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Medicine LibreTexts

26: Fluid, Electrolyte, and Acid-Base Balance

Homeostasis, or the maintenance of constant conditions in the body, is a fundamental property of all living things. In the human body, the substances that participate in chemical reactions must remain within narrows ranges of concentration. Too much or too little of a single substance can disrupt your bodily functions. Because metabolism relies on reactions that are all interconnected, any disruption might affect multiple organs or even organ systems. 

  • 26.0: Prelude to Fluid, Electrolyte, and Acid-Base Balance
    Water is the most ubiquitous substance in the chemical reactions of life. The interactions of various aqueous solutions—solutions in which water is the solvent—are continuously monitored and adjusted by a large suite of interconnected feedback systems in your body. Understanding the ways in which the body maintains these critical balances is key to understanding good health.
  • 26.1: Body Fluids and Fluid Compartment
    The chemical reactions of life take place in aqueous solutions. The dissolved substances in a solution are called solutes. In the human body, solutes vary in different parts of the body, but may include proteins—including those that transport lipids, carbohydrates, and, very importantly, electrolytes. Often in medicine, a mineral dissociated from a salt that carries an electrical charge (an ion) is called and electrolyte. For instance, sodium ions (Na+) and chloride ions (Cl-) are often referred
  • 26.2: Water Balance
    On a typical day, the average adult will take in about 2500 mL (almost 3 quarts) of aqueous fluids. Although most of the intake comes through the digestive tract, about 230 mL (8 ounces) per day is generated metabolically, in the last steps of aerobic respiration. Additionally, each day about the same volume (2500 mL) of water leaves the body by different routes; most of this lost water is removed as urine.
  • 26.3: Electrolyte Balance
    The body contains a large variety of ions, or electrolytes, which perform a variety of functions. Some ions assist in the transmission of electrical impulses along cell membranes in neurons and muscles. Other ions help to stabilize protein structures in enzymes. Still others aid in releasing hormones from endocrine glands. All of the ions in plasma contribute to the osmotic balance that controls the movement of water between cells and their environment.
  • 26.4: Acid-Base Balance
    Proper physiological functioning depends on a very tight balance between the concentrations of acids and bases in the blood. Acid-balance balance is measured using the pH scale. A variety of buffering systems permits blood and other bodily fluids to maintain a narrow pH range, even in the face of perturbations. A buffer is a chemical system that prevents a radical change in fluid pH by dampening the change in hydrogen ion concentrations in the case of excess acid or base.
  • 26.5: Disorders of Acid-Base Balance
    Normal arterial blood pH is restricted to a very narrow range of 7.35 to 7.45. A person who has a blood pH below 7.35 is considered to be in physiological acidosis, and a continuous blood pH below 7.0 can be fatal. Acidosis has several symptoms, including headache and confusion, and the individual can become lethargic and easily fatigued. A person who has a blood pH above 7.45 is considered to be in alkalosis, and a pH above 7.8 is fatal.