acid, which cannot yet be called acidosis, is already harmful. Excessive acid in the body causes aging of tissues, early wrinkles, swelling and inflammation. By the way, it is proved that cancer cells develop faster in an acidic environment, while healthy ones die in it.

Proper diet to maintain acid-base balance should contain both acidic and basic foods. This is the only way to maintain a balanced pH in the body. To reduce the acidity of the body, the daily diet should be based on the formula 80:20. This means that 80% of the food consumed must be alkaline, and 20% must be acidic. It is also useful to drink alkalizing herbal teas: green, chamomile, alfalfa, red clover.

Acid Products:

  • pearl barley;
  • oatmeal;
  • rice;
  • pasta;
  • pork;
  • beef;
  • eggs;
  • cheese.

Alkalizing products:

  • milk;
  • beet;
  • potatoes;
  • carrot;
  • tomatoes;
  • salad;
  • cucumbers;
  • cabbage;
  • black currant;
  • cherry;
  • pears;
  • Strawberry.

Useful minerals

The use of minerals helps maintain acid-base balance, as well as the efficiency of buffer systems. In case of violation of pH-harmony mineral substances help the body to quickly return to balance.

Zinc is considered one of the most useful for proper buffering. In addition, it improves the condition of the skin, nails, bones, strengthens the immune system. By the way, strong immunity is very important for persons with acid-base imbalance. No less useful minerals with unbalanced pH - calcium and magnesium. Calcium helps to strengthen bones, maintaining their density and structure, and magnesium has a beneficial effect on the nervous and muscular systems.

Exercise and Rest

Moderate physical activity has a positive effect on the entire body. Exercises promote the movement of fluids and lymph, which helps to eliminate toxins and metabolites. In addition, the right combination of physical activity and rest helps to reduce stress. But it is enough to overdo it with sports or hard physical work, as in the tissues lactic acid is produced in excess. In this case, exercise becomes a risk factor for the development of lactic acidosis and increased acidity of the body. Therefore, after intensive training, it is important to give the body a rest. It helps to relax and prevents the accumulation of excess acids.

How to determine the body pH

The easiest way to determine the pH - using test strips to assess the acidity of urine. The test is carried out using the first morning urine. Ideally, the strip should produce a result in the range of 7-8.5. But we must understand that such testing will show only an approximate result and will not explain what is the cause of acidosis or alkalosis.

You can also determine the pH by laboratory blood tests. The normal pH of the blood ranges from 7.35 to 7.45. If the figure is below 7.35, they talk about acidosis, and above 7.45, this is a sign of alkalosis. In order to obtain a more complete picture of the patient's health, in addition to the pH value itself, it is important to determine the concentration of bicarbonate ions in the body and the amount of carbon dioxide.

Evaluating the pH of saliva using test strips can provide an indication of overall health. The results of this test show the alkaline reserves of the body, as well as intracellular pH. To get the most accurate results, the test should be done immediately after the person has woken up (at the same time, the dream should last at least 5 hours), before eating and brushing your teeth. If the person is healthy, the test will give a result of 6.8 (immediately after waking up). If the test is done a little later, but before eating, the result should be 7, and after breakfast - 8.5.

Table of correct pH of various body fluids and tissues

Fluids and fabricspH
Intracellular fluid7,4
Extracellular fluid7,2
Gastric acid1,5-1,8
Limit of acid excretion of the kidneys4-4,4
Heart muscle6,9
Connective tissue7,1-7,25
Pancreatic Juices8,3
Amniotic fluid (amniotic fluid)8,5

Acid-alkaline imbalance is always the wrong functioning of cells and organs. How serious the consequences can be depends on how much and how long the system of acids and alkalis in the body is unbalanced.

When the general condition and state of health deteriorates, it is necessary to determine the pH of the blood in the complex examination of the body.

Article author:
Izvozchikova Nina Vladislavovna

Specialty: infectious diseases specialist, gastroenterologist, pulmonologist.

Total experience: 35 years.

Education: 1975-1982, 1MMI, San gig, high qualification, infectious diseases doctor.

Science degree: doctor of the highest category, PhD.


  1. Infectious diseases.
  2. Parasitic diseases.
  3. Emergency conditions.
  4. Hiv
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