Nutrients and electrolytes are of a great importance for your overall health. Most of the electrolytes found in your body are calcium, potassium, chloride, sodium, magnesium, and phosphate, which help in stimulating the nerves through the body, thus balancing fluid levels.
But, in case there is an electrolyte imbalance, it may contribute to different health conditions, even to some potentially deadly.
These are actually the major roles of electrolytes:
- Calcium – it helps with blood clotting, muscle contraction, forming and maintaining bones and teeth, nerve signaling, and cell division;
- Chloride – it maintains fluid balance;
- Sodium – it also maintains fluid balance, helps with muscle contractions and nerve signaling;
- Potassium – it regulates heart contractions and blood pressure, helps with muscle function;
- Magnesium – it helps with proper heart rhythm, muscle contraction, nerve functioning, bone strength and building, lowers anxiety, improves digestion, and keeps a stable balance of the protein fluid.
How the electrolytes work and what causes their imbalance?
In fact, electrolytes can be found in all body fluids such as urine, blood, and sweat. Additionally, they have an electric charge, which separates positively and negatively charged ions when dissolved in water.
Here are the causes of electrolyte imbalance:
- Chemotherapy treatments trigger side effects of low blood calcium, or calcium deficiency, electrolyte deficiencies or changes in potassium levels;
- Kidney damage or disease actually play a critical role in regulating chloride in the blood and flushing out sodium, potassium, and magnesium;
- Taking antibiotics for example, over-the-counter medications and diuretics, or even corticosteroid hormones;
- Taking specific medications, for instance for treating heart disease, cancer, or hormonal disorders;
- Endocrine disorders or hormonal imbalance;
- Not being able to absorb food nutrients, i.e., mal-absorption due to digestive or intestinal issues;
- Poor diet, mainly low in nutrients from whole foods;
- Being sick, for example having symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, or high fevers which result in dehydration and fluid loss.
Electrolyte imbalance signs and symptoms:
- Frequent headaches;
- Changes in appetite and body weight;
- Muscle aches, twitches, spasms, and weakness;
- Joint pain;
- Trouble concentrating and confusion;
- Changes in blood pressure;
- Bone disorder;
- Cramps, diarrhea, or constipation;
- Irregular heartbeats or heart palpitations;
- Fatigue, including chronic fatigue;
- Dizziness, particularly while standing up suddenly.
It is recommended to visit a doctor to perform a couple of different tests to determine your electrolyte levels. Namely, your doctor will discuss about your medical history, as well as you will have to provide urine and blood samples in order to be identified any abnormalities.
Sometimes, EKG tests, ultrasound and X-rays of kidneys are also necessary to check on severe electrolyte imbalances. Moreover, the electrolyte levels are measured per liter of blood, and the imbalance is diagnosed when the values are higher or lower than the normal ranges.
- Potassium: 5-5.3 mEq/L
- Sodium: 136-145 mEq/L
- Calcium: 5-5.5 mEq/L
- Magnesium: 1.5-2.5 mEq/L
- Chloride: 97-107 mEq/L
How to solve your electrolyte imbalance:
- Adjust your diet – first of all, you have to identify how developed is your electrolyte imbalance. A poor diet high in processed food, sodium, but low in potassium and magnesium can result in dangerous imbalance of electrolytes.
So, consider consuming more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes, avocados, and bananas. Plus, include coconut water, watermelon, cucumber, pineapple, kefir, celery, yogurt, amasai, citrus fruits, bell peppers, carrots, and kiwi in your daily diet in order to prevent dehydration.
Furthermore, you can obtain enough calcium through high quality dairy products, including cultured raw cheese, pro-biotic yogurt, raw milk, vegetables, leafy greens, legumes, and beans.
- Regulate your sodium intake – always check the sodium content when consuming packaged or processed foods. In case you monitor your sodium intake you may keep symptoms at bay such as lethargy, bloating, irritability, dehydration, weakness, and muscle twitching. So, drink more water, consume whole foods, as well as consider obtaining other important electrolytes.
- Drink enough water – your electrolyte imbalance changes when the amount of water in your body changes. Depending on your diet, age, physical activity level, and body size it should be determined how much water you should drink.
Bear in mind, the recommended dose for each person is to drink water enough so that they can urinate every 3-4 hours that makes it 10 glasses on a daily basis.
However, in case you exercise vigorously, have been sick, are pregnant, or breast-feeding, or are a teenager that grow and develop faster, then, you should drink more water than the recommended dose.
- Check your medications – Also, your electrolyte levels can be affected by diuretics, antibiotics, blood pressure medications, hormonal pills, and cancer treatments.
What’s more, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy have the most serious imbalance.
- Refuel after exercising – It is strongly recommended to consume enough water before, during, and after exercising in order to keep your body hydrated. In other words, in case you are training for a longer period of time, it is advisable to replenish your electrolyte stores because some of them may be lost through sweat.
- Take supplements – Chronic deficiency in some electrolytes can be caused by genetic factors, high stress levels, and some medical conditions, so that by taking magnesium supplements you can help in replenishing the stores as well as preventing magnesium deficiency. For example, potassium and magnesium are present in multivitamins.