Your body contains both acid and alkaline substances, and keeps them in balance to maintain a stable pH level. But certain conditions can throw off your pH and even cause health issues. To help you avoid potential complications, here's how to know if you are alkaline or acidic.
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Below, we explain alkaline versus acidic pH levels, how to know if you are acidic or not, pH imbalance symptoms and ways to check if your body fluids are alkaline or acidic.
What Is Body pH?
Your body's pH is a measure of how much acidity or alkalinity is in your system, according to a January 2022 StatPearls article.
Wondering how to tell if something is alkaline or acidic? Per the Mayo Clinic, the pH scale — which ranges from 0 to 14 — can let you know if something is acidic or basic (alkaline). Here's the breakdown:
- Acidic: 0 to 6.9
- Neutral: 7
- Basic/Alkaline: 7.1 to 14
The average pH of the human body ranges from 7.35 to 7.45, a slightly alkaline pH that's important to help keep your blood oxygenated, according to the StatPearls article.
But if your pH levels go above or below that stable range, it can indicate conditions called acidemia or alkalemia. Here's how to know if your body is acidic or alkaline based on pH numbers:
- Acidemia: 0 to 7.34
- Normal: 7.35 to 7.45
- Alkalemia: 7.46 to 14
Acidic vs. Alkaline
Now you know how to tell if your pH level indicates your body is acidic or basic. But what's the difference between an alkaline versus acidic pH, really?
First, an acidic pH: If you know you're acidic, it can indicate an underlying disorder like acidosis, according to the StatPearls article. This condition develops when too much acid builds up in your body or too many alkaline substances are lost, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Here are the different types of acidosis:
- Metabolic acidosis: This occurs when your body produces too much acid or your kidneys can't remove enough acid from your system, and can be due to diabetes, kidney disease or severe dehydration.
- Respiratory acidosis: This occurs when there's too much carbon dioxide in your body, often due to lung disease or a chest injury.
- Lactic acidosis: This occurs when too much lactic acid builds up, and can be due to underlying conditions like cancer, liver failure, severe asthma, low blood sugar, seizures, sepsis or drinking too much alcohol.
Now for the other half of alkaline versus acidity: If too many basic substances accumulate in your system, it can lead to a condition called alkalosis, according to the NLM. Here are the different types of the disorder:
- Metabolic alkalosis: This occurs when there's too much bicarbonate in your body, often due to kidney disease.
- Respiratory alkalosis: This occurs when there isn't enough carbon dioxide in your blood, often due to liver or lung disease, fever, lack of oxygen or being at high altitude.
- Hypochloremic alkalosis: This occurs when you have an extreme lack of chloride in your body, often due to severe vomiting.
- Hypokalemic alkalosis: This occurs when you have an extreme lack of potassium, often due to diuretic use.
- Compensated alkalosis: This occurs when you have abnormal carbon dioxide and bicarbonate levels, even if your acid versus alkaline balance is near normal.
The best way to determine if your body is alkaline versus acidic is to visit your doctor for a urine or blood test (more on that later), according to the NLM.
Symptoms of Unbalanced pH Levels
There are signs of poor pH balance in the body to be aware of. Per the NLM, here are symptoms of acidosis to look out for:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid breathing
- Symptoms of the underlying disease that led to acidosis
And when it comes to alkalosis, here are symptoms that may indicate your pH balance is off:
- Confusion, which can progress to stupor or a coma
- Nausea or vomiting
- Numbness or tingling in the face, hands or feet
- Hand tremor
- Muscle twitching
- Prolonged muscle spasms
How to Tell if Your Body Is Alkaline or Acidic
Here's how to know if you have more acidic or alkaline fluids in your body: Visit your doctor.
Indeed, the surest way to determine if you have an alkaline versus acid pH level is to have your doctor run some tests. According to the NLM, these may include:
- Arterial blood gas analysis
- Basic metabolic panel blood test
- Blood ketones test
- Lactic acid blood test
- Urine pH sample
Per the NLM, your doctor may also use other means to check for underlying causes of acidosis or alkalosis, such as:
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan
- Urinalysis urine test
Once testing is complete, your doctor will let you know if your urine or blood is acidic or alkaline and how best to proceed.
Follow your doctor's instructions for each test to make sure you get the most accurate results. For instance, some blood tests require that you fast beforehand, so make sure to clarify these details with your doctor before the procedure.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.