Balancing Hemoglobin and The Body’s PH Level
Every day, the body is constantly rejuvenating by replacing old cells with new ones. At a rate of millions per second, cells are naturally lost through wear and tear. Scientists have found out that 98 percent of the atoms in the body are replaced every year. Atoms are the building blocks of molecules, cells, body tissues and organs. The body requires a balance among its substances to remain healthy and perform its functions properly. Hemoglobin and pH levels are two important elements in the body that are responsible for balance and overall body functioning. Health conditions and other medical problems are usually related to the body’s hemoglobin and pH levels.
Hemoglobin molecules play several important roles in the body. Its major function includes the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the tissues of the body. It also functions by carrying carbon dioxide from the tissues of the body back to the lungs. Hemoglobin can be largely found in the red blood cells, it gives the red color to the blood and maintains the shape of the said cells. Hemoglobin is also responsible for maintaining a proper balance of the blood at pH level 7.4, a slightly alkaline state that keeps the level of the blood steady.
On the other hand, pH level is a measure of the acidity or basicity of the blood and other bodily fluids. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 where 7 is neutral, ph level below 7 is acidic and ph level higher than 7 is alkaline or basic. The blood is slightly alkaline, it must maintain a pH level of 7.35 or 7.45. Naturally, the body is constantly controlling the pH levels of the blood. The right pH levels are important for a healthy lifestyle because if the pH levels are balanced, the body can perform its functions well.
Hemoglobin and pH levels are associated with each other in several ways. One, the oxygen-carrying capacity of the hemoglobin and pH levels directly affect each other. When the oxygen-carrying capacity of the hemoglobin decreases, pH balance also decreases. Two, hemoglobin also transports carbon dioxide in the body. An increase in carbon dioxide concentration will result in a decrease in the body’s pH level. Three, the buffering capacity of hemoglobin maintains blood stability at pH level 7.4. Other substances that serve as buffers in the body include plasma proteins, phosphates, bicarbonate ions, and carbonic acid. Lastly, The Bohr Effect, a physiological phenomenon that refers to how the oxygen affinity of hemoglobin is inversely related to acidity and carbon dioxide concentration in the blood. When the hemoglobin has a higher oxygen, carbon dioxide decrease and pH level increases.
Oxygen Carrier and pH
Hemoglobin is a protein molecule that is present in red blood cells. Hemoglobin’s primary role is to transport oxygen from the lungs to other tissues of the body. The more oxygen in a molecule, the brighter the red color in the blood. But when there is a decrease in the oxygen-carrying ability of the molecule, the pH levels in the body will also decrease. This means that for the body to maintain balanced pH levels, the blood needs enough oxygen to also maintain hemoglobin saturation. The inability of the blood to deliver enough oxygen to the tissues of the body can result in several diseases such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.
Sickle cell anemia is a kind of red blood cell disorder and an incurable form of anemia. It is an inherited condition in which there is an inadequate red blood cell to carry oxygen in different parts of the body. Healthy red blood cells look like a disc with an indented center or shallow dimples. Whereas, in sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells appear to be rigid, sticky and curve-shaped just like a sickle. Sickle cells are generally irregular in shape and this will result in the blockage of blood flow and oxygen to the different parts of the body.
Signs, symptoms, and complications of sickle cell anemia are unique for every individual and these may also change over time. Some signs and symptoms include fatigue, painful swelling of the hands and feet, episodes of pain, frequent infections, delayed growth and vision problems. Severe complications of sickle cell anemia are acute chest syndrome, brain complications, heart problems, liver diseases, and pregnancy complications. So far, there is no complete cure for people who are suffering from sickle cell anemia. Blood and bone marrow transplants are some treatments that can only relieve pain and help prevent other complications associated with this condition.
Thalassemia is another condition that is associated with the blood’s inability to deliver oxygen in the body. It is a rare genetic disease that is caused by a lower level of hemoglobin and an inadequate red blood cell production in the body. This blood disorder is mainly caused by a gene defect that prevents the body from producing proteins that are essential for normal hemoglobin production. There are two types of thalassemia namely, Alpha thalassemia (thalassemia major and minor) and Beta-thalassemia(thalassemia major and minor). The lower the hemoglobin in the body, the lower the production of red blood cells, thus the presence of anemia.
This inherited blood disorder is common for people from Southeast Asia, Mediterranea, Middle East, China, and Africa. If a person has a family history of thalassemia, there is a higher risk of inheriting the same condition. Common symptoms of thalassemia include enlarged spleen, fatigue, weakness, yellowish skin, facial bone deformities, slow growth, abdominal swelling, and dark urine. Patients who have thalassemia have pH imbalance and a higher level of iron in their bodies, thus the common complications in the heart, liver and endocrine system. Some of the treatment options for thalassemia include blood transfusions, bone marrow transplant, iron chelation therapy, and folic acid supplements, or removal of the spleen or gallbladder.
Carbon Dioxide Carrier and pH
Another important function of the hemoglobin in the body is its ability to carry carbon dioxide from the tissues of the body back to the lungs. Carbon dioxide binds to the protein structure of the blood and transports gases via plasma. As compared to oxygen, carbon dioxide is more soluble or dissolves easily in the blood. Once the carbon dioxide enters the red blood cells, it will then bind to hemoglobin. When the hemoglobin reaches the lungs, the carbon dioxide can easily disconnect from the hemoglobin and be expelled from the body through exhaling out from the nose and mouth.
The carbon dioxide-carrying capacity of hemoglobin can determine the body’s pH level. The blood becomes acidic when the carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid as it is combined with water. When the blood becomes acidic or if there is an increase in carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, the pH level of the body will decrease. Body fluids should not contain too much acid. The blood must maintain its alkalinity with a pH level of 7.35 or 7.45 to deliver its function properly. A condition medically known as acidosis will occur when the pH level of the blood reaches less than 7.35.
Acidosis refers to an overproduction of acid in the blood and may result in the body’s pH imbalance. It is the opposite of alkalosis, a blood condition where there is an excessive base in the body fluids. In acidosis, the pH level of the blood drops at less than 7.35. When the blood pH drops, the lungs and kidneys usually compensate. Several factors contribute to acidoses such as an unhealthy lifestyle, a high-fat diet, kidney failure, obesity, dehydration, aspirin or methanol poisoning, and diabetes. Medical practitioners identified two types of acidosis namely, respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis.
Respiratory acidosis occurs when there is excessive production of carbon dioxide in the body. A person may experience common symptoms of respiratory acidosis such as fatigue or drowsiness, becoming tired easily, confusion, shortness of breath, sleepiness, and headache. When the lungs fail to remove carbon dioxide in the body, chronic pulmonary disease, severe pneumonia, heart failure, and asthma may occur. Several problems that may affect the functioning of the lungs also include chronic airway conditions, injury to the chest, obesity, sedative misuse, overuse of alcohol, muscle weakness in the chest, problems with the nervous system and deformed chest structure.
Metabolic acidosis is another type of disorder that develops when the body produces excessive amounts of acid and the kidneys are not functioning normally. There are several forms of metabolic acidosis such as diabetic acidosis, hyperchloremic acidosis, lactic acidosis, and renal tubular acidosis. A patient may experience several symptoms of metabolic acidosis such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and faster breathing. Respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis are treated differently based on their causes. Respiratory acidosis can be treated by bronchodilators, mechanical ventilation, or a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. While metabolic acidosis can be treated by insulin therapy, oral sodium bicarbonate, bicarbonate supplements, IV fluids, oxygen, or antibiotics.
The Bohr Effect
Christian Bohr, a Danish physiologist and a professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, is responsible for the discovery of the Bohr effect. Bohr effect is a physiological phenomenon that refers to how the oxygen affinity of hemoglobin is inversely related to acidity and carbon dioxide concentration in the blood. This simply means that when the hemoglobin acquires more oxygen, this will result in a decrease in carbon dioxide and an increase in pH levels. The relationship between carbon dioxide and pH levels of the blood is due to carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that binds carbon dioxide and water to form carbonic acid.
Hemoglobin, through its buffering capability, maintains the normal pH level of the blood at 7.4. The pH level of the blood remains stable because of hemoglobin and bicarbonates. Several substances that act as buffers in the body also include plasma proteins, phosphates, bicarbonate ions, and carbonic acid. Because of the buffering action of hemoglobin, all enzymatic reactions in the body can freely take place without any interference. Enzymes are proteins that speed up the chemical reactions in the body. These are biological catalysts that help in digesting food, respiration, muscle and nerve function and other more.
The buffering capability of the blood allows the change in the pH level of the body system. This process allows the body to adapt to certain places such as mountains with high altitudes, where carbon dioxide is naturally regulated and the pH levels of the body remain at a normal level. The pressure of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body change at high altitudes. At the same time, the buffering capability of the blood adjusts to maintain the normal pH level in the body.
The blood requires a certain level of acid and base balance to function properly. A slight change in the acid and base levels in the blood can cause several medical problems. Alkalosis is one condition that arises when the body has an excess base. This condition occurs when there is a low carbon dioxide in the blood and if there is an increase in bicarbonate in the bloodstream. There are four types of alkalosis namely respiratory alkalosis, metabolic alkalosis, hypochloremic alkalosis, and hypokalemic alkalosis.
Respiratory alkalosis occurs when there is inadequate carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. The pH level of the blood will rise and will become too alkaline or above the normal pH level. The respiratory systems keep oxygen and carbon dioxide in balance. And respiratory alkalosis mainly occurs when there is an imbalance with these gases. This condition is often caused by hyperventilation, high fever, anxiety attack, lack of oxygen, salicylate poisoning, being in high altitudes, liver and lung diseases. Other symptoms also include dizziness, bloating, feeling lightheaded, discomfort in the chest area and shortness of breath. To overcome respiratory alkalosis, it is important to visit a therapist, practice breathing exercises, meditate, eat a balanced diet and have a regular exercise.
Metabolic alkalosis is another type of alkalosis. It is a metabolic condition that refers to an excessive base or inadequate acid in the body. Several symptoms of metabolic alkalosis include vomiting, diarrhea, swelling in the lower legs, fatigue, agitation, disorientation, seizures, and coma. Some factors can cause metabolic alkalosis, such as loss of stomach acids. The loss of these gastric juices, a strong type of acid, may increase the alkalinity of the blood. Another factor is hypokalemia or potassium deficiency. An inadequate level of potassium in the body can cause bodily fluids and blood to become more alkaline. In some cases, a person’s genetic makeup can also cause metabolic alkalosis. Diseases such as Bartter’s syndrome, Gitelman syndrome Liddle syndrome, glucocorticoid remediable aldosteronism, and mineralocorticoid excess, are inherited conditions that may cause metabolic alkalosis.
A hypochloremic alkalosis is also a form of alkalosis. This occurs when there is a low chloride intake or if there is a significant decline of chloride in the body. Chloride is an essential mineral that is responsible for the proper functioning of the digestive system and an important chemical that balances bodily fluids. Hypochloremic alkalosis is largely associated with hypoventilation. It is often caused by stroke, loss of breath, accidental or intentional overdose, rapid breathing, obesity, and chronic mountain sickness. To treat hypochloremic alkalosis, replacement of electrolytes with chloride salts is important, full nutritional assessment and intervention, adequate energy intake, and a balanced diet must be administered.
Also, hypokalemic alkalosis is another type of alkalosis. It occurs when there is an inadequate amount of potassium in the body. Potassium is an essential mineral in the body that is responsible for the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nervous system, and the digestive system. Several symptoms of potassium deficiency may include weakness and fatigue, muscle cramps and spasms, digestive problems, muscle aches and stiffness, heart palpitations and other breathing difficulties. To treat hypokalemic alkalosis, doctors may provide mineral supplements, vitamins or intravenous (IV) treatment. It is also important to eat potassium-rich foods such as bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit, and some dried fruits to prevent hypokalemic alkalosis.
Several medical conditions can also cause alkalosis such as atrial flutter, panic disorder, liver disease pneumothorax, pulmonary embolism and overdose of salicylate medications like aspirin. To treat alkalosis, several options may include opioid pain relievers, anti-anxiety medication, correcting heart rhythm abnormalities through direct current cardioversion.
The cells in the body are constantly dividing, regenerating and changing. For the body to stay healthy and maintain its functions, a proper balance must be attained. Hemoglobin and pH levels are two important elements in the body that influence each other in different ways. Diseases or several medical conditions may arise from the increase or decrease of both hemoglobin and pH levels. A proper balance among these important elements must be achieved as it greatly affects the overall state and functioning of the body. Although the body is capable of naturally maintaining the balance in itself, responsible and healthy living still leads to a holistic and flourishing life.