Low Electrolytes Symptoms: What To Watch Out For
May 24, 2022
Electrolytes are responsible for producing energy and contracting your muscles, among other vital roles. We usually get them from what we eat and drink, but there may be other ways to give your body the electrolytes it needs.
Having the right levels of electrolytes is essential so that your body functions properly. Similarly, if your electrolyte levels are too low, it can lead to severe health problems.
So, let’s figure out the best way to stay on top of your hydration levels!
What Is an Electrolyte?
Electrolytes are chemicals naturally occurring in our bloodstream that regulate essential functions of the body. They include chloride, phosphate, potassium, sodium, and calcium.
When dissolved in water, electrolytes separate into positively and negatively charged ions. Your body's nerve reactions and muscle function depend on the proper exchange of these electrolyte ions outside and inside cells.
The kidneys maintain a balance of electrolytes by shifting sodium levels as the body requires. However, sometimes our levels of electrolytes can get thrown off. When electrolytes in your body are too low, the resulting condition is called an electrolyte imbalance.
What Do Electrolytes Do for Our Body?
Electrolytes are crucial for so many of the body’s processes. Some of the functions that electrolytes aid may include:
- Regulate the fluid levels in your blood plasma and your body
- Keep the pH of your blood in the normal range
- Enable muscle contractions, including the beating of your heart.
- Transmit nerve signals from heart, muscle, and nerve cells to other cells.
- Help reduce blood clot
- Help build new tissues
Electrolytes are essential for your body. They help your body with regular chemical reactions, but they also maintain the balance between fluids inside and outside your cells.
What Are Optimal Electrolyte Levels
Your electrolytes can be checked with either a blood or urine test. The optimal electrolyte levels in adults are below:
- Sodium 136-145 milliequivalents per liter
- Potassium 3.6-5.5 milliequivalents per liter
- Calcium 9-11 milligrams/decilitre
- Magnesium 1.5-2.5 milliequivalents per liter
- Phosphorus 3.4-4.5 milligrams/decilitre
What Causes an Electrolyte Imbalance?
The balance of electrolytes is constantly shifting due to fluctuating fluids in your body.
An electrolyte imbalance is caused when you lose a large amount of body fluids.
For example, when you sweat due to exercise, hot weather, or illness, levels of certain electrolytes may be low. Vomiting and diarrhea are other causes of electrolyte imbalances resulting in excessive fluid loss.
Here are some other causes of an electrolyte imbalance:
- Spending too much time in hot weather
- Not eating enough whole foods
- Metabolic alkalosis – a condition in which your blood pH is higher than normal
- Laxatives and steroids
What Are Potential Signs of a Low Electrolyte Imbalance?
Because you want to keep your body running smoothly, you want to ensure you don’t have an electrolyte imbalance. There are a few key signs to look out for when determining if your body is low on electrolytes.
One of the most common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance is fatigue. Electrolytes, especially magnesium with electrolytes, are partially responsible for fighting off fatigue.
You might be missing out on this mineral because of poor eating habits, drinking too much alcohol, prolonged use of diuretics, diarrhea, gastrointestinal disorders, and the use of acid-reducing pills.
As discovered, electrolytes are crucial for facilitating the electrical impulses our body needs for muscular contractions. They are also important for the normal functioning of our brain and nerves. Because of this, electrolytes play a part in maintaining normal muscle contractions and heart function, which controls your heart rate.
If you severely lack sufficient electrolytes, you might notice muscle weakness, muscular spasms, tingling, numbness, palpitations, or slow heart rate.
Electrolytes are responsible for the formation of bone. If your body does not have enough electrolytes, your body won’t have enough calcium to form and maintain the health of your bones.
If your body is lacking in electrolytes and it begins to affect your calcium levels, you might notice tingling in the feet, fingers, tongue.
Electrolytes are also essential to building the energy molecule called ATP.
ATP stands for Adenosine Triphosphate, which captures chemical energy obtained from the breakdown of food molecules and releases it to fuel other cellular processes.
Phosphorus, which is contained in electrolytes, is the building block of ATP.
Therefore, if you are low on electrolytes, you will have less ATP, and your cellular processes will take a hit. When phosphorus and electrolyte levels fall too low, symptoms may include weak respiratory muscles, which leads to hypoventilation or cough.
Look out for potential symptoms when you are most vulnerable to losing electrolytes, such as exposure to hot weather, vomiting, diarrhea, or strenuous physical activity.
What Are Common Symptoms in Children?
Children also run the risk of low electrolyte levels due to their smaller size and faster metabolism of fluids and electrolytes. If a child sweats excessively or gets sick with severe vomiting or diarrhea, they may develop an electrolyte imbalance.
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalances in children include:
- dark urine
- muscle spasms
- difficulty breathing
- rapid heart rate
Parents and guardians must seek immediate medical care if they exhibit these symptoms, especially if they also have a fever or a long-term health condition.
Are There Treatment Options For Low Electrolyte Symptoms?
If you have noticed these symptoms show up in your life, it’s probably time to replenish your body’s electrolyte levels. There are a few ways to do this, but some are more efficient than others.
Over-the-counter electrolyte solutions can help restore the balance of electrolytes and typical sports drinks.
You can also eat electrolyte-rich foods. Certain foods naturally increase electrolyte levels in the body, such as potatoes, avocados, oranges, bananas, strawberries, turkey, and spinach.
Coconut water is another alternative for replenishing electrolytes. Coconut water is low on the glycemic index, so it won't dramatically affect your blood sugar. Studies have also shown that it may help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, giving it a heart-healthy reason to drink it.
However, if you are trying to counteract the depletion of electrolytes, you want to be extra cautious. Taking in high levels of electrolytes without a doctor’s guidance can create another imbalance and lead to more health complications.
Boost Electrolytes With IV Treatments
One of the fastest ways to receive the proper amount of electrolytes is through IV therapy treatment. This will deposit electrolytes directly into your bloodstream, meaning they bypass the digestive system, taking away the risk of electrolytes becoming lost or not properly absorbed. Additionally, this is the safest way to obtain electrolytes as a medical professional will monitor your treatment.
At The I.V. Doc, we have plenty of IV Therapy Services to choose from, and many of them are focused on replenishing your electrolytes using a balanced electrolyte solution. Our services include:
- Cleanse Treatment to rebalance your body with fluid and electrolytes and is the most basic, streamlined treatment that aims to rehydrate your body with a balanced blend of electrolytes similar to that found in your body.
- Detox treatment provides your body with a natural source of hydration and energy, which can help you fight off the lethargy that comes after too much exercise, sickness, or alcohol. In addition to the balanced fluids and electrolytes; our physicians may recommend one medication.
- Refresh Treatment to supply your body with the proper hydration and combat two different sources of discomfort with specialized medications, while also replenishing and rehydrating your body. In addition to the balanced fluids and electrolytes; our physicians may recommend up to two additional medications.
- Rescue Treatment provides your body with electrolytes and hydration when your body is depleted and dehydrated (usually due to a hangover). In addition to the balanced fluids and electrolytes; our physicians may recommend up to three additional medications.
Staying hydrated involves more than just drinking water. It also means maintaining the delicate balance of electrolytes in your body. If you engage in strenuous exercise, you’ll need more than water to stay hydrated.
Electrolytes are essential in regulating critical bodily functions. Without electrolytes, our body wouldn’t be able to keep the pH of your blood in the normal range, build new tissues, or transmit nerve signals efficiently.
If you lose too many electrolytes, it can impair these crucial functions and lead to significant discomfort. However, there are ways to replenish your electrolytes – that’s where IV therapy comes in.
IV therapy treatments are the perfect solution for anyone struggling with low electrolyte levels.
So what are you waiting for? Schedule your appointment at The I.V. Doc, today!