Electrolytes are essential substances required for an optimal work of the bodily functions.
When the electrolytes are dissolved in water they produce electrically-conductive solution. These involve sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, hydrogen phosphate and potassium.
These are the most important functions of electrolytes in the body:
- Sodium – it maintains the fluid balance, assists the muscle contractions and nerve signaling.
- Calcium – it improves the creation and maintenance of teeth and bones, helps with muscle contraction, cell division and nerve signaling prevents blood clots.
- Magnesium – It promotes bone strength and building, supports proper heart rhythm, helps in muscle contraction, helps digestion, lowers anxiety, balances the protein fluid and assists the function of the nerves.
- Chloride – manages a fluid balance.
- Potassium – it promotes proper function of the muscles, heart contraction and regulates the blood pressure.
These substances are found in the bodily fluids including blood, sweat, urine and when dissolved in water, their electrical charge will separate positively and negatively charged ions. Through chemical exchanges, the nerves signal other nerves, dependent of oppositely charged ions, inside and outside the cells.
The electrolyte imbalance can be a result of:
- Improper absorption of nutrients, due to digestive or intestinal issues
- Unhealthy diet
- Antibiotics use (corticosteroid hormones, diuretics and many types of medication)
- Sickness (sweating, high fever, vomiting, diarrhea which may result in loss of fluid and dehydration).
- Other medication (drugs for hormonal disorders, heart diseases and cancer).
- Endocrine disorders or hormonal imbalance.
- Kidney damage or disease (kidney remove magnesium, potassium, sodium and regulate chloride in the blood).
- Chemotherapy treatments (this can cause calcium deficiency, electrolytes deficiencies and disruption in potassium levels).
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance:
- Bones problems
- Pain in the joints and numbness
- Cramps, diarrhea or constipation
- Irregular blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeats
- Muscle aches, spasms, weakness and twitches
- Fatigue (chronic symptom)
- Appetite and weight fluctuations
- Dizziness (when standing up suddenly)
- Overall confusion and difficulties concentrating
If you have experienced some of the symptoms previously mentioned, you should estimate your electrolyte levels, urine and blood test as well as EKG test to find the right cause of these symptoms.
For more severe deficiencies, you should do some ultrasound and X-rays on the kidneys.
You experience electrolyte deficiency if the values are lower or higher than normal per liter of blood:
- Sodium: 136 – 145 mEq/L
- Calcium: 5-5.5 mEq/l
- Magnesium: 1.5-2.5 mEq/L
- Chloride: 97-107 mEq/L
- Potassium: 5-5.3 mEq/
- Anxiety and trouble sleeping – the reduced levels of magnesium can cause tiredness, difficulty sleeping, muscle spasms, increased heartbeats and night sweats.
- Confusion, irritability and dizziness – if you have high amount of sodium in your body and if not treated, you may face with delirious states, seizures and even coma.
- Heartbeat changes – Too high potassium levels can cause hyperkalemia which interferes with the normal signals from muscles and nerves, leading to weak, numb and tingly muscles. This will also affect the heartbeat, leading to anxiety while the high calcium levels interfere with the cardiovascular system and the electrical pathways of the heart.
- Bone pain – Too high calcium levels can lead to vomiting, painful kidney stones, bone fractures, weakness, concentration problems and constipation.
- Muscle spasms – Low potassium and magnesium levels as well as dehydration can cause muscle weakness and spasms.
- Digestive problems: improper electrolyte level may cause a vast number of digestive problems including cramps, diarrhea, hemorrhoids and constipation.
How to treat electrolyte imbalance:
- Adjust your diet – First check the level of your imbalance and then adjust your diet. Consume more home-cooked meals and avoid processed food.
- Drink enough water – the quantity of water in the body changes the electrolyte level. For that reason, drink plenty of water to balance the optimal level of electrolytes.
- Increase the consumption of leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes, avocados, cabbage, bananas, broccoli and squash. Consume cucumber, celery, coconut water, amasai, pineapple, citrus fruits, watermelon, kefir, carrots, kiwi, yogurt, bell peppers on regular basis to avoid dehydration.
- If you have low levels of calcium, eat more leafy greens, legumes, vegetables, beans and high-quality dairy products (probiotic yogurt, raw cheese, raw milk).
- Take care of the medications – some medications may affect the levels of electrolytes such as antibiotics, hormonal pills, diuretics, blood pressure medications and cancer treatments.
- Chemotherapy – it has the strongest impact on the electrolytes level. Laxatives and diuretics change the levels of potassium and sodium in the blood and urine.
- Some diuretics keep the potassium levels very high while others keep them low, causing many digestive problems, anxiety, fast heartbeats and trouble sleeping.
- Anti-diuretic hormone medications, thyroid hormones and aldosterone can cause electrolyte imbalances.
- Take care of your sodium intake – When buying packaged and processed foods always look at the quantity of sodium because they are loaded with sodium.
- Sodium controls the retention and release of water so if there is a high content of sodium it may lead to some kidney problems and imbalance of the electrolytes.
- If you keep the electrolytes at a normal level, you will prevent dehydration, twitching, lethargy, bloating, irritability and weakness.
- Hydration after exercise – Hydrate your body properly after any regular workout by drinking lots of water.
- Supplements – If you can’t provide the important nutrients in the body through lifestyle and dietary changes, consult your doctor and take some suitable supplements.