Acidosis

Specialty of Nephrology

What is acidosis?

Acidosis is an abnormal state characterised by an excessive amount of acids in the blood and tissues.

There are two types of acidosis:

- Diabetic ketoacidosis: occurs when known substances (e.g. ketone bodies or acids) accumulate in the body. And hyperchloraemic acidosis, caused by excessive loss of sodium bicarbonate from the body.

- Lactic acidosis: caused by the accumulation of lactic acid in the body as a result of specific bad habits (e.g. drinking too much alcohol, or certain health problems/conditions).

Symptoms of acidosis

It should be borne in mind that many of the symptoms of acidosis are actually caused by the underlying disease or condition that led to acidosis. Some of the symptoms are:

  • Rapid respiration, with hyperventilation, deep and agitated breathing.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Pain or discomfort in bones and joints.
  • Irritability.
  • Gastric disturbances.

What are the causes of acidosis?

There are many possible causes of acidosis. Some of the most common causes are:

  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Liver failure.
  • Physical activity for extended periods of time.
  • Intense diarrhoea.
  • Cancer.

Can it be prevented?

Prevention depends on the cause. Acidosis of many causes can be prevented, including diabetic ketoacidosis and some causes of lactic acidosis. Generally, severe acidosis does not occur in people with healthy kidneys and lungs.

What is the treatment?

The treatment depends on the cause and is directed at the underlying disorder or disease that led to acidosis. In some cases, sodium bicarbonate may be administered, with the aim of lowering the acidity of the blood.

In addition, it is crucial to follow a diet as varied, healthy and balanced as possible. Food items to favour are: vegetables, legumes (soya and soya-derived foods), fruits, alkaline water, miso, honey and kefir. Food items to avoid are: certain drinks such as coffee and alcohol, processed products, sugar and refined flour, saturated fats from meat, milk,...

It is advisable to do physical activity on a regular basis, 30-40 minutes per day. Moreover, certain nutritional supplements may be effective, including: calcium, magnesium or potassium  carbonate; certain vitamins, such as group B vitamins.

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