Cardiovascular Health

Does the acidity of blood control the breathing rate?

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Wiki User
2009-12-19 02:10:19

This is fairly true.

In our bodies we have receptors constantly monitoring the level of

the CO2 in our blood. When the level of CO2 rises, these receptors

(called chemo-receptors) will register this, and signal the

breathing center to increase rate of breathing.

What does this have to do with acidity you ask?

In our blood we have buffer systems, which are designed to minimize

the change in pH done our blood by different waste products of

metabolism. The main buffersystem is called the bicarbonate


CO2 + H2O <----> H2CO3 (carbonic acid) <---> H+ + CO3-


The reaction is catalyzed by the enzyme carbonic anhydrase.

From the above equation you can deduct two things:

a) If you ADD CO2 to the equation, more H+ will eventually be

produced and this will diminish the pH of the blood (pH =


b) If you REMOVE CO2 from the equation, the reverse happens and

less H+ is produced. This will raise the pH of the blood.

This is why the chemoreceptors register blood CO2 levels. Actually,

what they are measuring is the pH of the blood. If they register

too low a pH, they can signal the ventilation center in the brain

to increase breathing, and thereby remove more CO2 from the body,

and raise the pH.

The body uses this to combat conditions in which the pH of the body

is too low. An example of this could be the state of diabetic

ketoacidosis. This condition, not uncommon amongst diabetics, is

characterized by increased acid production and thereby a lower

blood pH.

The body responds to this threat by increasing ventilation

(increased breathing) thereby removing CO2 from the blood and

raising the pH. By these means the condition is compensated.

Normal blood pH ranges are: 7,35 - 7,45.

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