Physiological acid-base balance
Physiological acid-base balance refers to the maintenance of the appropriate pH level in the body’s fluids and tissues, which is essential for proper physiological function. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with a pH of 7 being neutral. A pH below 7 is considered acidic, while a pH above 7 is considered basic or alkaline.
The body has several mechanisms for regulating acid-base balance, including:
- Buffers: Buffers are chemical compounds that can quickly absorb excess hydrogen ions (H+) or hydroxide ions (OH-) to help maintain a stable pH. The most important buffer systems in the body are bicarbonate-carbon dioxide and hemoglobin.
- Respiratory system: The lungs can regulate pH by controlling the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) exhaled. When there is an excess of H+ ions in the blood, the respiratory system increases the rate and depth of breathing, which reduces the level of CO2 in the blood, lowering H+ ions and increasing pH.
- Renal system: The kidneys play a key role in regulating pH by excreting excess acids or bases and reabsorbing bicarbonate ions. The kidneys also produce new bicarbonate ions to help buffer excess acid in the body.
An imbalance in acid-base balance can have serious health consequences. Acidosis occurs when the body’s pH is too low (less than 7.35) due to an excess of H+ ions in the blood, while alkalosis occurs when the pH is too high (greater than 7.45) due to a shortage of H+ ions. These imbalances can cause a wide range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, fatigue, confusion, and even coma or death.
Therefore, maintaining proper acid-base balance is essential for overall health and well-being. Regular monitoring of blood pH levels, as well as careful management of underlying health conditions that can affect acid-base balance, can help to prevent and treat imbalances.
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