Every reaction in the body that is a part of our metabolism is mostly a chemical reaction. These chemical reactions are carried out by small protein molecules known as enzymes. These enzymes are responsible for bringing about various reactions, like hydrolysis of fats and break down of large carbohydrate and protein molecules. However, these enzymes require a specific environment to function to their optimum potential. This environment primarily consists of the pH at which the enzymes function. The pH levels in the body vary according to the site and the organ involved. Details about the same are given below.
pH Levels in the Human Body
In general, the pH level of the blood is slightly alkaline, at 7.4. The pH range of blood is very very narrow and usually, it does not go anywhere beyond 7.35-7.45, with the ideal pH being 7.4. Basically, when an individual is healthy, then his body pH is balanced between an alkaline and an acidic environment. However, the pH for various parts of the digestive system varies according to the organ and the need of the enzymes.
These are enlisted below:
Mouth: The pH of saliva is usually slightly acidic to neutral, hovering around 6.5 to 7.5, so as to ensure proper functioning of the enzyme salivary amylase or ptyalin.
Stomach: The pH of stomach is very low and highly acidic, being around 4 to 6 in the upper stomach and around 1.5 to 3 in the lower stomach! This low pH is due to the hydrochloric acid in stomach, which helps to ensure proper functioning of enzymes pepsin.
Intestines: The pH of the intestines is usually slightly acidic to neutral, being around 5 to 7, as this is the pH at which the enzymes in this region functions
Decrease in pH Levels
Acidosis is a condition where there is low pH level in the body, due to which the blood becomes acidic. This happens due to the hydronium ion concentration increasing in the blood. So, when its value in blood falls below 7.35, then acidosis symptoms start showing up. This usually happens when there is less oxygen and an increase in the carbon dioxide content in the blood. There are different kinds of acidosis, like respiratory acidosis, metabolic acidosis, diabetic acidosis and lactic acidosis. Thus, the symptoms and treatment for each of these will vary accordingly.
Increase in pH Levels
Alkalosis is a condition where the pH levels in the body increase to more than 7.45, usually due to a decrease in the hydrogen ion concentration. There are primarily two types of alkalosis, which are, respiratory alkalosis and metabolic alkalosis. Alkalosis of the respiratory kind is usually due to hyperventilation, because of which there is loss of carbon dioxide. Metabolic alkalosis is due to excessive vomiting, leading to loss of hydrochloric acid from the stomach. One of the main dangers associated with alkalosis is hypokalemia. Thus, the symptoms seen include muscle weakness, muscle cramping and constipation. In such cases, the pH must be restored and the treatment will vary depending on the type of alkalosis.
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