Electrolyte Imbalances and How To Correct Them

Electrolyte Imbalances and How To Correct Them

There is a significant importance to keep the fluids and electrolytes in the body well balanced. Electrolytes serve a healthy purpose in maintaining regularity for the processes that occur in the body.  The movement of water in the body is regulated by the movement of electrolytes between cellular and fluid sections of the body. In order to maintain the balance of water, the electrolytes must be balanced as well.

Electrolytes (or minerals) in the body have electric charges and perform functions such as:

  • Keep water levels balanced
  • Facilitate the movement of nutrients in and out of cells
  • Regulate and balance blood pH levels (acids and bases)
  • Rid cells of waste
  • Regulate the function of muscles, nerves, and cells in the heart and the brain

What are these important electrolytes?

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Chloride
  • Phosphate

An imbalance in the levels of these common electrolytes typically occurs when the water content of the body changes, whether too high or too low. Normally, the amount of water that goes into your body (input) should equal the amount of water that leaves your body (output). Too little water equals dehydration. Too much water and you have fluid overload (or edema). In order to maintain a balance of water, the body sends signals such as thirst to receive water; when there is adequate hydration, thirst is blocked.

How do we know if there is an imbalance in any of the electrolytes in the body?

Electrolyte Imbalances and How To Correct Them, needle
Source Trivitron healthcare

A basic metabolic panel (BMP) blood test can show the levels of the electrolytes in the body. There is also a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) that shows many more of the body’s chemical levels for a detailed overview. In addition, the following symptoms are a common indicator that there may be an imbalance of electrolytes.

  • Dizziness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Cramps
  • Slow or fast heartbeat
  • High/low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Thirst

How do we lose electrolytes?

Sweating, breathing, urinating, diarrhea, and vomiting are common causes of fluid and electrolyte loss. Certain health conditions such as kidney disease and heart failure may also cause significant imbalances in fluids and electrolytes in the body through improper retention and excretion of fluids. Certain medications like diuretics may cause the body to get rid of fluid, furthering the imbalance of fluids and electrolytes. It is very important to stay hydrated and replace the electrolytes that are lost during events like exercise, vomiting, or diarrhea.

How do we replace electrolytes?

Electrolytes are replaced by drinking fluids that contain electrolytes, proper diet, and in severe cases, an IV infusion of fluids may be necessary.

Electrolyte Imbalances and How To Correct Them
Source New York Times

Keep reading for an overview of the roles of common electrolytes in the body and what to do to maintain properly balanced levels.

Sodium

  • Maintain fluid balance
  • Muscle contraction
  • Blood pressure
  • Nerve impulses

Diet fix: canned soup, cottage cheese, broths, cured meat

Potassium

  • Muscle function
  • Heart contraction
  • Nerve impulses
  • Blood pressure
  • Maintain water balance

Diet fix: Avocado, sweet potato, spinach, beans, salmon

Calcium

  • Bone health
  • Muscle function
  • Teeth
  • Nerve signals
  • Blood clotting

*Calcium needs vitamin D to be absorbed, so ensure your levels of vitamin D are sufficient to maintain proper calcium levels.

Diet fix: Dairy, green leafy veggies, soy, fish

Magnesium

  • Nerve function
  • Muscle contraction
  • Fat metabolism         
  • Bone health
  • Digestion
  • Glucose levels

Diet fix: Nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, greens

Chloride

  • pH balance
  • Fluid balance
  • Digestion

Diet fix: Tomatoes, seaweed, olives, leafy veggies

Phosphate

  • Bone health
  • Tissue repair
  • Energy stores

*Phosphorus needs vitamin D for absorption, so ensure your levels of vitamin D are sufficient.

Diet fix: Protein-rich foods such as nuts, poultry, beans, dairy

Not all electrolytes can be fully supplemented through diet. Sometimes a little extra help is necessary. Electrolyte balance is essentially the art of maintaining input versus output and ensuring that the body is using these minerals appropriately and efficiently. Focus on retaining the good healthy levels and preventing loss of these essential minerals. There are many different products that assist in replenishing electrolytes from powders, to tablets, to popsicles and more. A few other ways to supplement electrolytes include:

Electrolyte Imbalances and How To Correct Them, water

Most of all, don’t forget to drink enough water. Although it doesn’t supply electrolytes, water supports hydration and is needed to facilitate the processes in the body that allow proper regulation of essential electrolytes.

Ensure that you properly replace any fluid and electrolyte loss as a result of exercise or physical activity. In the event your electrolyte imbalance is significant enough to be reflected in your blood tests and lab work, speak with your doctor about healthy amounts of electrolyte replacement for your body.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay up to date with content and updates from Trusted Nutrition