Lactic Acidosis. Learn about Symptoms, Treatment & Supplements

Updated: 10/26/23

Are you looking for information on lactic acidosis, the body’s rare but serious metabolic disorder? If so, then you’ve come to the right place! In this comprehensive blog post, we will take an in-depth look at lactic acidosis. We’ll cover topics like symptoms and diagnosis, treatment options and preventative measures. Plus, explore how nutrition supplements may be beneficial in managing lactic acidosis. With so much useful information provided here it is sure to help anyone living with or caring for someone with this condition better understand its significance and make informed decisions about their health and well-being. So let’s get started!

What is Lactic Acidosis?

Lactic acidosis occurs when your body’s lactate production exceeds its processing rate. When you exercise, your muscles produce energy through a process called glycolysis. This process breaks down glucose to produce energy, and one of the by-products of this process is lactate. Normally, your body processes lactate to produce more energy, but at high-intensity efforts, the amount of lactate produced exceeds the processing rate, leading to a buildup of lactate in your system. This buildup leads to a decrease in pH, which creates the sensation of muscle fatigue and discomfort.

While lactic acidosis is a natural process, several factors contribute to its occurrence. These factors include the intensity and duration of the exercise, muscle mass involved, and training status. For instance, if you’re engaging in high-intensity workouts with insufficient recovery time in between, you are more likely to experience lactic acidosis. Additionally, if you’re not adequately hydrated, your body will not efficiently process lactate, leading to a buildup.

Lactic acidosis has numerous effects on your performance. It causes muscle fatigue and discomfort, limiting your ability to sustain or increase the intensity of your workout. It also reduces your muscle function and can lead to muscle soreness, delay in recovery process, weakness, and even cramping. From a fitness perspective, lactic acidosis can limit your performance and slow down your progress, leading to suboptimal results.

Types of Lactic Acidosis

Type A Lactic Acidosis

Type A lactic acidosis is caused by decreased oxygen delivery to the body’s tissues, such as in shock, sepsis, cardiac or respiratory failure, or major trauma. When the body doesn’t get enough oxygen, the cells switch to anaerobic metabolism, which causes a buildup of lactic acid. Symptoms can include rapid breathing, confusion, low blood pressure, and, in severe cases, organ failure.

Type B Lactic Acidosis

Type B lactic acidosis is not caused by hypoxia or tissue ischemia (oxygen deprivation). Instead, it can be caused by a variety of factors, such as liver disease, malignancy, alcoholism, diabetes, or medication use. Medications that can cause lactic acidosis include metformin for diabetes, linezolid for infections, and nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) for HIV. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and muscle weakness.

Congenital Lactic Acidosis

Congenital lactic acidosis is a rare genetic disorder that affects infants and young children. It’s caused by a defect in one of the enzymes involved in the breakdown of glucose. The result is a buildup of lactic acid in the body, which can cause developmental delays, muscle weakness, and seizures. Unfortunately, there is no cure for congenital lactic acidosis, but treatment can help manage symptoms.

Exercise-Induced Lactic Acidosis

Exercise-induced lactic acidosis is the most common type of lactic acidosis and occurs during intense exercise. When you engage in intense physical activity, your muscles start to require more energy, and they begin to switch to anaerobic metabolism, which leads to a buildup of lactic acid. Symptoms can include muscle pain, weakness, cramps, and fatigue. However, exercise-induced lactic acidosis is typically not a life-threatening condition and can be prevented by proper conditioning and hydration.

Symptoms of Lactic Acidosis

Lactic acidosis is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, seek medical attention immediately.

Nausea and Vomiting

One of the most common symptoms of lactic acidosis is nausea and vomiting. The buildup of lactic acid in the blood can cause a disturbance in your stomach, leading to feelings of discomfort and an urge to vomit.

Abdominal Pain or Discomfort

Along with nausea and vomiting, you may experience abdominal pain or discomfort. The muscles of the abdomen can become achy and sore due to the buildup of lactic acid, leading to feelings of discomfort and even pain.

Muscle Weakness or Cramps

If you have lactic acidosis, you may feel muscle weakness in your arms and legs. This can also be accompanied by muscle cramps, which can be painful and uncomfortable.

Rapid or Shallow Breathing

Another symptom of lactic acidosis is rapid or shallow breathing. This occurs because the body is trying to get rid of excess acid, and one way it does that is through breathing.

Fatigue or Weakness

You may experience fatigue or weakness if you have lactic acidosis. This can be due to the muscle weakness that accompanies the condition or a lack of oxygen reaching your tissues, leading to feelings of tiredness and weakness.

Confusion or Disorientation

As lactic acidosis progresses, you may become confused or disoriented. This is because the buildup of acid in the blood can affect brain function, leading to cognitive impairment.

Dizziness or lightheadedness

Another symptom of lactic acidosis is dizziness or lightheadedness. This can happen if your blood pressure drops due to the accumulation of acid in your blood, leading to feelings of dizziness and even fainting.

Pale or Bluish Skin Color

In severe cases of lactic acidosis, the skin can become pale or bluish in color. This is due to a lack of oxygen reaching the tissues and can be a sign that immediate medical attention is needed.

Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

Jaundice is another symptom of lactic acidosis that occurs in severe cases. It’s caused by a buildup of bilirubin, a waste product produced by the liver when it breaks down red blood cells.

Decreased Urine Output

If you’re experiencing lactic acidosis, you may notice a decrease in urine output. This can be a sign of kidney failure, which can occur as a result of the condition.

Low Blood Pressure

Finally, low blood pressure is a symptom of lactic acidosis. This occurs due to the accumulation of acid in the blood, which can affect blood flow and lead to a drop in blood pressure.

Acidosis vs. Acidemia 

Acidosis is a condition characterized by an excess of acid in the blood. In other words, the pH level of the blood drops below the normal range of 7.35 to 7.45. The acidity of the blood is regulated by a complex mechanism involving the lungs, kidneys, and other organs that work together to maintain the acid-base balance. When this balance is disrupted, either by the accumulation of acid or the depletion of bicarbonate, a base that neutralizes acid, acidosis can occur.

There are two main types of acidosis: respiratory acidosis and metabolic acidosis. Respiratory acidosis happens when the lungs cannot excrete enough carbon dioxide, which then forms carbonic acid and lowers the pH of the blood. This can be caused by lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or by the use of drugs that suppress breathing, such as opioids. Metabolic acidosis, on the other hand, occurs when there is an excess of acid production or a deficiency of bicarbonate. This can be caused by diabetes, kidney disease, lactic acid buildup from intense exercise, or a high-protein diet.

Acidemia is a condition that occurs when the bloodstream becomes too acidic, as a consequence of acidosis. Although acidemia is interchangeable with acidosis, it refers specifically to the acidification of the blood, not to the underlying cause of acidosis. Acidemia can have serious health consequences, as the high acidity can impair the function of organs and tissues and disrupt metabolic processes.

Lactic Acidosis Causes 

Lactic acidosis occurs when the body is unable to get rid of excess lactic acid. Patients may experience it for a number of different reasons and there may be several risk factors that contribute. The most common causes are cardiogenic shock, hypovolemic shock, heart failure, sepsis and severe trauma. Healthy patients may also temporarily develop lactic acidosis from strenuous exercise because the body needs more exercise to maintain lactate in the blood.

Intense Exercise

One of the most common causes of lactic acidosis is intense exercise, particularly when it isn’t done regularly. During strenuous exercise, the muscles produce more lactate than the body can remove. While normally, the lactate production normalizes after the exercise, if the body doesn’t have sufficient oxygen, it can lead to lactic acidosis. This condition is common in athletes and marathon runners.


Some medications can increase lactate production and cause lactic acidosis. For example, antiretroviral therapy that’s used to treat people living with HIV can increase the risk of lactic acidosis by affecting the way the body uses glucose. Similarly, some drugs used to treat diabetes can cause lactic acidosis when people don’t take them as prescribed.

Medical Conditions

Certain underlying medical conditions that affect the body’s oxygen supply, blood flow, and organ function can contribute to lactic acidosis. These may include sepsis, liver disease, kidney disease, lung disease, and cancer. Patients who have had chemotherapy or radiation therapy are also at an increased risk of lactic acidosis.

Alcohol Abuse

Drinking alcohol excessively for an extended period can damage the liver and disrupt the way it metabolizes lactate and glucose. As a result, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to lactic acidosis, especially when combined with malnutrition or other medical conditions.

Genetic Factors

Although it’s uncommon, some people have a genetic condition that makes them more susceptible to lactic acidosis. The condition is known as mitochondrial disease, and it affects the body’s ability to produce energy at the cellular level.

Is Lactic Acid Safe During Pregnancy?

The good news is that lactic acid is safe to use during pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), lactic acid is safe to use during pregnancy when used in moderation. It is considered a low-risk ingredient and is unlikely to harm the growing fetus. However, it is essential to check with your doctor before using any new product during pregnancy.

Using lactic acid during pregnancy can have many benefits. It can alleviate common skin concerns like acne, hyperpigmentation, and dullness. Due to changes in hormone levels, many women experience an increase in oil production, leading to breakouts. Lactic acid can help regulate oil production and unclog pores, preventing future breakouts. It can also help reduce hyperpigmentation, a common concern during pregnancy, caused by increased melanin production.

Lactic Acidosis and Seizures

Preventing lactic acidosis and seizures requires a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatment. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially when engaging in physical activity. Avoiding strenuous exercise that can push your body beyond its limits is also important. If you have a medical condition that can cause lactic acidosis, it’s important to work with your doctor to manage it effectively. This may involve adjusting medication dosages or making changes to your diet.

Causes of Lactic Acidosis

Diagnosing Lactic Acidosis

Diagnosing lactic acidosis typically involves a blood test to measure the levels of lactic acid in your blood. If the levels are high, your doctor will likely perform additional tests to determine the underlying cause. This may involve imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI, or other blood tests to check for infections or liver or kidney problems.

Lactic Acidosis with Metformin

Metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed diabetes medications used to treat type 2 diabetes. It is widely available, affordable, and generally considered safe for long-term use. However, as with any medication, there are potential risks and side effects associated with its use. One of the most serious potential side effects of metformin is lactic acidosis, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.

Can Lactic Acidosis Cause Kidney Failure?

Lactic acidosis occurs when there is too much lactic acid in the body, which can happen due to various factors such as intense exercise, liver disease, cancer, alcoholism, and certain medications. If left untreated, lactic acidosis can cause organ failure, including kidney failure. The kidneys are responsible for filtering excess acid from the blood, but when lactic acid builds up in large amounts, the kidneys may not be able to remove it fast enough. This can lead to a series of complications, including renal failure, which can be life-threatening.

However, it’s worth noting that lactic acidosis does not always cause kidney failure. It depends on the severity of the condition, the underlying cause, and the individual’s medical history. In some cases, lactic acidosis can be mild and resolve on its own once the underlying cause receives treatment. In others, it can be a sign of a more serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Treatment for Lactic Acidosis

The treatment for lactic acidosis will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. In cases where the condition is by an infection or other illness, treating the underlying condition will often be enough to manage lactic acidosis. This might involve antibiotics for infections or insulin therapy for diabetes.

In cases where lactic acidosis is by a medication, the medication will typically stop or change. In some cases, supporting treatments like dialysis may be necessary to help remove excess lactic acid from the body.

For exercise-induced lactic acidosis, the key to treatment is prevention. This involves gradually building up endurance and avoiding overexertion during physical activity. If you do experience symptoms of lactic acidosis during exercise, it’s important to stop immediately and rest. Drinking plenty of fluids and getting enough rest and recovery time between workouts can also help prevent the condition from occurring.

Preventing Lactic Acidosis

Stay Hydrated

Whether you’re a professional athlete or a fitness enthusiast, staying hydrated is a crucial step in preventing lactic acidosis. Water helps transport nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, allowing for proper function and preventing muscle fatigue. Drinking enough water before, during, and after exercise can help ensure that lactic acid doesn’t build up in your muscles. Additionally, consuming fluids with electrolytes such as sports drinks can help maintain your body’s fluid balance and energy levels during intense workouts.

Warm Up and Cool Down

A common mistake many people make when exercising is diving right into their routine without properly warming up. Warming up is important for gradually increasing blood flow to the muscles, preventing injury, and reducing the risk of lactic acidosis. Cooling down after your workout by stretching and gradually reducing your heart rate can also help reduce lactic acid buildup in your muscles. Make sure to incorporate both warm up and cool down exercises into your exercise routine to keep your muscles healthy and avoid lactic acidosis.

Eat a Balanced Diet

Eating a balanced diet plays a significant role in preventing lactic acidosis. A diet rich in carbohydrates can help fuel the body for physical activity, providing the necessary energy to prevent fatigue and lactic acidosis. Additionally, foods high in protein and antioxidants can help support muscle repair and reduce inflammation. Overall, consuming a diet rich in whole foods, lean protein, and low glycemic carbohydrates can help keep your muscles healthy and prevent it.

Listen to your Body

Lastly, it’s essential to listen to your body and not push yourself past your limits. Overexerting yourself can lead to muscle fatigue and an increase in lactic acid buildup. If you experience muscle fatigue or pain during exercise, it’s crucial to take a break and allow your muscles to recover. Additionally, get adequate rest and sleep to allow the body to repair and recover.

Supplements for Lactic Acidosis

Patients may also find relief from natural dietary supplements. They may effectively break down lactic acid in the body to potentially relieve or prevent it. Supplements can also help boost athletic performance. However, do not take any supplements without consulting a doctor. They do not treat it or any other medical condition, but they may help improve overall health.


Beta-alanine is a natural amino acid the body uses to build proteins. It helps build lean muscles and improve athletic performance. It also helps break down lactic acid during exercise, improving endurance for short, high-intensity workouts. The recommended dosage for beta alanine supplements is 500 mg per day, mixed with water or juice. Overdose may cause a tingling sensation in the hands and face, nausea, lightheadedness and abdominal discomfort. However, a doctor may suggest a higher or lower dosage to achieve the patient’s intended effect.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs are a group of essential amino acids that include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. They help to reduce muscle protein breakdown and improve muscle recovery following a workout. BCAA supplements have also been shown to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness, making them an effective supplement for those suffering from lactic acidosis.

L-Glutamine Powder

Glutamine is an abundant amino acid to build proteins. Most of the time, the body makes enough of it on its own, but patients with certain medical conditions may need supplements. Glutamine can promote athletic performance and digestive health. Take 500 to 1,000 mg of L-glutamine supplements up to three times per day before a workout on an empty stomach.


Calcium promotes healthy bones and teeth. It is the most abundant mineral in the human body, but the body cannot make it on its own so people can only get it from food, water or supplements. The recommended dosage for calcium citrate powder is 4,100 mg per day after meals.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 is a water-insoluble supplement that promotes immune health and boosts energy production. It also helps support muscles and joints. The recommended dosage for coenzyme Q10 powder is between 50 and 200 mg per day. Physicians may recommend a higher dosage for patients with some health complications.


Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that helps to improve muscle function and performance. It boosts adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels in the muscles, which results in increased energy and endurance. Creatine supplements can help to reduce muscle acidosis and improve muscle recovery time after a workout. A daily dose of 5-10 grams is a recommendation for maximum effect.


L-carnitine promotes athletic endurance as well as cardiac health. In addition, it contains hydrochloric acid that improves digestion and absorption. Carnitine may also boost exercise performance by stimulating fatty acid oxidation and preventing lactate buildup. The recommended dosage for L-carnitine base powder is 500 mg up to twice a day.


Magnesium has many benefits on the body, including indigestion and relieving heartburn. It is also a mild laxative that can help minimize abdominal discomfort. It contains compounds that can fuel the brain, muscles and the heart, especially in people with low carbohydrate levels. The recommended dosage for magnesium citrate powder is 4,400 mg once a day mixed in liquids.

The Bottom Line

Lactic acidosis occurs when the body produces more lactic acid than it can get rid of. Common causes of this condition include strenuous exercise, HIV medication, diabetes, septic shock, trauma, alcoholism, kidney conditions and liver diseases. Symptoms include nausea, muscle cramps, abdominal pain, lack of appetite, fatigue, diarrhea and headaches. Treatment depends on the underlying cause, but there are supplements that may help. However, they are not a cure for it or any other medical treatment. 

Preventing it requires a holistic approach that focuses on staying hydrated, warming up and cooling down, eating a balanced diet, and listening to your body. Incorporating these steps into your exercise routine can help keep your muscles healthy, reduce the risk of getting it, and improve your overall health. Remember, prevention is key, so take care of your body and keep moving forward!

In conclusion, lactic acidosis can be a debilitating condition that can impact your workout performance and recovery. Thankfully, there are several supplements that can help to alleviate the effects of lactic acid buildup in the muscles. Beta-alanine, creatine, magnesium, and BCAAs are all effective supplements to consider if you’re looking to improve your endurance, reduce muscle soreness, and recover faster. As with all supplements, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider before beginning to take them to ensure they are safe for you to use. Incorporating these supplements into your workout routine can help you to achieve your fitness goals and improve your overall athletic performance.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease

Author: James D