Acidosis vs. Alkalosis

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  • 0:03 Balanced Blood
  • 0:52 Acidosis
  • 2:17 Alkalosis
  • 3:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

In this lesson, we're going to learn about acidosis and alkalosis. We'll take a look at the causes, signs, and symptoms that are associated with each condition.

Balanced Blood

We are constantly having to find balance in our lives. From balancing work and play time to saving and spending money, sleep and awake time. Well, ideally at least. We do this because we know that we function best when we're balanced.

There are many similar balances that are going on inside of our bodies. An important balance that must be maintained to allow us to function properly is the balance between acids and bases in our bodies. When these are balanced, the acids pair up with the bases, and our blood is close to neutral. If too much acid is in the blood, then we experience acidosis. If too much base is in the blood, we experience alkalosis. Acidosis and alkalosis are caused by different conditions in our bodies, and they can cause different problems to occur.


Acidosis results from the build-up of acids in the blood or from the loss of base in the blood. Acids are put into our bloodstream through two systems in the body: the digestive system and the respiratory system.

Acidosis that occurs from the digestive system is referred to as metabolic acidosis. In this instance, acids accumulate in the blood due to consumption of acidic foods or foods that are broken down into acids, excess acids being produced during metabolism, kidneys not properly removing acid from the bloodstream during filtration, or production of acid by the body due to other medical conditions, such as diabetes.

The other possible way to develop acidosis is by the malfunctioning of the respiratory system, which we refer to as respiratory acidosis. This can happen if breathing is extremely slow or shallow, the lungs do not completely exhale carbon dioxide, or nervous system disorders prevent normal breathing.

The first clues that you are experiencing acidosis are a headache and sleepiness. Other indications of acidosis that may follow include feeling nauseous, being very tired, vomiting, feeling weak, having diarrhea, and breathing that is faster and deeper than normal. It is possible to end up in a coma or dead if acidosis isn't treated.


Just as acids may accumulate in our blood, bases may do the same. The main base in the blood is bicarbonate. Strange name, but you are actually familiar with it. It's really just what you normally call baking soda. The build-up of bases in the blood makes it more alkaline, also called basic than usual. This also may occur through the same two systems in the body as acidosis: the digestive and the respiratory.

Alkalosis that occurs from problems in the digestive system is called metabolic alkalosis. This may occur due to having stomach acid removed from the stomach medically or through long periods of vomiting, an electrolyte imbalance prevents the kidneys from removing bases from the blood, or if an excessive amount of basic foods or drinks are consumed.

Respiratory alkalosis can occur when the respiratory system is responsible for causing an increase in blood alkalinity. This happens in the opposite manner of respiratory acidosis. In this case, the lungs get rid of too much carbon dioxide, usually due to a person hyperventilating. This rapid, deep breathing could happen because of low oxygen levels in the blood, pain, or anxiety and stress.

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