Acidosis is the medical term for when your body's fluids contain too much acid. When there is too much acid in your body, you may cry acidic tears, have acidic sweat or experience other symptoms of too much acid in the body.
Acidosis occurs when your kidneys and lungs can't keep your body's pH in balance. Typically, there is an underlying medical cause for acidosis. If you suspect you have acidosis, see your doctor immediately. Early treatment increases your body's ability to recover.
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What Is Too Much Acid?
The human body produces acid in many of its processes (e.g., lactic acid produced after you exercise). Typically, your kidneys and lungs can compensate for minor increases in acidity. However, if these organs are not healthy, the acid increase will upset your blood's pH balance and cause acidosis.
According to the Merk Manual, the body's blood pH is rated on a scale of 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline (basic). A normal blood pH level is 7.40. A blood pH level higher than 7.45 indicates there is too much acid in the body.
Keep in mind that all pH levels in the body are not created equal — and this is OK. An older, but still widely regarded October 2012 article in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, notes that the stomach has a pH of 1.35 to 3.5, and the skin has a pH of 4 to 6.5. If you try to combat acidosis by changing your diet, you are unlikely to change the acidity of these parts of your body. The skin needs a higher acid level to protect it from infection, and the stomach needs even more acid to digest food.
Symptoms of an Acidic Body
Symptoms of an acidic body are typically caused by an underlying medical condition. According to the U.S. Library of Medicine, there are two types of acidosis that cause symptoms: respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis. Respiratory acidosis occurs when the lungs are unable to remove all of the carbon dioxide the body produces, which makes the blood too acidic. Some causes of respiratory acidosis include asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), severe obesity and sleep apnea.
If you are experiencing symptoms of irritation due to acidic sweat, acidic tears, dry skin or itchy hives, it is likely that you have metabolic acidosis. Metabolic acidosis occurs when the kidneys do not remove enough acid from the body. Exercising intensely, alcohol use, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and severe dehydration are all causes of metabolic acidosis.
Eating to Combat Acidosis
Soda, caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods and processed foods are highly acidic and can cause too much acid in the body. However, acidic foods are not always as obvious as fast-food eating or nighttime drinking habits. Fruits, such as apples, bananas, raisins and apricots, are also highly acidic — even though they are widely regarded as being "good for you."
While some elements of your diet may be acidic, most of your food should be non-acidic fruits, vegetables and other foods to keep your body's pH within the normal range. A May 2017 study in the Journal of Renal Nutrition listed seven top low-acidic foods. They include cucumber, tomato, broccoli, eggplant, Brussels sprouts and kale. Eating more vegetables doesn't just keep your body more alkaline; doing so may also help patients with kidney disease, according to the same study.
Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to managing acidosis. An August, 2019 article from the Annals of Intensive Care noted that early assessment and close monitoring is especially important for those whose metabolic acidosis is caused by diabetes. Typically, acidosis is diagnosed through a series of blood tests. To ensure you are properly diagnosed, find a doctor who can assess your condition, prescribe appropriate medication, and instruct you on a diet that can help manage your acidosis.
- Merk Manual: "Acidosis"
- Journal of Environmental and Public Health: "The Alkaline Diet: Is There Evidence That an Alkaline pH Diet Benefits Health?"
- U.S. Library of Medicine: "Respiratory Acidosis"
- U.S. Library of Medicine: "Metabolic Acidosis"
- U.S. Library of Medicine: "Asthma"
- U.S. Library of Medicine: "Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease"
- U.S. Library of Medicine: "Sleep Apnea"
- Journal of Renal Nutrition: "Reducing the Dietary Acid Load: How a More Alkaline Diet Benefits Patients With Chronic Kidney Disease"
- Annals of Intensive Care: "Diagnosis and Management of Metabolic Acidosis: Guidelines From a French Expert Panel"