2. Body Maintenance Of Normal pH
In order to maintain a proper pH in the bodily fluids, and so that acidosis or alkalosis will not manifest, three major physiological control systems exist within the body. The first mechanism involves a buffer system for the hydrogen ion fluctuations. All bodily fluids are supplied with acid-base buffers which combine with any acid or alkaline substance and prevent excessive change in the hydrogen ion concentration.
Another mechanism the body uses to maintain normal pH is within the respiratory system. When the hydrogen ion concentration (H + ) changes measurably, the respiratory system is immediately stimulated to alter the rate of pulminary ventilation. This brings about a change in the quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2) within the system. High levels of carbon dioxide in the system, as created when holding the breath or due to physiological impairments of respiration, increase the acidity of the bloodstream. Any disease that interferes with normal breathing, such as emphysema or asthma, will impede the release of CO2 from the lungs and, subsequently, this CO2 will combine with water to form carbonic acid. This increases the concentration of hydrogen ions, and thus the acidity of the blood is simultaneously increased.
The last of the three major physiological control systems of the body to maintain normal pH involves the kidneys. When the (H + ) (hydrogen concentration) deviates from a normal value, the kidneys excrete either an acid or alkaline urine. This serves to help readjust the (H + ) of the bodily fluids back toward the normal value.
The key point to keep in mind when you are trying to understand the terms acidosis and alkalosis is that, as was previously mentioned, when the hydrogen ion concentration (H + ) is above normal, there is a state of acidosis and when the (H + ) falls below normal, we have alkalosis. If either acidosis or alkalosis occur within the bodily fluids, the buffer systems; namely, the lungs and kidneys, the organs that influence the acceptance or excretion of hydrogen ions, will attempt to regulate the imbalance. In a normal, healthy individual, any increase or decrease in (H + ) will be modified so that the pH of the blood does not fluctuate from its normal range of 7.35 to 7.45. If, however, either the lungs or kidneys fail to function properly, the end result is often acidosis or alkalosis.
Acidosis and alkalosis both have numerous causes. As mentioned above, one or more of the body's buffer systems may be impaired in some way. Thus, acidosis or alkalosis may occur. Also, acidosis or alkalosis may result because of improper respiration (breathing), improper diet or both.
An example of respiratory alkalosis is when a person ascends to a very high altitude and proceeds to overbreathe because he is aware of the low oxygen content in the air. This overbreathing results in an excessive loss of CO2, referred to as a mild state of respiratory alkalosis. If such a situation persists and the individual fails to acclimate, eventually the balance of acid and alkalinity in the blood may be altered.
Both diarrhea and vomiting are considered to be some common causes of metabolic acidosis. During diarrhea, large amounts of sodium bicarbonate, an alkaline substance, are secreted from the gastrointestinal tract; and during vomiting, there is a loss of alkaline substances deep within the gastrointestinal tract.
However, diarrhea and vomiting are processes the body uses to speedily eliminate highly toxic materials from the body so these toxins cannot harm the tissues. Diarrhea and vomiting are not themselves causes of acidosis. Rather, they result from the same offending substance(s) that the acidosis results from.
It is important that you understand that body actions to expel toxic materials (acute illnesses, so-called "infections," fevers, etc.) are not harmful processes. What is harmful is what occasioned the body to perform in such an expedient manner.
As students of Natural Hygiene, you must realize that the pH balance within the body is a result of the entire physiology of the body working in harmony. So, while this lesson will deal primarily with dietary influences on pH, be aware that you must utilize all areas of Natural Hygiene. This includes not only diet, but also pure water, fasting, exercise, fresh air, sunshine and mental poise. All of these must be integrated to form a lifestyle which can allow the body to carry out its physiological duties as effectively and efficiently as possible.
To sum up what we have discussed in this section, the pH in the blood and tissues is directly related to the concentration of (H + ) within the body. This range and balance of pH in the bodily fluids is quite narrow and delicate. Even slight deviations from these values can lead to major physiological complications. Several mechanisms, as expressed by McNutt's Nutrition and Food Choices, regulate this intricate balance.
We have already discussed briefly these first two mechanisms. In order to understand the latter two, we must begin our study of dietary influences upon the body's acidity and alkalinity.
Home > Lesson 12 - The Role Of Acid And Alkaline Substances Within The Body
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