Your body’s pH balance, also referred to as its acid-base balance, is the level of acids and bases in your blood at which your body functions best.

The human body is built to naturally maintain a healthy balance of acidity and alkalinity. The lungs and kidneys play a key role in this process. A normal blood pH level is 7.35 to 7.45 on a scale of 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most basic. This value can vary slightly in either direction.

If the lungs or kidneys are malfunctioning, your blood’s pH level can become imbalanced. Disruption in your acid-base balance can lead to medical conditions known as acidosis and alkalosis. Both conditions require treatment from a medical professional, not simply dietary changes. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, can cause your blood pH level to become imbalanced.

In addition to maintaining a healthy pH balance for the blood, your body also closely regulates the pH levels of other parts of the body — including the digestive tract, reproductive system, and skin — to ensure that they function efficiently.

Changes in your body’s pH balance may be associated with a range of symptoms, which can vary depending on the specific type and cause of pH imbalance.

Most of these symptoms are caused by the underlying condition that is disrupting your body’s pH balance.

Some symptoms that may indicate a pH imbalance include:

Female symptoms

In addition to regulating the pH levels of your blood, your body also regulates the pH levels of several other parts of the body, including the vagina. Maintaining a normal vaginal pH is important, as it can prevent the growth of harmful yeast and bacteria.

An imbalance in the pH of your vagina can increase the risk of infections, including bacterial vaginosis.

This could cause symptoms such as:

Male symptoms

Like the vagina, the pH of the penis is also closely regulated to ensure that it is able to fight off harmful bacteria and fungi effectively.

For this reason, changes in pH levels can increase the risk of conditions like balanitis, or inflammation of the head and foreskin of the penis.

This may lead to symptoms such as:

A blood pH imbalance can lead to two conditions: acidosis and alkalosis.

Acidosis refers to having blood that’s too acidic, or a blood pH of less than 7.35. Alkalosis refers to having blood that’s too basic, or a blood pH of higher than 7.45.

There are different types of acidosis and alkalosis based on the underlying cause.

When acidosis or alkalosis is caused by a lung disorder or issue with exhalation, it’s referred to as “respiratory.” When acidosis or alkalosis is caused by a problem with the functioning of the kidneys, it’s referred to as “metabolic.”

In some cases, a person may have a mix of things happening. For example, they may have both respiratory and metabolic acidosis. Blood tests, urine tests, and other tests can help determine a cause.

Respiratory acidosis

Respiratory acidosis is caused by your lungs not being able to remove enough carbon dioxide when you exhale. This can occur when your lungs are affected by a disease or other disorder.

Some conditions that could lead to respiratory acidosis include:

Respiratory acidosis can also be caused by taking narcotics or sleep medications. Brain and nervous system disorders that cause breathing problems may also lead to respiratory acidosis.

The primary symptoms of respiratory acidosis are:

If left untreated, respiratory acidosis can become severe and lead to coma or death.

Metabolic acidosis

Metabolic acidosis is a buildup of acid in the body that originates in the kidneys. It occurs when your body can’t get rid of excess acid or loses too much base. Specific causes include:

  • having too little sodium bicarbonate in your blood, a potential complication of severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • a buildup of ketones due to a lack of insulin, a condition known as ketoacidosis that people with diabetes face
  • a buildup of lactic acid, a possible complication of alcohol misuse, cancer, some medications like metformin, and seizures
  • failure of the kidneys to release acid into the bloodstream, known as renal tubular acidosis

Metabolic acidosis could also be caused by ingesting certain substances, such as:

  • methanol
  • antifreeze
  • aspirin (in large doses)

Symptoms of metabolic acidosis can include nausea, vomiting, and extreme tiredness.

As with respiratory acidosis, metabolic acidosis can result in coma or death if left untreated.

Metabolic acidosis is further differentiated into anion gap metabolic acidosis and non-anion gap metabolic acidosis. This is based on calculations from bloodwork. This is important as it can help determine the cause of a person’s acidosis and can also guide treatment.

Respiratory alkalosis

Respiratory alkalosis occurs when there’s too little carbon dioxide in your blood. Causes of respiratory alkalosis include hyperventilation due to anxiety, aspirin overdose, high fever, and possibly even pain.

Symptoms of respiratory alkalosis are muscle cramping and twitching. You may also notice tingling in your fingers, toes, and lips, as well as irritability.

Metabolic alkalosis

Metabolic alkalosis occurs when bicarbonate levels in your blood get too high or your body loses too much acid. It can be brought on by a long period of vomiting, overuse of diuretics, or an overactive adrenal gland.

Other conditions that can lead to metabolic alkalosis are kidney damage caused by a severe loss of fluids or ingestion of a large amount of baking soda.

Symptoms of metabolic alkalosis are the same as those discussed above for respiratory alkalosis.

If you think you have a pH imbalance, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. In addition to taking your medical history, a doctor will use a variety of blood and urine tests to determine the underlying cause of your pH imbalance.

Possible tests include:

However, depending on your symptoms and the other information your doctor collects, they may order additional tests. If you have diabetes, they may test your glucose and ketone levels. If you ingested ethylene glycol or methylene, you may undergo an osmolality test.

Treatments for pH imbalances will vary greatly based on whether you’re experiencing acidosis or alkalosis, and what the underlying cause is. The ultimate goal is to return your acid-base level to a healthy balance.

Metabolic acidosis treatments may include:

  • oral or intravenous sodium bicarbonate to raise blood pH
  • sodium citrate to treat metabolic acidosis due to distal renal tubular acidosis
  • insulin and intravenous fluids to treat ketoacidosis
  • renal replacement therapy (dialysis)

Respiratory acidosis treatments may include:

Metabolic alkalosis treatment might include:

  • medications to restore levels of nutrients, such as chloride or potassium
  • fluids or electrolyte drinks to restore electrolyte balance
  • Avoiding medications like diuretics

Respiratory alkalosis treatment might include:

  • slowed breathing if the underlying cause is hyperventilation
  • oxygen therapy
  • anxiety management
  • management of the underlying cause of hyperventilation such as fever or pain

Alkalosis and acidosis are two conditions that require immediate medical attention from a healthcare professional.

However, there are several natural remedies that can help you maintain a healthy pH balance in your body, including making changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Here are a few remedies to try:

  • Follow a well-rounded diet. Some research suggests that enjoying a variety of nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes while limiting your intake of acid-producing foods, including salt and high- sodium foods, can support a healthy acid-base balance.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is important, as dehydration can disrupt electrolyte levels and alter pH balance in the body.
  • Consider using probiotics. Probiotic supplements could help balance the pH of the vagina by supporting the health of the vaginal microbiome.
  • Avoid harsh soaps and skincare products. Using soaps with a high pH can alter the acid-base balance of the skin. Additionally, avoid using soap inside the vagina and use a gentle cleanser with warm water to clean the vulva instead.

Your pH balance is important for your health, and you can trust that your body is equipped to maintain that balance on its own. However, if your doctor finds your balance to be off through blood and urine testing, they will do additional tests to determine the exact cause.

Once the cause is discovered, you’ll be given a treatment plan to correct it and get your body’s pH balance back in line.