What are electrolytes?
Do you know what are electrolytes? Well, if your answer is no, then you should definitely read the article below. In this article we’re going talk about electrolytes, why are they so important for our health and the most common signs of electrolyte imbalance. So, sit back and enjoy. But first, let me answer the previous question for you – electrolytes are certain nutrients (or chemicals) present in your body that have many important functions ranging from regulating your heartbeat to allowing your muscles to contract so you can move. According to the experts, the major electrolytes found within the body are calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphate and chloride. Because these crucial nutrients help stimulate nerves throughout the body and balance fluid levels, an electrolyte imbalance can cause a variety of serious negative symptoms, including some that are potentially deadly.
Why are they so important for overall health?
The experts say that we usually “get” electrolytes through eating different foods and drinking certain fluids, while you lose them partially through exercise, sweating, going to the bathroom and urinating. And, ladies and gentlemen, this is the main reason why a poor diet, too little or too much exercise, and being sick are some possible causes for an electrolyte imbalance.
Some of the major roles that electrolytes have within the body include:
- Calcium – this electrolyte will help you with muscle contractions, nerve signaling, blood clotting, cell division, and forming/maintaining bones and teeth
- Potassium – potassium will help you keep the blood pressure levels stable, regulate heart contractions, help you with muscle functions, etc.
- Magnesium – this electrolyte is usually needed for muscle contractions, proper heart rhythms, nerve functioning, bone-building and strength, reducing anxiety, digestion, and keeping a stable protein-fluid balance
- Sodium – sodium will help you maintain fluid balance, needed for muscle contractions, and helps with nerve signaling
- Chloride – and last, but not least important: chloride! It will help you maintain fluid balance
The imbalance in electrolytes can be caused by:
- Poor and unhealthy diet
- Not enough nutrients (caused by digestive problems)
- Chemo treatments (they eliminate the calcium and potassium inside)
- Antibiotics (hormones, diuretics)
- Kidney problems (they need sodium, potassium and magnesium to function – and they need a lot)
- Sickness, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, fevers.
- Drugs and medications against cancer, diabetes, hormones, heart.
- Endocrine problems
The most common signs of electrolyte imbalance:
- Muscle pain, twitch, weakness
- Weight changes and appetite changes
- Numbness and joint pain
- Irregular heartbeat and pulse
- Unstable pressure
- Bone problems
- Constipation, cramps, diarrhea
- Hard time focusing
Ladies and gentlemen, you should be very careful and if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, then you should seek medical help – ASAP. You should make urine and blood tests and even EKG, to check the function of the heart. If you need to make more tests for deficits, try X-rays for the kidneys. You need to make an ultrasound (this deficit can be confirmed only with high values and they are seen through the blood):
- Potassium 5-5.3 mEq/L
- Sodium 136-145 mEq/L
- Calcium 5-5.5 mEq/L
- Chloride 97-107 mEq/L
- Magnesium 1.5-2.5 mEq/L
- Dizziness, confusion and irritable mood
According to the experts, you’ll experience the symptoms mentioned above when you have high sodium amount and if you don’t treat this condition on time. The experts also warn that you might even experience seizures, delirium and coma.
- Insomnia and anxiety
Ladies and gentlemen, you should know that low magnesium levels will make you feel tired, experience sleeping problems, night sweats, spasms in muscles and fast pulse.
- Digestion problems
The experts warn that electrolyte imbalance will affect the energy you have and cause cramps, diarrhea, constipation and hemorrhoids.
- Heartbeat alterations
High or low potassium levels will cause hyperkalemia that impairs the nerve work and muscles’ work too, thus leading to tingly and tired or numb muscles. You should be very careful, because this will damage the normal heartbeat, cause stress, and too much calcium will impair the heart health and the pathways to the heart.
- Bone pains
If your calcium levels vary, then you might vomit, have kidney stones and constipation and even focus problems.
- Spasms in muscles
This is very important for you to know – when you are dehydrated and have low Mg and potassium, the muscles will give up first.
Treating the imbalance in electrolytes
- Make sure you drink plenty of water to balance this and change the amount of water inside.
- Improve your diet habits – yes, if you notice that you suffer from electrolyte imbalance, then you should definitely change your diet habits. You should consume homemade food and stop wasting money and your health on fast food. And yes, make sure you consume lots of green leafy veggies, sweet potato, crucifer veggies, avocado, cabbage, bananas, squash and broccoli. Also, coconut water, cucumber, celery, pineapple, amasai, watermelon, citrus fruits, carrot, kefir, bell pepper, kiwi, yoghurt.
- If you suffer from low levels of calcium, then you should include more legumes, dairy (raw milk, probiotic kinds of yoghurt, leafy greens, veggies and beans into your diet.
- Check your meds – the experts warn that even meds might alter the levels of electrolytes inside your body and cause electrolyte imbalance (diuretics, cancer meds, antibiotics, hormone therapy and pressure meds). We all know that the chemotherapy medications will impact you the most. You should also know that laxatives and diuretics make severe changes in the potassium and magnesium inside the urine and blood. And, you’ll be shocked when we tell you that some types of diuretics might increase the potassium and others might lower the electrolytes and disturb the digestion processes, sleeping, heartbeats and cause anxiety. Such imbalances are mostly triggered by hormone imbalance and anti-diuretic effect meds like thyroid and aldosterone meds.
- Make sure you keep track of the sodium intake – this is very important for you to remember: the more processed foods you eat – the more sodium you ingest. We all know that sodium is crucial for water release or retention and if the sodium levels are too high, the kidneys might suffer and impair more tissues. If this level is normal, you will NOT have muscle spasms, dehydration, lethargy, bloating and fatigue or irritable mood.
- Post workout hydration – after each exercise, make sure you drink plenty of water, to replenish the lost amounts.