Knowledge is power. Understanding what is going on inside your body can help you make more informed decisions when it comes to nutrition, physical activity and your overall lifestyle.
What is a Buffer?
A buffering system is solution based system that composed of a weak acid and a conjugate base. This system allows for adjustment when another acid or base is introduced to the system, to resist changes in pH. The bicarbonate buffering system is one of three buffering systems that work to regulate blood pH in the body. The other buffering systems the help regulate blood pH are the phosphate buffering system and the plasma protein buffering system.
The Bicarbonate System
The bicarbonate buffering system is often discussed as being the most important of the three buffering system because it is also coupled with the respiratory system. This system is based on an equilibrium between carbonic acid and bicarbonate. The addition of an external acid or base will shift the equilibrium in one direction or the other to neutralize the external force. Under normal circumstances there is more bicarbonate than carbonic acid, with a ratio of about 20:1. There are 4 main functions of the bicarbonate system:
1. One of the major buffering systems used to maintain the pH of the blood.
2. Used in the formation of acid in the lumen of the stomach.
3. Used to neutralize the pH of chime leaving the stomach and entering the small intestine.
4. Support proper metabolic function.
The balance of the bicarbonate system is controlled mainly by the lungs (respiratory portion) and the kidneys (metabolic portion). These two parts of the system work in conjunction with each other and when one part of the system is not functioning properly the other will work to compensate for it. It is important to note that while the lungs can compensate quickly, the kidneys take longer to adjust for irregularities in the respiratory system. Knowing how the bicarbonate buffering system works can make identifying imbalances and knowing how to correct them easier.
The Effects of Lifestyle
During workouts, people tend to be more glycolytic, this means that more acid is produced. Under normal circumstances the body can adequately compensate for these natural changes during physical activity. However, when an individual over-trains, the body reaches a point where it can no longer adequately compensate for the changes in equilibrium that occur during exercise. A buildup of acid in the body can have negative effects on any number of tissues, organs and systems within the body. With nutrition it is important to note that there is no peer reviewed evidence showing that pH specific, blood type or alkaline diets have any effect on the pH balance of the blood or the efficacy of the bicarbonate system. The pH in the stomach is so low (acidic), that it negates the pH of any food entering the body. However, you can make sure that your diet is nutritionally rich in all the nutrients that your body needs to function optimally (this includes the bicarbonate system).
Health status or disease state can have a profound effect on the bodies capacity for regulation and compensation. Diabetes is a disease that has afflicted much of the US population. When left uncontrolled, the body is unable to control the levels of glucose in the blood. This can tip the equilibrium in the body to a more acidic state. It can also damage the kidneys and their ability to compensate/work properly. Renal issues can present themselves in a variety of manners, chronic kidney disease, acute kidney disease, acute kidney injury or failure to name a few. If the kidney is compromised, it is not able to adequately perform its many essential tasks, including managing the metabolic portion of the bicarbonate system.
a. Be aware and note any signs or symptoms of overtraining:
ii. Keep a training journal and note any signs of overtraining
iii. Symptoms can include: Fatigue, tightness, decreased performance, increased injury, altered heart rate, trouble sleeping, decreased mood, increased inflammation, irritability and depression.
b. Analyze the nutritional benefits of the food you consume:
iv. Keep a food journal for 2-3 days
v. Go back through and assess the nutritional benefits of the food you consumed.
vi. Is there anything lacking?
c. If living with diabetes or renal issues:
vii. Make sure you are staying on top of your illness and your health
viii. Get regular check-ups with your doctor which will generally include regular blood glucose, A1c or urinalysis.