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When you’re insulin resistant, that is, you’ve got metabolic syndrome, pretty much every chemical in the body is NOT QUITE RIGHT. Some are up. Some are down. Few are actually at physiologically NORMAL levels.
Traditionally the focus is on the big guns.
- And cholesterol
In this series, we take a look at some of the other players.
Who they are, what they’re up to and how they’re part of the state of insulin resistance.
This week, we contemplate your level of “acidity”
When you’re insulin resistant, the pH of your arterial blood, is on the high side of normal, resulting in what is commonly referred to as a mild metabolic acidosis.
The high side of NORMAL.
This is NOT the same as metabolic acidosis, which can be life threatening.
So there is NO NEED to panic !
But is it something you should “manage” ? Dr Google would say yes, and offers suggestions to get you, to a more alkaline state, but the science, is NOT so clear….
It’s a scale that represents the number of protons / hydrogen ions, available to “do chemistry”. It can be a little confusing, because low pH i.e. acidity, actually corresponds with high levels of protons/hydrogen ions.
This might sound bad, but protons DO a lot of chemistry.
There are chemical reactions that generate them and consume them – in fact, one of the most important chemical processes in the body, the generation of ATP, depends on proton pumps.
pH is a guiding light
The level of protons, guides cells in making “decisions”. For example, when acid levels are high – cells shift their chemistry, so that less is made. This impacts how cells respond to insulin, as well as how much insulin is secreted.
In acidic environments, insulin resistance is amplified.
This is a physiological effect not a pathological response
Since the normal function of ALL physiological reactions depends on the appropriate acid-base balance, the pH levels are NOT left to chance…….it’s TIGHTLY regulated.
The buffer zone
The pH of your blood, depends on the ratio of bicarbonate ions to carbon dioxide levels, circulating.
[HCO3–] : pCO2
HCO3– alklainizes and pCO2 acidifies.
And these in turn depend on the kidney and lungs. The levels of bicarbonate are controlled by the kidney, which can generate it from scratch as well as recycle it, while the levels of carbon dioxide, are controlled by the lungs, through moderating how little or how much, carbon dioxide is breathed out.
In addition to this universal regulation of pH, there are a multitude of additional buffering systems, which fine tune, pH and individual cells, control the acid levels they’re exposed to, through acid-extruding and acid-loading membrane transport proteins.
- Proton pumps
- Sodium-proton exchangers
- Proton coupled solute transporters
- Proton channels
- Bicarbonate permeable anion channels
- Sodium coupled bicarbonate transporters
- Chloride-bicarbonate exchangers
- Carbonic anhydrases
So what causes metabolic acidosis ?
It arises, in one of three circumstances.
Loss of base, in the form of bicarb, via renal or gastrointestinal routes. This is often precipitated by the intoxication of compounds e.g. aspirin overdose.
It can happen, when more acid is produced, than the kidneys can excrete, usually because the kidneys are diseased.
Abnormal metabolism can cause an excess of acidic substances. This often happens, when someone has a heart attack. It is also seen in type 1 diabetics, who develop diabetic ketoacidosis.
NOTE : Diabetic ketoacidosis is not the same thing as ketosis.
Bubble your troubles away
In these scenarios, an alkalinizing agent, usually bicarbonate salts, is given to provide short term relief, while working to fix the underlying problem. The operative word, is short term !
So if you’re mildly acidic, should you help out, by lending a hand, and take steps to make yourself MORE ALKALINE on a daily basis ?
As I said, Dr Google suggests this, as a go to strategy, but the short answer is probably NOT.
Alkalinizing does not improve insulin sensitivity
There is no credible scientific evidence, to suggest alkalinizing in and of itself, will improve insulin sensitivity.
Although there is evidence to suggest it can give a shot in the arm, to a failing kidney.
Interestingly enough, the same effect is seen with increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Go broccoli !
Consequence versus cause
When you’re insulin resistant, the acidity, you’re experiencing is a consequence, of bad body chemistry, which explains why, boosting your buffering capacity is not all that helpful.
In chronic kidney disease, there genuinely is a shortage of buffering capacity.
The kidney is not making it.
So, boosting your buffering capacity…………… can and does, make a difference.
But bicarb is a grocery
Agreed, bicarb is something you can find at the grocery store …………….. but that does not mean it is 100 % SAFE.
Swallowing large amounts, is not without it’s own risks.
When you swallow bicarb, as it hits the stomach, it reacts – to make carbon dioxide.
That whoosh of carbon dioxide in your stomach, has to go somewhere. You may burp it out i.e. just bubble your troubles away. But you may not – if the carbon dioxide accumulates, it can cause bloating and gastric disturbances.
Plus, there is the problem of what the bicarbonate comes with.
You see, chemistry dictates that negative ions, must always travel with a positive ion. This means, the body doesn’t just get the benefits of the bicarb, it must also handle the positive ion.
Too much of these, can be problematic.
So when all is said and done, it would serve you better, to address the things are putting strain on your buffering capacity, rather than artificially beefing up you buffering capacity.
So where is the acid coming from, when you’re insulin resistant ?
It’s ALL in the diet
Some would say, it’s your diet i.e. you’re eating too many acid producing foods and not enough vegetables and fruits.
This may well be true.
Eating highly refined, processed food, IS NOT A HEALTH MOVE !
But, this is not, causing the “problem” per se.
The acid trap
It’s first and foremost, a metabolic problem – as you’ve learnt in the Ups and Downs series, most chemicals are NOT QUITE RIGHT.
Lactate, which morphs into lactic acid is up, so are free fatty acids and uric acid levels.
That’s a lot of acid-ey things that are up.
While at the same time, your bicarbonate levels are taking strain, because insulin influences many of the acid-base transporters, most notably insulin promotes the renal sodium/bicarbonate transporter.
More sodium is re-absorbed.
The knock on effect of the increased sodium…
It sparks active secretion of bicarbonate, by another transporter.
Addressing your mild acidosis
The best way to do this, is to deal with the route of the problem.
It’s TOO MUCH INSULIN.
You want to concentrate your efforts, on reining in insulin.
Download the free Willpower Report – to learn how.
And then worry about your buffering capacity. The best way to boost this, is to eat your greens – they provide a lot more, than extra buffer.
Here are a few of the journal articles I’ve used to tell the acid-base / metabolic acidosis story.
Insulin Sensitivity and Glucose Homeostasis Can Be Influenced by Metabolic Acid Load. Nutrients (2018) 10: 618. Lucio Della Guardia, Michael Alex Thomas and Hellas Cena
Sodium Bicarbonate Therapy in Patients with Metabolic Acidosis. The Scientific World Journal (2014) Article ID 627673. MaríaM. Adeva-Andany, Carlos Fernández-Fernández, DavidMouriño-Bayolo, Elvira Castro-Quintela, and Alberto Domínguez-Montero
Acid-Base Homeostasis. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol (2015) 10: 2232–2242. Lee Hamm, Nazih Nakhoul and Kathleen S. Hering-Smith
The effect of body acid–base state and manipulations on body glucose regulation in human. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2020) 74:20–26. Eliza Chalmers & Dorit Samocha-Bonet
The Renal Sodium Bicarbonate Cotransporter NBCe2: Is It a Major Contributor to Sodium and pH Homeostasis? Curr Hypertens Rep. (2016) 18(9): 71. Robin A. Felder, Pedro A. Jose, Peng Xu and John J. Gildea
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