Acid-base balance

Acid-base balance

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The fluids in the body are subject to constant fluctuations between acids and bases due to metabolic processes. In order to keep the pH in the blood as constant as possible, our organism has a buffer system to counteract these fluctuations. Device this Acid-base balance Out of equilibrium, acidification (acidosis) or alkalization (alkalosis) can occur. Such imbalances can lead to numerous complaints depending on the severity and cause.

Acids and bases keep each other in check

The acid-base balance is determined by chemical compounds that react acidic and contain hydrogen (H), as well as chemical compounds that react basicly and contain a hydroxyl group (HO). Bases are chemical compounds that react basicly and contain a hydroxyl group (OH). Both have to be present as interchangers in the organism, which means that acids and bases should always be in balance. When an acid molecule and a base molecule come together, a neutral salt molecule is formed that can be excreted by the body. For example, chlorine is an extremely acidic, aggressive molecule. In conjunction with sodium (= basic), however, this creates a harmless salt compound, namely sodium chloride.

Acidic and basic minerals

The buffer systems in the body have to function in order to compensate for the fluctuations between basic and acidic metabolic milieu. There are acidic minerals such as sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine, fluorine and iodine. Basic minerals are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron. The basic minerals belong to the deacidification minerals. They are part of the natural diet and must be present in every cell for important neutralization processes. For example, magnesium and calcium losses change muscle contractions. Iron deficiency worsens oxygen transport and hinders energy supply in the body.


Our life means metabolism, which means that the body is constantly building up and breaking down. Energy is necessary for all body processes. The building materials required for this are supplied through food. When processing these substances, various substances are produced, including acids or bases. The body is usually able to remove and dispose of these breakdown products. The organism uses a wide variety of buffer mechanisms to keep the acid-base balance in balance. The small acid particles form in the body cells, then migrate through the connective tissue into the blood and are then transported to the kidney or lungs. There they are either excreted or exhaled through the lungs.

Disorder of the acid-base balance

If the pH of the blood is less than 7.35, one speaks of a manifest acidosis, if it is higher than 7.45, this means a manifest alkalosis. Both conditions are associated with severe symptoms and can even be life-threatening. If the buffer capacities of the blood are greatly reduced but there are no clinical symptoms or only slight symptoms, this is referred to as compensated clinical acidosis. The excess acid can still be trapped, but the entire organism suffers from this condition and the body's ability to buffer acid particles decreases.

Overacidification (acidosis)

The body strives for a constant, slightly basic pH between 7.35 and 7.45. It becomes critical if too much acid accumulates over a longer period of time. The organism is then no longer able to break it down quickly enough. The buffer systems are overused. Now the muscles and bones step in to help maintain the buffer capacity in the blood. At this stage, which is called acidosis or acidification, there are no clinical symptoms, the pH of the blood is in the physiological range. A constant pH value in the cells, organs and in the blood is vital. If shifts occur here, entire metabolic processes suffer, e.g. the structure of the connective tissue underneath.

First signs of acidification

Even before pathological acidosis occurs, the first signs of overacidification can appear. This happens when the pH value of the blood is still within the physiological normal range, the capacity of the blood to buffer acids, but is already exhausted. If, for example, bicarbonate, an important substance for acid buffering, is no longer sufficient, the body uses the buffer reserves of bones and muscles. Calcium is then extracted from the bone, which favors osteoporosis. So-called myogeloses (muscle hardening) occur in the muscles. This condition can be accompanied by numerous complaints, such as

  • general malaise,
  • A headache,
  • Joint and muscle pain,
  • Tensions,
  • Nausea,
  • Indigestion,
  • Fatigue.

Causes of Acidification

The causes of overacidification can be caused by an underlying disease. A distinction is made between respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis. The respiratory form is due to an increased level of carbon dioxide in the blood. This indicates a lung disease such as COPD, asthma or pneumonia. The excessive CO2 content can also result from heart failure, drug or medication abuse. Sleep apnea can also promote the accumulation of CO2 in the blood. In metabolic acidosis, too many acidic substances are either supplied to the body or the body metabolizes too many substances in acid. This form can be an indication of kidney problems such as kidney failure. Poisoning with methanol or antifreeze, long-lasting diarrhea and poorly controlled type 1 diabetes can also cause metabolic acidification.

Acidification in naturopathy

Many complaints in natural medicine are associated with overacidification. A holistic approach here is to counteract acidification before serious symptoms occur. The focus here is on acid sources that can be attributed to poor nutrition or an unhealthy lifestyle, for example, this can happen through

  • heavy alcohol consumption,
  • low fluid intake,
  • Stress,
  • massive physical stress,
  • Poisoning,
  • too much animal protein,
  • Lack of fresh food, fruit and vegetables,

Alkalization (alkalosis)

Likewise, the acid-base balance can become unbalanced if an excess of bases accumulates in the body. The alkalization is either due to an excess of bicarbonate in the blood (metabolic alkalosis) or to a low level of carbon dioxide (respiratory alkalosis). This is expressed, for example, by symptoms such as

  • rapid and deep breathing,
  • increased irritability,
  • Muscle twitches,
  • Muscle cramps.

Alkalosis: causes

Just like acidosis, alkalosis is divided into a metabolic and a respiratory form. Metabolic alkalization can occur when the body absorbs too much base or loses too much acid. This can happen, for example, through frequent vomiting, in rare cases also by taking substances such as baking soda. Likewise, excessive fluid loss can affect the ability of the kidneys to maintain the acid-base balance. An overactive adrenal gland and taking certain medications, especially diuretics, can also lead to metabolic alkalosis. Respiratory alkalosis can result from hyperventilation. If too much CO2 is released from the blood through breathing, more acidic buffer molecules are needed to maintain the pH. Respiratory alkalosis is not infrequently psychological and can be the result of an anxiety disorder. Inhaling low-oxygen air can also lead to alkalosis.

Balance acid-base balance

First of all, it should be clarified by a doctor that no serious underlying disease is responsible for the acidity. Naturopathy focuses on the forms of overacidification, which are due to improper nutrition, stress and unhealthy lifestyles. Here, for example, nutritional advice, relaxation exercises for stress relief, Bach flower therapy or nutritional supplements are used to stabilize the acid-bass balance again. Some of those affected also rely on Schüßler salts and homeopathy - from a scientific point of view, these methods are considered controversial. (sw, vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Amboss GmbH: Acid-base household (accessed: October 2, 2019),
  • James L. Lewis: Alkalose, MSD Manual, May 2018,
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine: Acidosis (accessed: October 2, 2019),
  • National Kidney Foundation (NKF): Metabolic Acidosis (accessed: October 2, 2019),
  • Gerry K. Schwalfenberg: The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health? Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012,
  • H. Lambert, L. Frassetto, J.B. Moore, et al .: The effect of supplementation with alkaline potassium salts on bone metabolism: a meta-analysis, Osteoporosis International, 2015,
  • Tanushree Banerjee, Deidra C Crews, Donald E Wesson, et al .: Dietary acid load and chronic kidney disease among adults in the United States, BMC Nephrology, 2014 ,,
  • Eugene Han, Gyuri Kim, Namki Hong, et al .: Association between dietary acid load and the risk of cardiovascular disease: nationwide surveys (KNHANES 2008-2011), BMC Cardiovascular Diabetology, 2016,

Video: Metabolic Acidosis Acid Base Balance Made Easy NCLEX Review. ABGs Made Easy for Nurses (May 2022).


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  7. Yannis

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