Have you ever experienced a muscle ache, burning, rapid breathing, nausea or stomach pain right after a period of intense physical exercise? This occurs due to a build-up of lactic acid in your body as the pH of your blood gets too acidic. A temporary episode of lactic acidosis is not harmful but if the condition persists, it can cause grave complications to your health and wellbeing.

What is Lactic Acidosis?

Inside the cells of your body, is the mighty powerhouse called mitochondria that supply energy to the cells. They are responsible for breaking down glucose and convert it to energy. This metabolic process happens in an aerobic or anaerobic pathway. The aerobic pathway utilizes oxygen to make energy and the anaerobic pathway does not involve any oxygen.

The anaerobic metabolism results in the production of certain waste materials or residue and lactate or lactic acid are one of them. In most cases, this should not be a problem since the liver and kidneys work hard to handle the excess lactic acid and take the required steps to remove this acid and keep it under balance. However, when your body produces lactic acid faster than it can be removed or is starved of oxygen, lactic acid builds up in your blood and results in lactic acidosis.

If lactic acidosis is left untreated, it can be life-threatening leading to shock, unconsciousness, and coma.

Risk Factors and Causes of Lactic Acidosis

Some risk factors of Lactic Acidosis include:

  • Intense Exercise
  • Dehydration
  • Low Blood Sugar
  • Certain chemicals and medications like alcohol, cocaine, epinephrine, isoniazid, salicylates, and the diabetes medication metformin – can raise the level of lactate in the body.

Lactic acidosis can also be caused due to other medical condition, which includes:

  • Liver failure
  • Kidney problems.
  • Mitochondrial diseases.
  • HIV/AIDS – people with AIDS are more prone to infection, which can result in lactic acidosis when the bloodstream is infected. Lactic acidosis can also result from medications used to treat HIV.
  • Heart Diseases – Conditions that reduce the flow of oxygen can increase lactic acid levels
  • Cancer – in rare cases, lactic acidosis can occur in people with leukemia, lymphoma, or solid tumors. It is not clear why this happens.
  • Short bowel syndrome can lead to bacteria in the gut producing too much lactate, which can sometimes enter the bloodstream.
  • Diabetes increases the risk of heart and kidney problems, leading to an increased risk of lactic acidosis.
  • Severe infection or Sepsis
  • Frequent use of Acetaminophen

Signs and Symptoms of Lactic Acidosis

Mild symptoms of lactic acid are as follows

  • Weakness and Lethargy
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle cramps and pain
  • Headaches
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Body weakness and physical discomfort

Serious symptoms of Lactic Acidosis that needs immediate attention include:

  • Trouble breathing with shallow or rapid breaths
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain, tightness or pressure
  • Fruity smelling breadth
  • Confusion
  • Jaundice

Treatment for Lactic Acidosis

The actual treatment for this ailment involves in determining its root cause. In healthy people who experience this due to intense exercise, no treatment is necessary apart from hydration and rest. With regards to other causes, like diabetes or kidney problems, necessary steps to address that illness will remove the excess lactic acid. Also, sodium bicarbonate is at times used to improve lactate levels.

In emergency cases, the immediate goal is to increase the flow of oxygen to the body. This can be done with ozone therapy, administering intravenous fluids, giving resuscitation and putting the patient on an oxygen machine.

How to Prevent Lactic Acidosis?

  1. Stay Hydrated

Have enough fluid in your body before you start your workout. It keeps the oxygen flow intact and also maintains a healthy level of body temperature and blood pressure. The American Council on Exercise recommends this hydration protocol:

  • Drink 17–20 ounces of water two to three hours before you exercise
  • Have another eight ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you exercise
  • Drink seven to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during your workout
  • Finish with another eight ounces of water 30 minutes after completing your working out
  1. Healthy Diet to Support Oxygenation

The main way to naturally increase oxygen supply is to aid your body to build hemoglobin. These can then pick up oxygen and carry it throughout the body. Eat foods rich in iron, vitamin C and folic acid to increase the availability of oxygen.

You can also supply alkaline-rich foods with leafy green vegetables, millets, and honey to maintain a healthy pH balance of your blood.

  1. Practise Breathing Techniques

Slow steady breathing during exercise will prevent a lack of oxygen. Don’t push yourself too hard, focus on slowing your breathing by breathing in through the nose and out through the lips. Also, practice yoga and pranayama to improve blood oxygen levels.

  1. Do high-intensity aerobic training in intervals

Start slow and build up to intense workouts so that there is enough oxygen without causing too much lactate build-up. Rest well between each workout and catch on quality sleep at night to give the body the time to recover for the next bout of activity.

  1. Manage other Health problems that cause Lactic Acidosis

Managing Diabetes, keeping your heart, liver, lungs, and kidney healthy will lower your risk. Avoiding alcohol, drugs, and tobacco and making healthy lifestyle choices is sure to keep these ailments away.

Listen to your body and maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent Lactic Acidosis. This highly acidic state in the body leads to grave complications, so take the right steps to keep your lactate levels in balance.

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