Acidosis is a condition that occurs when your body's fluids contain too much acid, and the effects of an acidic pH level can cause unpleasant symptoms and even jeopardize your health.
Here's how too much acid affects your body, including the signs to look out for.
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What Is Too Much Acid?
First, the basics: The human body contains acidic and alkaline (or basic) substances, and it balances them out to maintain a stable pH of 7.35 to 7.45, according to a January 2022 StatPearls article.
But if your pH levels go above or below that range, it can indicate an imbalance of acidity or alkalinity — conditions called acidemia and alkalemia, respectively. Per the StatPearls article, here are the pH numbers that denote each condition:
- Acidemia: 0 to 7.34
- Normal: 7.35 to 7.45
- Alkalemia: 7.46 to 14
In other words, a pH of 0 to 7.34 (typically measured through a blood or urine test) indicates your body is acidic.
How Does Too Much Acid Affect the Body?
Acidosis is typically the result of an underlying condition. There are different types of acidosis — including respiratory and metabolic acidosis — which can produce side effects of an acidic body.
Here are the symptoms of too much acid in the body, broken down by type of acidosis.
Metabolic Acidosis Symptoms
Metabolic acidosis occurs when your body produces too much acid or your kidneys can't remove enough acid from your system, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). It's sub-types include diabetic, hyperchloremic and lactic acidosis.
The effects of acidity in the body due to metabolic acidosis can include:
- Rapid breathing
But per the NLM, most symptoms of metabolic acidosis are those caused by the underlying condition contributing to acid imbalances. These conditions include:
- Kidney disease
- Liver failure
- Low blood sugar
- Prolonged lack of oxygen
- Severe dehydration
- Poisoning from carbon monoxide, aspirin, ethylene glycol or methanol
Early diagnosis and close monitoring is especially important for those with metabolic acidosis from diabetes, per an August 2019 article in the Annals of Intensive Care. Work with your doctor to manage your health and prevent acidosis.
Respiratory Acidosis Symptoms
Another type of acidosis that causes acidic body symptoms is respiratory acidosis. It occurs when the lungs are unable to remove all of the carbon dioxide the body produces, which makes your blood too acidic, according to the NLM.
It can cause symptoms like:
- Easy fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Warm and flushed skin
Per the NLM, underlying diseases can cause this type of acidosis, including:
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Sleep apnea
- Nerve or muscle disorders
Severe acidosis can lead to shock and even death, per the NLM. Seek medical care immediately if you show symptoms of the condition.
Acidic Sweat and Skin
It's important to note that pH levels of other bodily fluids and parts can vary.
For instance, you may be wondering why your sweat is acidic. Acidic sweat is normal — indeed, March 2015 research in the International Journal of Analytical Chemistry notes that sweat is naturally acidic, with a mean pH of 6.3.
The same goes for your skin: An older (but still widely regarded) October 2012 article in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health found the skin has a pH of 4 to 6.5 to help protect against infection.
As a result, you shouldn't experience any acidic skin symptoms or side effects of an acidic body based on sweat or skin pH alone. Acidosis is instead measured through blood or urine, which can determine if you have dangerously acidic pH.
- Journal of Environmental and Public Health: "The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health?"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Respiratory Acidosis"
- U.S. National Library of Medicinee: "Metabolic Acidosis"
- Annals of Intensive Care: "Diagnosis and Management of Metabolic Acidosis: Guidelines From a French Expert Panel"
- StatPearls: "Physiology, Acid Base Balance"
- International Journal of Analytical Chemistry: "Recent Developments in Sweat Analysis and Its Applications"
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.