When pH levels become imbalanced for prolonged periods of time, your body’s internal environment will become either too acidic or too alkaline. When the pH of the body is overly acidic, due primarily to poor dietary and lifestyle choices, the body creates an environment which is conducive to disease. The term used for this is ACIDOSIS, which can range from mild to severe, and is the most common obstacle when it comes to balancing pH levels. The majority of healthcare practitioners that focus on pH balance direct their attention heavily on acidosis because of its prevalence in today’s world, especially in North America and Western European Countries. Conversely, alkalosis results when the body becomes overly alkaline, which is far less common in direct relation to diet, unless caused by previous acidic conditions that induce organ damage and metabolic dysfunction.
That being said, imbalanced pH levels from an underlying disease or disorder, however, can lead to both clinical acidosis or alkalosis. Severe pH imbalances like this can be immediately life threatening and need to be addressed in a timely manner to avoid death.
There are basically four types of pH imbalances that can occur when there is an abnormality, oftentimes serious, in the normal balance of acids and bases in the body. Acids in excess create acidosis, and bases in excess yield alkalosis type conditions. Any of these disturbances can take place depending on the origin of the imbalance (respiratory-lungs or metabolic-kidneys) and the direction of the pH (acidosis – too low pH or alkalosis – too high pH) These potentially life threatening pH imbalances include: respiratory alkalosis, respiratory acidosis, metabolic alkalosis, metabolic acidosis, and mixed disorders (when there is more than one kind of imbalance happening at the same time). These conditions are often brought on suddenly and demand IMMEDIATE clinical attention.
Here is a brief explanation of the main four different types of pH imbalances:
This condition develops from a lack of carbon dioxide in the blood, or its increased ventilation. Low carbon dioxide levels cause excessive alkalinity, bringing blood pH levels to higher than 7.45. This predicament can be brought on by hyperventilation or rapid deep breathing. When you breathe, oxygen from the air is traded for carbon dioxide in the blood. Exhaling too much carbon dioxide rapidly decreases carbonic acid, causing less hydrogen ions (less acid) to form, thus overly alkalizing body fluids. This condition can be acute and happen suddenly, or arise over time as lung function dissipates.
Hyperventilation can be caused by conditions like pneumonia, lung disease, or asthma. Often times it develops as a result of very high stress or fever, severe anxiety, drug overdose, carbon monoxide poisoning, or serious infections. Tumors, swelling in the brain or nervous system, pregnancy, liver failure, high elevations, or metabolic acidosis can also spark rapid deep breathing, which can lead to respiratory alkalosis ironically.
The kidneys can help compensate for this decrease in carbon dioxide and prevent respiratory alkalosis. The kidneys attempt to decrease the rate at which they excrete hydrogen ions (acids), or halt the production of bicarbonate ions (alkali) or buffers. The desired end result is increased acidity in bodily fluids. Being that a time period of 1 or 2 days is required for the kidneys to function at their max, sometimes they are not effective at accomplishing this task. Therefore the kidneys are not effective if respiratory acidosis develops quickly, like when hyperventilation occurs in response to emotional reactions, which usually begins quickly and subsides within minutes or hours. But when alkalosis results from let’s say, remaining at high altitudes for a 2 – 3 day period, the kidneys can do a great job helping to balance pH levels.
This condition develops from a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood or lack of proper respiration. High carbon dioxide levels bring about exorbitant acidity, dropping blood pH levels to below 7.35. This condition involves either the lungs and respiratory system, or the sensors from the brain that control breathing. While breathing, oxygen from the air is traded for carbon dioxide in the blood. The excess carbon dioxide retention increases carbonic acid, which in turn causes more hydrogen ions (acids) to form, thus acidifying body fluids. This condition can be acute and happen suddenly, or arise over time when the lungs malfunction.
Respiratory acidosis can be caused by respiratory diseases or conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma, or severe pneumonia. It can also result as the airway passage swells from the intrusion of a foreign object or from excessive vomiting, which throws off the body’s electrolyte balance. Additionally, defective sensory functioning of the brain via the respiratory system can cause respiratory acidosis through the use of anesthetics, sedatives, and narcotics, or from head traumas and brain tumors. Other conditions that lead to chronic metabolic alkalosis can also spark respiratory acidosis.
The renal system can help compensate for and prevent respiratory acidosis. The kidneys can augment the rate at which they excrete hydrogen ions (acids), or release more bicarbonate ions (alkali) to increase the alkalinity of bodily fluids. As mentioned, because a period of 1 or 2 days is required for the kidneys to function at their max, sometimes they cannot accomplish the task. Therefore, the kidneys are not effective if respiratory acidosis develops quickly, like in response to a severe asthma attack that begins suddenly and ends a few hours later. However, if respiratory acidosis results from emphysema for instance, the kidneys work wonderfully helping to balance pH levels because it develops over a long period of time.
This is a condition in which the body accumulates an excess of bases (alkali) like bicarbonates. When this happens, the body can’t neutralize the effects of the overly-alkaline bodily fluids and a blood pH above 7.45 results. If the buffers cannot compensate for the decrease in hydrogen ions, the respiratory center helps regulate body fluid pH levels. The lungs hold on to carbon dioxide by regulating breathing, but this is not usually effective at correcting the imbalance. If metabolic alkalosis persists for some time and if the kidneys are functioning properly, they temporarily reduce the rate of hydrogen ion secretion, increasing acidity, to help reverse alkalosis.
Different factors can cause metabolic alkalosis. It can originate from electrolyte imbalances (imbalance of fluids and salts), where there is a significant decrease in the blood levels of potassium and sodium. The kidneys then retain sodium to prevent further potassium loss (protecting the sodium-potassium pump), resulting in mild to severe metabolic alkalosis. These imbalances take place due to a reduction of bodily fluids, like in kidney malfunction, vomiting with loss of gastric juices, or excessive urination from the use of diuretic drugs or laxatives.
This condition involves an acid/base imbalance in which the body accumulates too much acid and lacks the bicarbonate (alkali) to effectively neutralize the effects of the acid. With acidosis, there is an increased production of hydrogen ions in the body or an inability to generate bicarbonate in the kidneys, leading to a blood pH lower than 7.35. As with metabolic alkalosis, the respiratory system is the primary compensatory system that addresses the imbalance.
There are different ways in which this condition can present itself. One is ketoacidosis, when an uncontrolled diabetic builds up acidic ketones, and another is hyperchloremic acidosis where the body loses a significant amount of bicarbonate from something like severe diarrhea. Lactic acidosis can be caused by liver failure, kidney disease, cancer, alcoholism, anemia, heart failure, medications like salicylates, or even extreme exercise without electrolyte support. Remember the body is already in an acidotic inflamed state prior to these conditions materializing. Some of these conditions come about suddenly like with diarrhea, certain medications, or exercise induced acidosis. However, most all acidosis like conditions develop gradually over time.
The symptoms from this condition are often cumulative and can range from mild to severe. Blood pH under 7.35 is considered severe, and the closer you deviate from 7.45 to 7.35, the less dissolved oxygen in the bloodstream, and we know how important oxygen is for preventing or eliminating diseases, especially metabolic diseases like cancer. If left unchecked the symptoms most always become progressively worse, leading to just about any condition or disease. The symptoms can range from lack of energy and gastrointestinal issues, to arthritis, kidney disease, cancer and premature death.
While conventional physicians are trained in medical school to acknowledge the severe symptoms of more extreme pH imbalances associated with acidosis that can leave you hospitalized or dead, they are most unfortunately NOT trained to recognize the more subtle signs of what is referred to as “chronic low grade metabolic acidosis.” This is defined as the gradual acidification overtime of the body’s fluids and tissues. The average Westerners diet and lifestyle is “acidogenic” which means that our stressful lifestyles, exposure to toxins, and the foods you choose to eat on a continual basis have a gradual acidifying effect on the body.
While the mainstream medical establishment has neglected to adopt these lifesaving concepts, many scientists and a great deal of highly influential holistic practitioners have confirmed these theories in the US, Europe, and other parts of the world as one of the top, if not the LEADING cause of ALL degenerative and infectious diseases. There are many diet and lifestyle factors that increase acidity in the body, which will be discussed in great length and detail in other sections. How pH Levels Become Acidic?