Electrolytes are essential for us to be able to live, and all higher forms of life on this planet need them to survive. They have many important functions in the body, such as:
Magnesium is very important for our body, as it helps in muscle contraction, lowers anxiety, supports proper heart rhythm, assists the function of the nerves, helps digestion, promotes bone strength and building and balances the protein fluid.
Sodium is important because it assists the nerve signaling, muscle contractions, and maintains the fluid balance.
Calcium prevents blood clots, blood clotting, supports the forming and maintaining healthy the bones and teeth, and helps with muscle contraction and cell division.
Chloride is responsible for maintaining the fluid balance.
Potassium regulates the blood pressure, heart contractions and promotes proper function of the muscles.
There can be many reasons for electrolyte imbalance, such as:
- Unhealthy diet
- Improper absorption of food nutrients
- Chemotherapy treatments
- Antibiotics use
- Kidney damage or disease
- Hormonal imbalance
The most common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance are:
- Muscle aches, spasms, twitches, and weakness
- Fluctuations in weight and appetite;
- 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
If you experience any of these symptoms, immediately seek medical help and do some tests to estimate the electrolyte levels, test the blood and urine, do an EKG test to find the cause of the irregularities.
Electrolyte deficiency is diagnosed when they are outside the normal values, and are measured per liter of blood. Here are the normal levels:
- Potassium: 5-5.3 mEq/L
- Calcium: 5-5.5 mEq/L
- Sodium: 136-145 mEq/L
- Chloride: 97-107 mEq/L
- Magnesium: 1.5-2.5 mEq/L
Confusion, dizziness, and irritability, are all symptoms of high sodium levels in the body. You may become weak and dizzy when you have very high sodium amount, and if you don’t treat this condition you may experience seizures, delirious states, and even fall into a coma.
Most often symptoms of reduced magnesium levels are anxiety and trouble with sleeping, which can also lead to tiredness, night sweats, difficulties to fall asleep, muscle spasms, and increased heartbeats.
Digestive problems show that you have irregular electrolyte levels, either low or high. This may lead to constipation, diarrhea, cramps, and hemorrhoids.
Heartbeat changes occur in case of too high potassium levels. If you have this condition you may develop hyperkalemia, which interferes with the normal signals from nerves and muscles, and leads to tingly, weak, or numb muscles.
If you have too high calcium levels, you may experience bone pain, vomiting, bone fractures, painful kidney stones, and constipation.
Muscle spasms may occur if you are dehydrated and have low magnesium and potassium levels.
Treatment of electrolyte imbalance
- Drink enough water, because the balance of the electrolytes changes with the change of the amount of water in the body.
- Adjust the diet by consuming more home-cooked meals, and avoiding processed, fried foods. Start eating more leafy greens, cabbage, avocados, squash, cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes, bananas, and broccoli. It is recommended to include coconut water, celery, cucumber, pineapple, watermelon, citrus fruits, kefir, yogurt, kiwi, bell peppers, carrots, to your diet to stay hydrated.
- Check the medications you are taking, because the levels of electrolytes in the body may be affected by certain medications, such as diuretics, antibiotics, hormonal pills, cancer treatments, and blood pressure medications.
- Monitor your sodium intake, especially if you consume processed and packaged foods. So, be sure to always look for the amount of sodium added, as they usually contain it in high amounts.
- Hydrate the body after exercising by drinking lots of water, before, during and after exercising.
- Supplements are the way to go, if you cannot regulate the levels of important nutrients in the body even after making dietary and lifestyle changes, you can consult your doctor and choose proper supplements.