Sodium Bicarbonate, Anyone?

I belong to a number of social media Chronic Kidney Disease support groups. Time and time again, I’ve seen questions about sodium bicarbonate use. I never quite understood the answers to members’ questions about this. It’s been years, folks. It’s time for me to get us some answers.

My first question was, “What is it used for in conjunction with CKD?” Renal & Urology News at https://www.renalandurologynews.com/home/conference-highlights/era-edta-congress/sodium-bicarbonate-for-metabolic-acidosis-slows-ckd-progression/ had a current response to this. Actually, it’s from last June 19th.

“Sodium bicarbonate treatment of metabolic acidosis in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) improves renal outcomes and survival, researchers reported at the 56th European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplant Association Congress in Budapest, Hungary.

In a prospective open-label study, patients with CKD and metabolic acidosis who took sodium bicarbonate (SB) tablets were less likely to experience a doubling of serum creatinine (the study’s primary end point), initiate renal replacement therapy (RRT), and death than those who received standard care (SC).”

It may be current but what does it mean? Let’s start with metabolic acidosis. Medline Plus, part of the U.S. National Library of Medicine which, in turn, is part of the National Institutes of Health at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000335.htm explains it this way:

“Metabolic acidosis is a condition in which there is too much acid in the body fluids.”

But why is there “too much acid in the body fluid?”

I like the simply stated reason I found at Healthline (https://www.healthline.com/health/acidosis), the same site that deemed SlowItDownCKD among the Best Six Kidney Disease Blogs for 2016 and 2017.

“When your body fluids contain too much acid, it’s known as acidosis. Acidosis occurs when your kidneys and lungs can’t keep your body’s pH in balance. Many of the body’s processes produce acid. Your lungs and kidneys can usually compensate for slight pH imbalances, but problems with these organs can lead to excess acid accumulating in your body.”

In case you’ve forgotten, pH is the measure of how acid or alkaline your body is. So, it seems that when the kidneys (for one organ) don’t function well, you may end up with acidosis. Did you know the kidneys played a part in preventing metabolic acidosis? I didn’t.

I went to MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263834.php in an attempt to find out if metabolic syndrome has any symptoms. By the way, AHA refers to the American Heart Association.

“According to the AHA, a doctor will often consider metabolic syndrome if a person has at least three of the following five symptoms:

  1. Central, visceral, abdominal obesity, specifically, a waist size of more than 40 inches in men and more than 35 inches in women
  2. Fasting blood glucose levels of 100 mg/dL or above
  3. Blood pressure of 130/85 mm/Hg or above
  4. Blood triglycerides levels of 150 mg/dL or higher
  5. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels of 40 mg/dL or less for men and 50 mg/dL or less for women

Having three or more of these factors signifies a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack or stroke, and type 2 diabetes.”

Well! Now we’re not just talking kidney (and lung) involvement, but possibly the heart and diabetes involvement. Who knew?

Of course, we want to prevent this, but how can we do that?

“You can’t always prevent metabolic acidosis, but there are things you can do to lessen the chance of it happening.

Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic fluids. Your pee should be clear or pale yellow.

Limit alcohol. It can increase acid buildup. It can also dehydrate you.

Manage your diabetes, if you have it.

Follow directions when you take your medications.”

Thank you to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-metabolic-acidosis#2  for the above information.

Let’s say – hypothetically, of course – that you were one of the unlucky CKD patients to develop metabolic acidosis. How could you treat it?

I went directly to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/metabolic-acidosis to find out. This is what they had to say:

“We all need bicarbonate (a form of carbon dioxide) in our blood. Low bicarbonate levels in the blood are a sign of metabolic acidosis.  It is a base, the opposite of acid, and can balance acid. It keeps our blood from becoming too acidic. Healthy kidneys help keep your bicarbonate levels in balance.  Low bicarbonate levels (less than 22 mmol/l) can also cause your kidney disease to get worse.   A small group of studies have shown that treatment with sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate pills can help keep kidney disease from getting worse. However, you should not take sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate pills unless your healthcare provider recommends it.”

I’m becoming a wee bit nervous now and I’d like to know when metabolic acidosis should start being treated if you, as a CKD (CKF) patient do develop it. Biomed at http://www.biomed.cas.cz/physiolres/pdf/prepress/1128.pdf reassured me a bit.

“Acid–base disorder is commonly observed in the course of CKF. Metabolic acidosis is noted in a majority of patients when GFR decreases to less than 20% to 25% of normal. The degree of acidosis approximately correlates with the severity of CKF and usually is more severe at a lower GFR…. Acidosis resulting from advanced renal insufficiency is called uremic acidosis. The level of GFR at which uremic acidosis develops varies depending on a multiplicity of factors. Endogenous acid production is an important factor, which in turn depends on the diet. Ingestion of vegetables and fruits results in net production of alkali, and therefore increased ingestion of these foods will tend to delay the appearance of metabolic acidosis in chronic renal failure. Diuretic therapy and hypokalemia, which tend to stimulate ammonia production, may delay the development of acidosis. The etiology of the renal disease also plays a role. In predominantly tubulointerstitial renal diseases, acidosis tends to develop earlier in the course of renal insufficiency than in predominantly glomerular diseases. In general, metabolic acidosis is rare when the GFR is greater than 25–20 ml/min (Oh et al. 2004).”

At least I understand why the sodium bicarbonate and I realize it’s not for me… yet.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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