There are many possible causes of high levels of acid in the body, including those below.
Metabolic acidosis happens when too much acid builds up in the body due to a disruption to the metabolism. Several different health conditions can cause this to happen, including:
It is not always clear whether these conditions cause metabolic acidosis, or whether acidosis causes these conditions. These conditions may create a cycle of increasing metabolic acidosis, which then worsens the condition.
Some people may not experience any symptoms of metabolic acidosis. In those who do, the possible symptoms include:
- an increased heartbeat
- needing to take longer, deeper breaths than usual
- fatigue and weakness
- nausea and vomiting
- a loss of appetite
If people notice any of the above symptoms, they should see their doctor straight away.
Renal tubular acidosis
Kidney disease or kidney failure can cause metabolic acidosis. In these cases, doctors often refer to the condition as renal tubular acidosis. The roles of the kidneys include the removal of excess acid, which passes out of the body through urine. If there is a problem with the kidneys, these organs are unable to remove acid effectively from the body.
The kidneys also help keep bicarbonate levels stable in the body. People need a certain amount of this molecule in the blood to keep the body healthy.
One sign of metabolic acidosis is low levels of bicarbonate in the bloodstream, which indicate that the blood is more acidic. According to the National Kidney Foundation, low levels of bicarbonate are those less than 22 millimoles per liter (mmol/l).
Respiratory acidosis happens when the body is unable to remove enough carbon dioxide, which then builds up in the body, increasing acid levels in the blood.
Causes of respiratory acidosis include:
- drugs that affect the central nervous system, such as opioids
- disorders that affect the muscles involved in breathing, such as muscular dystrophy or Guillain-Barre syndrome
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
The symptoms of respiratory acidosis can vary depending on the underlying cause but may include:
- difficulty breathing
- disturbed sleep
- a blue tinge to the skin due to a low level of oxygen in the blood
Some foods and drinks can increase acidity in the body. It is not the pH of the food or drink that determines whether this occurs but how the food affects the balance between acid and alkaline levels once inside the body.
According to a 2015 review of acidosis, the average diet of people in the United States produces acid in the body. In many cases, a diet is acidic due to high levels of:
- amino acids that contain sulfur, which are present in meat, eggs, and dairy products
- salt, which may make it harder for the kidneys to get rid of excess acid
- phosphoric acid, which soda contains
Some prescription medications can increase acidity in the body. Examples of these include:
- antibacterial drugs, such as trimethoprim (Primsol)
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