Electrolytes are of utmost importance for our overall health, as they are the ones which carry an electrical charge. When dissolved in water, they produce an electrically conducting solution. The main electrolytes within the body include magnesium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, hydrogen phosphate, chloride, and sodium
They are typically found in liquid form, such as sweat, blood, and urine. When dissolved in water, they create electrically charged ions and allow the body to work properly. Their major functions include regulating the heartbeat and allowing the muscles to contract.
It promotes proper heart rhythm, promotes bone strength and building, keeps the protein fluid in check, improves digestive, lowers anxiety, helps in muscle contraction, and supports the function of the nervous system.
It keeps blood pressure in check, promotes proper function of the muscles, and it regulates heart contractions.
Calcium is critical for formation of bones and teeth; it supports cell division, prevents blood clotting, and helps with nerve signaling and muscle contraction.
Sodium maintains a fluid balance and it promotes proper muscle contraction and nerve signaling.
Chloride`s major function is maintaining a fluid balance.
Electrolyte imbalance can be manifested in different ways, depending on which mineral is out of balance. It is worth mentioning that elderly individuals are more susceptible to electrolyte imbalance. The major causes of this imbalance include:
- Poor diet
- Digestive issues which lead to improper absorption of food nutrients
- Hormonal imbalance or endocrine disorders
- Use of antibiotics, diuretics, and corticosteroid hormones
- Use of drugs in the treatment of cancer, hormonal disorders, and heart-related diseases
- Kidney damage or kidney disease
- Sickness manifested by diarrhea, sweating, and vomiting, all of which lead to fluid loss
Symptoms of Electrolyte Imbalance
- Joint pain and numbness
- Irregular heartbeats or heart palpitations
- Irregular blood pressure
- Bones problems
- Frequent headaches
- Dizziness, especially when standing up suddenly
- Cramps, constipation, or diarrhea
- Fatigue (chronic fatigue symptom)
- Difficulties concentrating and an overall confusion
- Muscle aches, spasms, twitches, and weakness
- Fluctuations in weight and appetite
In case you experience some of the symptoms above, seek medical attention and get your electrolyte levels check. You should also do some blood and urine tests as well as EKG test in order to find the root cause of the problem.
In addition to this, you may need to do ultrasounds and X-rays on the kidneys in a case of severe deficiency. Electrolyte deficiency is diagnosed if the levels are lower/ higher than normal.
- Magnesium: 1.5-2.5 mEq/L
- Potassium: 5-5.3 mEq/L
- Sodium: 136-145 mEq/L
- Chloride: 97-107 mEq/L
Restoring Electrolyte Balance
1. Drink Enough Water
Drinking enough water maintains proper electrolyte levels and/or restores electrolyte balance.
2. Hydrate Your Body After Exercising
Drink plenty of water after your regular workout as during exercising and sweating a significant amount of electrolytes is lost.
3. Adjust Your Diet
First and foremost, you need to avoid processed and heavily fried foods and replace them with home-cooked and healthy meals.
Eat more cruciferous vegetables, avocados, cabbage, bananas, broccoli, and squash. To stay properly hydrated, consume cucumber, celery, watermelon, citrus fruits, carrots, bell peppers, amasai, pineapple, kiwi, kefir, and yogurt. If your calcium levels are too low, eat more legumes, dairy products, veggies, and beans.
4. Check Your Medications
Certain medications, such as hormonal pills, blood pressure medications, diuretics, and antibiotics, may affect the electrolyte levels in the body. Diuretics and laxatives changes the levels of potassium and sodium in the blood and urine, making them either too high or too low.
5. Monitor Your Sodium Intake
Most packaged and processed foods are packed with sodium, which in turn leads to kidney disease and electrolyte imbalance. If you limit your sodium intake and maintain normal electrolyte levels, you will prevent dehydration, bloating, weakness, irritability, lethargy, and muscle cramps.
If dietary changes don’t help you regulate the levels of important nutrients in the body, consult your doctor about potential supplementing.