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Metabolic alkalosis: characteristics and treatment

Metabolic alkalosis: characteristics and treatment


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What is referred to as metabolic alkalosis it is nothing more than a condition that occurs in our body when the blood becomes excessively alkaline. That is, a condition that is the exact opposite of acidity.

We remind you, also in order to understand the importance of the topic right from these introductory sites, that our body works best when the acid-alkaline balance of our blood is only slightly inclined towards the alkaline. However, if imbalances and excesses occur ... then this good functioning obviously fails.

Alkalosis occurs when the body has too many alkaline bicarbonate ions that produce bicarbonate ions, and too few acidifying hydrogen ions. Although many people do not have symptoms of metabolic alkalosis, and therefore may not know they have it, it is also true that it is still a condition that is good to deal with.

We also specify, before understanding how to treat it, that metabolic alkalosis is one of the four main types of alkalosis. We also find chloride-responsive alkalosis, which results from the loss of hydrogen ions, usually from vomiting or dehydration, and chlorine-resistant alkalosis, which occurs when the body retains too many bicarbonate ions (alkaline), or when there is a shift of hydrogen ions from the blood to the cells. There is also a condition called metabolic acidosis, which instead occurs when the blood or fluids become too acidic.

Now, considering that one's body compensates for both alkalosis and acidosis mainly through the lungs, and that the lungs change the alkalinity of the blood by allowing more or less carbon dioxide to escape as you breathe, then helping with the kidneys - that play an important role in controlling the elimination of bicarbonate ions, it follows that treatment is necessary when these natural means of compensation are not sufficient.

But how do you remedy a condition of metabolic alkalosis?

Read also: Stomach pain and nausea, remedies

How to treat metabolic alkalosis

The treatment for metabolic alkalosis it depends on whether the alkalosis you are testing is chloride reactive or chloride resistant. It also depends on the underlying cause of the alkalosis.

For example, if you only have alkalosis that is slightly sensitive to potassium chloride, you may only need to adjust your diet, such as increasing your salt intake (sodium chloride). The chloride ions make the blood more acidic and reduce alkalosis. However, if your doctor determines that your alkalosis needs immediate attention, they may give something intravenously, usually a saline solution (sodium chloride).

This procedure is almost painless considering that it involves inserting a small needle into a vein in the arm. The needle is connected by a tube to a sterile bag containing salt dissolved in water. As this is usually done in a hospital setting, the best efficiencies in terms of hygiene and sterilization should be ensured.

If, on the other hand, you have alkalosis resistant to chlorides, then your own could be depleted of potassium. A sodium chloride solution won't help you and could even make things worse. Instead, your doctor will look for ways to increase potassium.

It is possible to increase potassium levels by taking pills containing potassium chloride two to four times a day (under medical supervision), or by receiving potassium chloride intravenously.

Symptoms of metabolic alkalosis

L'metabolic alkalosis it may show no symptoms, or show very mild symptoms, making it difficult to recognize the condition at times.

Either way, it's not uncommon for people with this type of alkalosis to more often be able to complain of some underlying conditions that cause it, such as:

  • He retched,
  • diarrhea,
  • swelling in the legs (peripheral edema),
  • fatigue.
  • Only in the most serious cases, metabolic alkalosis can cause:
  • agitation,
  • disorientation,
  • coma.

Severe symptoms are more common when alkalosis is caused by chronic liver disease.

Compensation in metabolic alkalosis

As we have already had occasion to point out in part, there are two organs that help compensate for metabolic alkalosis - our lungs and our kidneys.

With regard to pulmonary compensation, we remember in this final phase of our study that our body produces carbon dioxide when we transform the food we eat into energy for our cells. The red blood cells in our veins absorb carbon dioxide and transport it to our lungs to be exhaled.

When carbon dioxide mixes with water in the blood, it forms a sweet acid, called acid carbonic. The carbonic acid then separates into the bicarbonate ion and hydrogen. Bicarbonate ions are alkaline.

By changing the speed of breathing, we can therefore increase or decrease the concentration of alkaline bicarbonate ions that are retained in our blood. The body does this automatically, in a process called respiratory compensation. To compensate for alkalosis, signals are sent to speed up our respiratory rate.

As for renal compensation, we highlight how the kidneys can also help fight alkalosis by increasing the excretion of bicarbonate ions through the urine. This is also an automatic process, but it is slower than respiratory compensation.

Causes of metabolic alkalosis

As we have in part already reported, there are several different underlying conditions that can cause metabolic alkalosis. These include:

  • loss of stomach acids. It is the most common cause of metabolic alkalosis. It is usually caused by vomiting or aspiration through a feeding tube of the nose. Gastric juices have a high content of hydrochloric acid, a strong acid. Its loss causes an increase in the alkalinity of the blood. Vomiting can result from any number of stomach ailments. By identifying and treating the cause of the vomiting, the doctor will treat the metabolic alkalosis;
  • excess of antacids. The use of antacids does not normally lead to metabolic alkalosis. But if you have weak or failing kidneys and you use a non-absorbable antacid, this condition can lead to alkalosis.

Talk to your doctor to find out more!


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