Electrolytes, specifically in the body, are salts and minerals (Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Chloride) that aid in many bodily functions. They help control heart and nerve functions, as well as muscle control. Most importantly, they help the body absorb fluids and maintain a balance of electrolytes.
What causes Electrolyte Imbalance?
Hyper and Hyponatremia are excessive and insufficient levels of sodium and a common electrolyte imbalance in athletes. With excessive exercise and high sweat levels, the body is depleted of most electrolytes, but the first warning signs are thirst. Our body’s brain will send signals to drink, and sometimes drinking too much water without adding back in the lost electrolytes.
Hot weather may also cause a shift in how the body functions and change levels of electrolytes and fluids in the body.
Vomiting and diarrhea associated with flu like symptoms and other illnesses can cause electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. It is important to restore these essential minerals before they lead to more serious medical conditions.
What are symptoms of electrolyte imbalance?
Some of the first signs of electrolyte imbalance are similar to heat exhaustion, dehydration or overtraining. Dizziness and fatigue, nausea and inability or desire to eat as well as trembling or hands shaking. Typically these are quickly and easily treatable by consuming a a sports drink as well as taking other essential electrolytes like magnesium. These can be found in many fruits that can be easily digested like different melons. There are also many electrolyte supplements that can be taken in a pill form and easily digested for quick relief of the above symptoms.
More serious symptoms that may occur after prolonged electrolyte imbalance should be treated immediately. Constipation, dark urine or lack of urine, bad breath, inability to perspire and muscle weakness.
If these symptoms persist they may cause serious and possibly life-threatening dehydration and should be taken very seriously. If you begin to be confused, and have a rapidly increasing heart beat these are past warning signs and you should seek medical attention immediately for treatment.
Is there a way to test for Electrolyte Imbalances?
If you are concerned about your electrolyte levels and have experienced regular symptoms your physician may recommend a blood screen to test your electrolyte levels. This will typically be a blood and urine panel checking sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride & phosphorous levels. The test results will help you make changes to your diet and possibly adjust any current medications that might be blocking electrolyte and fluid absorption in the body.