For a proper work of the bodily functions, we need to take in proper amounts of electrolytes.
When dissolved in water, electrolytes produce electrically-conductive solution. Some of the most essential electrolytes are calcium, sodium, magnesium, bicarbonate, chloride, potassium, and hydrogen phosphate.
These are the most important functions of electrolytes in the body:
– Sodium – it maintains the balance of fluids in the body, it helps the contractions of the muscles and the signaling of the nerves
– Calcium – it enhances the creation of bone and teeth tissue and its maintenance, it helps with muscle contraction, nerve signaling, cell division, and it prevents blood clots
– Magnesium – it promotes the process of building of bones and makes them stronger, it supports the proper heart rhythm, it improves the digestion, it helps in muscle contraction, it balances the protein fluid, it improves the function of the nerves, and it reduces anxiety.
– Chloride – controls the balance of the fluids
– Potassium – it improves the function of the muscles, the heart contraction, and it controls the blood pressure
All bodily fluids, including the blood, the urine, and the sweat contain these substances, and when they get dissolved in water, their electrical charge gets separated in positively and negatively charged ions. Via these chemical exchanges, the nerves signal other nerves, which are dependent of oppositely charged ions, inside and outside the cells.
The electrolyte imbalance can be a result of:
– Unhealthy diet
– Endocrine disorders or hormonal imbalance
– Inadequate absorption of nutrients, as a result of digestive or intestinal issues
– Kidney damage or disease (when the kidneys eliminate magnesium, sodium, potassium, and regulate chloride in the blood)
– Use of antibiotics (diuretics, corticosteroid hormones, and numerous other types of medication)
– Other medications (drugs for treating hormonal disorders, cancer, and heart diseases)
– Sickness (high fever, vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, as they lead to loss of fluids and dehydration)
– Chemotherapy treatments (which leads to calcium deficiency, disruption in the levels of potassium, and electrolytes deficiencies)
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance:
– Pain in the joints and numbness
– Bones problems
– Irregular heartbeats
– Irregular blood pressure
– General confusion and difficulties concentrating
– Dizziness (when standing up suddenly)
– Cramps, diarrhea, or constipation
– Muscle aches, weakness, twitches, and spasms
– Fatigue (chronic symptom)
– Fluctuations in appetite and weight
If you experience some of the symptoms we mentioned previously, you should asses your electrolyte levels, make urine and blood tests and EKG test so that you find the proper cause of these symptoms.
In case of more serious deficiencies, one should do ultrasound and X-rays on the kidneys.
If your values are lower or higher than normal per liter of blood, then you experience electrolyte deficiency. Here are the normal values:
– Magnesium: 1.5 – 2.5 mEq/l
– Calcium: 5 – 5.5 mEq/l
– Sodium: 136 – 145 mEq/l
– Chloride: 97 – 107 mEq/l
– Potassium: 5 – 5.3 mEq/l
– Anxiety and trouble sleeping – in case of reduced magnesium levels in the body, one can feel tired and experience muscle spasms, sleeping difficulties, increased heartbeats, and night sweats
– Confusion, irritability, and dizziness – in case of increased amounts of sodium in the body, and in case that this condition does not get treated, one can face delirious states, seizures, even coma
– Heartbeat changes – increased levels of potassium in the body can lead to hyperkalemia, a state that interferes with the normal signaling from the nerves and the muscles, and that leads to numb, tingly, and weak muscles. This state also impacts the heartbeat, and it contributes to anxiety, while the increased calcium levels can interfere with the cardiovascular system and the electrical pathways of the heart.
– Bone pain – if the levels of calcium in the body are too high, the person can experience vomiting, painful kidney stones, weakness, fractures, constipation, and problems with the concentration.
– Muscle spasms – when the levels of magnesium and potassium in the body are too low, one can experience spasms and weakness in the muscles. Dehydration also causes the same symptoms
– Digestive problems – the imbalanced level of electrolytes in the body can lead to numerous digestive problems, such as diarrhea, cramps, constipation, and hemorrhoids.
How to treat electrolyte imbalance:
– Adjust your diet – after checking the level of the imbalance, one should adjust their diet and dietary habits. One should eat home-cooked meals and avoid eating processed foods.
– Drink enough water – the amount of water in the organism alters the electrolyte level. To this end, you should take in enough water in order to balance the optimal level of electrolytes.
– Increase the consumption of cruciferous vegetables, leafy green vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes, avocados, and bananas. Moreover, you should increase the intake of celery, cucumber, amasai, citrus fruits, coconut water, pineapple, watermelon, carrots, kiwi, bell peppers, yogurt, and thus prevent dehydration.
– If the levels of calcium in your body are low, you should consume more legumes, leafy green vegetables, beans, and dairy products of high quality, such as raw, cheese, probiotic yogurt, and raw milk.
– Keep an eye on the medications you take in – some medications impact the levels of electrolytes. This group of medications involves the diuretics, the antibiotics, the hormonal medications, the blood pressure medications, and the cancer treatments.
– Chemotherapy – this treatment has the most potent effect on the electrolyte level. Diuretics and laxatives can also alter the levels of sodium and potassium both in the blood and the urine.
– Some diuretics lead to very high levels of potassium in the body, and others keep those levels pretty low and thus cause a number of digestive problems, anxiety, sleeping issues, and fast heartbeats.
– Anti-diuretic hormone medications, as well as aldosterone and thyroid hormones can lead to imbalances in the levels of electrolytes.
– Keep an eye on the intake of sodium – when you buy processed and packaged food, you should look at the amount of sodium it contains, as they are all loaded with sodium.
– Sodium controls the release and the retention of water in the body, so in case of high sodium levels, one may experience kidney problems and electrolyte imbalances.
– Maintaining the level of electrolytes normal will help you prevent dehydration, lethargy, irritability, twitching, weakness, and bloating.
– Hydration after exercise – the adequate hydration of the body after any regular workout is essential. Thus, remember that you need to drink plenty of water after any exercise.
– Supplements – sometimes, besides the changes in the diet and the lifestyle, the body cannot get the essential nutrients through the food we consume, so we need to consult our doctor and ask them for suitable supplements.