Electrolytes are crucial for our well-being and we wouldn’t survive without them. When dissolved in water, they produce an electrically conducting solution. Calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, bicarbonate, chloride and hydrogen phosphate are the most important electrolytes in our organism.

Calcium – aids muscle contractions, nerve signaling, blood clotting and formation, cell division, and keeps your teeth and bones strong;

Sodium – maintains the fluid balance in the body, aids nerve signaling and helps muscles contract;

Chloride – responsible for keeping the balance of fluids;

Potassium – regulates blood pressure, heart contractions and muscle contractions;

Magnesium – aids muscle contractions, heart rhythm, bone strength, nerve function, reduces anxiety, improves digestion and keeps a balances protein.

Electrolytes are present in our bodily fluids such as sweat, blood and urine. When dissolved in water, they separate positive and negative ions, and nerves signal other nerves in the body through a series of chemical reactions dependent on the oppositely charged ions.

Electrolyte imbalance is caused by:

  • Chemotherapy;
  • Endocrine disorders;
  • Hormonal imbalance;
  • Antibiotics (over-the-counter drugs, diuretics, corticosteroid hormones);
  • Some medications (cancer, heart disease and hormonal drugs);
  • Kidney damage or disease;
  • Malabsorption caused by digestive or intestinal problems;
  • Unhealthy diet;
  • Being sick.

The main symptoms of this condition are nausea, insomnia, restlessness, headaches, irregular blood pressure and heartbeat, cramps, fatigue, etc. If you experience any of these symptoms, you need to visit the doctor immediately and take tests which will measure your electrolyte levels. Sometimes, blood and urine tests are required to find the root of the problem. Severe electrolyte deficiencies can be determined by ultrasound and X-rays – the deficiency is diagnosed when the readings are lower or higher than the following values:

Calcium: 5-5.5 mEq/L

Chloride: 97-107 mEq/L

Potassium: 5-5.3 mEq/L

Magnesium: 1.5-2.5 mEq/L

Sodium: 136-145 mEq/L

Treatment of electrolyte imbalance

Drink more water

Your electrolyte balance varies due to the amount of water in your body, so drink the recommended amount of 6-8 glasses every day to keep their levels stable.

Adjust your diet

In order to resolve the imbalance, you should avoid processed and fried food and focus on home-cooked meals. Include more leafy green and cruciferous vegetables in your diet, as well as raw fruit, coconut water, celery, cucumber, pineapple, watermelon, citrus fruits and carrots.

Check your meds

The electrolyte balance in the body can be affected by certain medications (diuretics, antibiotics, cancer drugs, hormone pills). Some diuretics can keep the potassium levels in your body high, while others lower them, resulting in problems such as anxiety and irregular heartbeat. Chemotherapy has the biggest impact on electrolyte levels, while diuretics and laxatives alter the levels of sodium and potassium in your body.

Monitor your sodium intake

Always check the labels of processed and prepackaged foods for added sodium as they are known to be rich in it. Sodium controls the water release and retention from your body, which is why it high amounts can result in kidney damage and disease. Maintaining stable sodium levels will prevent muscle twitches and cramps as well as dehydration and bloating.

Hydrate yourself after exercise

Hydrate your body before, during and after working out to keep your electrolyte levels stable.

Consider taking supplements

If you can’t regulate your electrolyte levels with the previous treatments, consider taking some mineral supplements.