Nearly all biological functions are dependent upon the acidity or alkalinity of the liquid environment. pH is a measure of the relative acidity or alkalinity of a solution where a pH of 7 is neutral, less than 7 is acidic and greater than 7 is alkaline or basic. The natural pH of the human body and hence normal biologic function is at a pH of 7.4, which is slightly alkaline. A good measure of body pH is to evaluate the pH of the blood which is largely reflective of the entire body. When blood pH drops significantly below 7.4, a condition called acidosis occurs. Conversely, an increase above pH 7.4 results in alkalosis. Imbalances or irregularities that result in acidosis or alkalosis may be detrimental to normal physical and metabolic processes, potentially resulting in moderate-to-severe health complications.
An increase in blood pH is defined as metabolic alkalosis which may be the result of excessive fluid loss through vomiting or diarrhea, loss of sodium or potassium electrolytes, or use of diuretics for weight loss or blood pressure reduction. Severe metabolic alkalosis, described as a blood pH higher than 7.55, has a 65 percent mortality rate which increases to 80 percent when blood pH reaches 7.55. Primary treatment for metabolic alkalosis includes compensation for underlying causes and fluid and electrolyte replenishment.
Renal Tubular Acidosis
Renal tubular acidosis is a detrimental kidney disorder that results in the ineffective elimination of blood acids through normal urinary processes. This condition will ultimately lead to chronic acidosis, or accumulation of acidic compounds within the bloodstream. Severe complications of this condition include the development of bone disease, kidney stones, kidney disease or complete kidney failure. Renal tubular acidosis may be successfully treated with a regimen that includes alkaline agents to increase blood pH to more appropriate and functional levels.
Bone Resorption Acidosis
The biology of bone health is an extremely dynamic process that involves specialized cells that build or construct bone, and specialized cells that break down or resorb bone. This highly-specialized process is extremely sensitive to blood pH levels. According to a report published in the November 1, 2010 issue of "Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics," blood alterations that result in acidosis increase the breakdown of bone tissue and structure.
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Acid-Base Balance Introduction
- Merck Manuals Online Medical Library: Alkalosis
- Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: "Metabolic Alkalosis"
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Renal Tubular Acidosis
- Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics: "Acidosis, hypoxia and bone"