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Acidosis and Its Link to Adrenal Fatigue

One of the biggest causes of and contributors to adrenal fatigue is acidosis. What exactly is acidosis? Acidosis, the blood becomes too acidic, which can cause a number of serious problems over time.

Basics of pH and acidosis

The human body exists in a normal acid-base balance, and pH is the way to measure how acidic or alkaline your body is. The pH is a way of measuring the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+) in the body.

Where do these ions come from? On a daily basis, the body breaks down the acid in the food you eat (especially protein) to produce these H+ ions. They're eliminated by the kidneys, with the help of the adrenal glands. High acidity increases the workload of the kidneys and the adrenal glands to eliminate the excess H+ ions.

In acidosis, the blood is too acidic. (The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, and a normal blood pH is 7.35 to 7.36. Lower than this level means that the blood is acidic, and higher means that the blood is alkaline.) The higher the number of hydrogen ions in the blood, the higher the blood's acidity and the lower the pH.

If your body is on the acidic side, you're at increased risk of developing a whole of host of problems, including chronic inflammation, pain, cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. A lower pH than normal increases the risk of developing malignancy, adrenal fatigue, osteoporosis, and kidney disease. Maintaining an acidic pH also dramatically contributes to the aging process.

How your body buffers excess acid

Every day, your body is under a constant barrage of acidity. From stress and an acid-forming diet based on the processed foods that you eat to the disease states that promote acidosis, your body struggles to maintain a normal acid-base balance.

Picture a seesaw with a bucket of acid on one end and a bucket of baking soda on the other end. If you were to look at a typical person in an industrialized society, you'd see the seesaw tip toward the side with the bucket of acid.

So how does pH balance happen in the body? This occurs through the use of buffers and the work of organs, including the liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands.

Think of a buffer as a built-in safety mechanism that your body uses to maintain a normal pH balance. In response to an acid load, the body produces buffers in your cells, in the bloodstream, and in your bones.

Examples of buffers in the bone include minerals such as calcium and magnesium. The calcium and magnesium are leached out of the bone as the body tries to maintain a normal acid-base balance. Over time, this leaching of calcium and magnesium can cause a thinning of the bone and contribute to osteoporosis.

In addition to buffers, certain organs of the body, namely the liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands, work hard to maintain pH balance. Here's how:

  • Liver: Your liver is responsible for converting acid back into sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) through a chemical reaction.

  • Kidneys: The kidneys, in concert with the adrenal glands, are responsible for eliminating the excess acid that's built up in the body each day.

    The kidneys also have a role in regenerating sodium bicarbonate; in fact, about 20 percent of the body's bicarbonate is generated in the kidneys. The serum bicarbonate level in the blood is used to provide a preliminary indication of the acid-base balance of the body. A level less than 22 milliequivalents per liter (mEq/L) can indicate that acidosis is present.

  • Adrenal glands: To help the kidneys eliminate an acid load, the adrenal glands secrete a hormone called aldosterone.

Because the adrenal glands secrete aldosterone in response to acidosis, acidosis increases stress on the adrenal glands. In turn, adrenal fatigue can increase acidity; as the adrenal glands become less able to produce aldosterone, the kidneys may not be as able to eliminate the acid load.

Over time, acidosis can affect the integrity of the cells and change the environment of the cells from a normal state to an oxidative state. This causes the formation of free radicals, which promote the inflammatory process.

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