Fluids and Electrolytes



Always consult your physician if you suspect an electrolyte imbalance.

Electrolytes are chemicals that conduct electricity when mixed with water. They hydrate the body and regulate nerve and muscle function. Electrolytes balance blood pressure and blood acidity and help rebuild damaged tissues. The muscles and nerve cells rely on the movement of electrolytes through the fluid inside to function. Your heart is a muscle and your brain is a mass of nerve cells. Electrolytes are important.

Electrolytes are critical to the normal functioning of the human body. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of electrolytes. The common electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride and phosphate. The symptoms of imbalance may include twitching, weakness and if left unchecked, seizures and heart rhythm irregularities. Older adults are especially at risk for electrolyte imbalance because of the changes in the kidneys associated with aging.

Our muscles need calcium, sodium and potassium to contract. If these substances become imbalanced the muscle can either become weak or contract excessively. The heart and nerve cells use electrolytes to carry messages to other cells. If there is an imbalance these messages may not travel.

Electrolyte levels change in relation to water levels and other factors such as what we eat and the amount that we sweat. Diarrhea can cause a dangerous loss of electrolytes that is life threatening. Diarrhea and vomiting can cause severe symptoms of dehydration and must be addressed. The sooner that diarrhea is completely stopped the better. Sodium and potassium can be lost quickly when it is allowed to continue.

Although sports drinks, gels and candies supply various electrolytes, consuming too much of these products can result in an excess. These drinks and other products can have a negative effect on the electrolyte balance as easily as they can help it. Make sure that you need these products before consuming them. Breast cancer, lung cancer and multiple myeloma can cause a calcium excess due to bone destruction. Kidney disease can cause excess potassium. Excess magnesium can also be caused by kidney disease but overuse of laxatives or antacids can raise magnesium levels to a dangerously high level. Dehydration is a common cause for excess sodium.

A harmful concentration of magnesium, sodium, potassium or calcium can produce one or more of the following:

*Irregular Heartbeat


*Bone Disorders


*Changes in Blood Pressure




*Nervous System Disorders

*Excessive Tiredness


*Muscle Spasm

Excessive calcium may manifest by:

*Frequent Urination

*Irregular Heartbeat





*Stomach Pain


*Extreme Muscle Weakness


*Dry Mouth

*Loss of Appetite




There are some cases of electrolyte imbalance that cannot be prevented such as those caused by kidney disease. A well balanced diet can help reduce the risk of a shortage most of the time. If you work out very hard and sweat a lot, a sports drink can lessen the impact of electrolytes lost in the sweat. There are foods that can help maintain good levels of specific electrolytes. (1)

Sodium can be found in dill pickles, tomato juice, sauces and soups and table salt. Chloride is found in tomato juice, sauces and soups, lettuce, olives and table salt. Potatoes with the skin on, plain yogurt and bananas are rich in potassium. Halibut, pumpkin seeds and spinach will supply an abundance of magnesium. Calcium can be obtained in yogurt, milk, ricotta cheese, collard greens, kale and sardines. Sometimes when an older adult is taking a diuretic a potassium supplement is prescribed by their doctor.

Electrolytes are a critical part of our chemical makeup and this time of year, as we head into the high temperatures of summer, it’s easier than ever to have an imbalance occur. If you feel faint after working out, electrolyte imbalance could be the reason. If you exercise intensely or sweat profusely, consuming electrolytes may help to preserve your levels at a normal place. Be sure to stay well hydrated. Do not over hydrate because hyponatremia is a real thing and can be fatal. With the fad of drinking gallons of water to lose weight that is popular now, hyponatremia is an ever present threat. It is simply too little sodium in the blood and can be fatal. Too much water can wash the sodium out of your body. Use some common sense. Although there are many factors that can cause hyponatremia, we are addressing drinking too much water. If your urine is a pale yellow color and you are not thirsty, don’t keep drinking. Those are the indicators of your sodium level.

Summer is a glorious time for outside exercise. The right amount of sunlight can be very beneficial for depression. Always wear sunscreen and stay out of the sun during midday when it is it’s most intense. Monitor your fluids and electrolytes and breeze through this joyous season in top form.

(1) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153188.php

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