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Respiratory or metabolic acidosis
The accumulation of acid in the body is called Acidosis designated. This happens when the organism either does not get rid of enough acid, produces too much acid or cannot balance the acid. A distinction is made between metabolic and respiratory acidosis. In metabolic acidosis, too much acid is absorbed (e.g. by medication) or too much acid is produced in the metabolism. With respiratory acidosis, the lungs cannot emit sufficient carbon dioxide. The acidic CO2 consequently accumulates in the blood and causes the acidification.
When the body becomes acidic
If the body is overacidified, the bases in the body are not sufficient to keep the acid-base balance in balance. The pH in the blood drops below the threshold of 7.35. The organism is heavily burdened by this. The whole body, especially organs such as kidneys, lungs, intestines and skin, work together to restore the normal acid-base balance. The skin reacts with an excretion of acid sweat, and basic minerals such as phosphates and calcium dissolve from the bones. This creates physical problems. The bone is broken down because the body now needs phosphates and calcium to buffer the acids, as the other buffer systems are overloaded. Acid is stored in the body in depots because it can no longer be neutralized and released to the outside. This causes painful muscle hardening.
A slight acidity can also occur without complaints. Depending on the cause, severity and duration, general symptoms such as nausea, tiredness, difficulty breathing, headache and deeper and faster breathing can occur. In the advanced stage, symptoms such as weakness, sluggishness and frequent vomiting are often added. In severe cases, acedosis can manifest itself as heart problems, a drop in blood pressure, rigidity and coma. In the worst case, it can trigger a state of shock in very rare cases and even become life-threatening.
Consequences of acidification
First there is latent acidification, which then turns into chronic acidification after years. The body constantly works at full speed until the reserves are exhausted. This then favors the development of many diseases and complaints, such as
- Kidney disease such as kidney weakness,
- Muscular dystrophy,
- Diabetes (diabetic ketoacidosis),
- chronic fatigue,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- A headache,
With the causes of acidosis one has to differentiate between the metabolic and respiratory form.
The main symptoms of this form of acidification are headache and drowsiness. These symptoms are due to an increased level of carbon dioxide in the blood. The increased CO2 concentration is often due to
- Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia (pneumonia) or asthma,
- Heart failure (heart failure),
- Diseases affecting breathing (e.g. Guillain-Barré syndrome or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis),
- Drug or drug abuse (e.g. alcohol, opioids, sleeping pills),
- Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
In severe cases, respiratory acidosis can lead to less and less oxygen in the blood. This can manifest itself through states of rigidity (stupor). In the worst case, those affected fall into a coma.
The main symptoms of this form of acidification are chronic fatigue, nausea and vomiting. One speaks of a metabolic acidosis, if the acid is enriched in the body by too much acidic substances getting into the organism. These can either be taken up directly or metabolized. For example, many drugs (e.g. acetylsalicylic acid from aspirin) and poisons (e.g. methanol or antifreeze) can cause acidosis.
Acidification can also be due to a derailed metabolism. Such derailments arise, for example, in poorly controlled type 1 diabetes (diabetic ketoacidosis). In addition, renal insufficiency can promote such overacidification, since the kidneys are no longer able to excrete sufficient acid in the urine. Other possible causes are diseases in which the body loses a lot of fluid, for example long-lasting diarrhea.
Role of nutrition
Diet can also affect the acid-base balance. Nutrition experts distinguish between acid producers, acid suppliers and basic foods:
- Acid generator, which metabolizes "acid" in the body. These include sugar, candy, white flour products, polished rice, all husked cereal products, peas, dried green and brown lentils, sweet drinks, bean coffee, alcohol,
- Acid suppliersthat bring with them an excess of acidic minerals (e.g. sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine, iodine). Acid suppliers include, for example, meat, offal, fish, sausage, poultry, game, eggs, milk products, broth,
- Basic foodswhich counteract acidification, such as fruit, wild herbs, aromatic herbs, leafy and root vegetables, potatoes, whey and hazelnuts (see: Basic foods).
To determine your own personal acid-base status, there are test strips that are available in the pharmacy. The test strips should be consulted at fixed times for several days. For example, the acid-base status is measured daily at 6:00 a.m. before breakfast, at 9:00 a.m., at 12:00 p.m. before lunch, at 3:00 p.m. and again at 6:00 p.m. in the evening. The test strips consist of an indicator paper that reacts to urine.
A pH of 7.0 means neutral, greater than 7.0 is basic, less than 7.0 is acidic. Additional notes on daily food intake can also be helpful to explain possible fluctuations. Not all measured values have to be in the basic range. However, the tendency should be more basic than acidic. Otherwise something must be done to prevent acidification.
With a medical diagnosis of acidosis, a blood test with arterial blood is usually carried out.
What you can do about acidification yourself
Certain measures can counteract acidification of the body. However, if the symptoms do not improve, a doctor must be consulted as a serious underlying illness could be responsible for the acidity. You can try this with acidification:
- Change of diet: The diet should be such that three quarters of basic food and one quarter of acidic foods are distributed throughout the day. It is also important to have enough pure water without drinking carbon dioxide. In this context, coffee and black tea do not count towards the amount of liquid.
- Move: Exercise, if possible daily and in the fresh air, reduces the risk of overacidification.
- Support acid excretion: Daily alternating showers, regular exertion that really makes you sweat, sauna and brush massages stimulate the skin to release acids to the outside.
- Relaxation: Persistent stress can increase acidity. Relaxation techniques such as B. Yoga, meditation and autogenic training help to deal with stress better. Therapy by naturopathy, such as Bach flower therapy, can also have a supporting effect.
Dietary supplements such as base powder or base tablets can also be taken. However, this should not be continuous therapy. These nutritional supplements are helpful at short notice, for example when eating out of the house or while traveling. A weekly alkaline bath contributes to the excretion of acids through the skin, which can also help to reduce the acidity of the organism. Some sufferers rely on the Schüssler salt therapy as a support to fight against acidity. (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
- National Kidney Foundation (NKF): Metabolic Acidosis (accessed: September 30, 2019), kidney.org
- James L. Lewis: Acidosis, MSD Manual, May 2018, msdmanuals.com
- Shivani Patel, Sandeep Sharma: Physiology, Respiratory Acidosis, StatPearls Publishing LLC, May 2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Joseph Pizzorno: Acidosis: An Old Idea Validated by New Research, Integrative Medicine, 2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Acidosis (accessed: September 30, 2019), medlineplus.gov