Anyone who works out a lot and knows all about perspiring (or sweating), often profusely, also know that it’s important to be attentive about replenishing their fluids because staying hydrated is crucial in guarding your health. It’s not just the fluids that need to be replaced but also electrolytes, which are chemicals with an electrical charge that conduct electricity when dissolved in water, and they are needed for a variety of bodily functions.
That’s right – your body, in a sense, runs on electricity – its own. Most well-trained athletes know the importance of electrolytes. That’s why you will often see them sipping or drinking sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, that are packed full of electrolytes that include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and bicarbonate, per medicalnewstoday.com. Also, per healthyeating.sfgate, your body is quite picky when it comes to electrolytes -- it needs a specific amount of each to operate properly and an exact proportion of electrolytes working in tandem to ensure optimal functionality of your body.
It isn’t just the amount of electrolytes that your body needs, either – it also cries out for a healthy balance of them in that electrolytes interact with one another as well as the cells that are contained in your tissues, nerves, and muscles. When they are at work inside your body, electrolytes perform such functions as regulate nerve and muscle activity, hydration, balance blood acidity and pressure, and assist in the restoration of tissue that has been damaged, per medicalnewstoday.com.
Electrolytes also move nutrients into your cells and wastes out of your cells, while also balancing the amount of water in your body, per medlineplus.gov.
Symptoms of Imbalanced Electrolytes
Symptoms that might indicate electrolytes out of whack can differ depending on which electrolyte(s) is/are either out of balance or present in a level that is too high or too low. These symptoms can include the following:
- Blood pressure changes
- Bone disorders
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle spasms
- Nervous system disorders
- Weakness or extreme tiredness
There are an assortment of other symptoms you might experience related to either a deficiency or an excess of any one particular electrolyte too numerous to list here. One such example is an excessive amount of calcium, a state which can possibly be manifested in frequent urination, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, significant loss of appetite, constipation, and/or dry mouth or throat.
There are ‘worst-case scenarios’ as well that serve as cautionary tales to keep you inside your body’s guardrails. Per livestrong.com, a severe case of electrolyte imbalance can mean a trip to a hospital emergency room. One study, per journals.plos.org, found that more than 20 percent of patients admitted to an ER for electrolyte imbalances had to be readmitted within 30 days due to the persistent severity of such an imbalance.
Causes of Imbalanced Electrolytes
If you are experiencing an electrolyte imbalance, chances are it’s not a random event that just appears out of ‘thin air.’ It is more than likely caused by one of the following factors or events, per medicalnewstoday.com:
- Kidney disease
- Prolonged periods of vomiting or diarrhea
- Significant dehydration
- Use of some drugs, such as diuretics
- Poor diet
- Congestive heart failure
Treating an Electrolyte Imbalance
If you suspect you are suffering from an electrolyte imbalance, you might want to see your doctor so you can be examined and get a reliable diagnosis. Chances are you won’t need any prescription medications to treat such a condition, and it’s pretty much a matter of managing the imbalance, per medlineplus.gov,and you do that yourself by being careful about what you put in your mouth, and when. Of course, it also requires identifying what caused the symptoms-inducing condition in the first place.
Proper nutritional supplementation is also a factor in maintaining a healthy supply and balance of electrolytes. A healthy diet helps as well; foods that can provide a natural supply of electrolytes include veggies such as broccoli, kale, and spinach; fruits such as watermelon, strawberries, and oranges; and lean proteins to include chicken and fish, per livestrong.com. And, oh yeah, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, taking it up a notch when you are exercising.