What Is Metabolic Alkalosis?

M. West

Metabolic alkalosis is an imbalance in the body's acid-base system. The term pH refers to the level of acidity or alkalinity of a substance, with a reading of 7.0 indicating neutrality. Normal body pH is slightly alkaline, with a pH range of 7.36 to 7.44. The body is designed to function optimally within this range, so when factors cause the blood to become more base than acid, adverse effects will occur. The severity of the symptoms manifested will be dependent upon the degree of alkalinity present within the body.

Frequent vomiting may cause metabolic alkalosis.
Frequent vomiting may cause metabolic alkalosis.

Causes of this condition may include factors which lessen the amount of body fluid. Examples include vomiting, the overuse of laxatives, or excessive urination produced by diuretic medications. The loss of fluids can cause potassium and sodium levels to sharply decline, which produces signs of metabolic alkalosis. Other causes include the use of steroids, or the overuse of antacids or alkaline drugs, such as bicarbonate.

Intravenous fluids and medications may be part of a treatment for metabolic alkalosis.
Intravenous fluids and medications may be part of a treatment for metabolic alkalosis.

There are several symptoms that will indicate metabolic alkalosis. One of the first symptoms of this disorder is slowed breathing. Gastrointestinal signs may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cardiovascular symptoms involve a fast heart rate, irregular heart rate, and a drop in blood pressure. Confusion, irritability, and twitching may also be manifested. Severe alkalosis can cause convulsions and a coma.

The main aim of treatment for metabolic alkalosis is to rectify the imbalance. A salt water solution and certain medications will be given through an intravenous line. Administered agents may include drugs to normalize blood pressure and heart rate, along with potassium chloride to correct the hypokalemia, which is low blood potassium. Drugs that provide relief of nausea and vomiting may also be given. Treatment of some cases may necessitate the use of hydrochloric acid or ammonium chloride.

The prognosis of metabolic alkalosis depends on the level of severity of the condition and when medical intervention is initiated. If treatment is started early, the patient may completely recover and not experience lingering adverse effects. In cases of severe alkalosis, the lack of treatment can result in convulsions, heart failure, and coma. A good prognosis is also dependent upon the underlying factors being identified and treated, as well as addressing the presenting symptoms.

Preventive measures may include watching patients who are receiving tube feedings or intravenous feedings. These medical interventions have the potential to cause imbalances in fluids and minerals, such as potassium and sodium. Another preventive strategy is for patients to take care not to overuse drugs which may precipitate this condition.

Severe alkalosis can cause convulsions and a coma.
Severe alkalosis can cause convulsions and a coma.

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Discussion Comments


My mom takes high blood pressure medications which cause mild metabolic alkalosis from time to time. One thing that helps is natural sparkling water. It is rich in minerals and helps re-balance acidity.

Thankfully, it has never been serious enough to warrant a visit to the hospital but it does make her very tired and generally ill for several days.


@burcinc-- It's possible because red meat is a very good source of potassium and low potassium levels is one of the causes of metabolic alkalosis symptoms.

But there are also many fruits and vegetables rich in potassium that you can add to your diet. You should eat broccoli, tomatoes, bananas, milk and nuts and see if your symptoms reduce.

But if you have vomiting and diarrhea, you need to go to the hospital because food is not going to act fast enough in that situation. Metabolic alkalosis can be very serious and it has to be treated right away.


I became a vegetarian several months ago and recently, I have been experiencing many of the symptoms of metabolic alkalosis.

I used to eat meat a lot before so I'm wondering if a vegetarian diet can be a cause of metabolic alkalosis?

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