Electrolyte Imbalance: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment
Updated February 7, 2024.
Knowing how to keep electrolytes balanced can help ensure proper cellular functioning, since, for example, low electrolytes impact cognitive processing. This is especially common when you're dehydrated because electrolytes fluctuate as you lose or drink water.
You naturally lose water through sweating, breathing, and toxin elimination. But with more moderate-to-high dehydration, your brain can be negatively impacted. For instance, research shows that being dehydrated by just 2% impairs focus, physiological capabilities, and short-term memory skills.
Here's what you need to know about electrolyte imbalance and its effects on your body.
Causes of Electrolyte Imbalance
The types of electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, and bicarbonate, which are in charge of body functions such as pH levels, nerve and muscle relaxation and contraction, hydration, and tissue renewal. While these can fluctuate, they can also become imbalanced.
Causes of electrolyte imbalance include:
- Excessive sweating
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Medications like chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, laxatives, or diuretics
- Liver or kidney issues
- Severe burns
- Eating disorders
Regular levels of common electrolytes are:
- Sodium: 136 to 144 mmol/L (millimoles per liter)
- Potassium: 3.7 to 5.1 mmol/L
- Calcium: 8.5 to 10.2 mg/dL (in adults)
- Chloride: 97 to 105 mmol/L
- Magnesium: 1.7 to 2.2 mg/dL
- Phosphate: 2.5 to 4.8 mg/dL
- Bicarbonate: 22 to 30 mmol/L
Symptoms of Electrolyte Imbalance
Electrolyte levels in your blood shouldn't be too low as this can cause electrolyte imbalance. When your body is low on electrolytes, you can experience the following symptoms:
- Muscle cramping
- Irregular heart rate
It is important to know when or how to restore the electrolyte balance, such as using electrolyte drops that you can add to your water. However, there can be times when an electrolyte imbalance is so severe that a doctor should be contacted to replenish them via IV fluids.
How to Prevent Electrolyte Imbalance
There are numerous ways to hydrate effectively so you can avoid an electrolyte imbalance.
- Drink water while working out
- Eat a balanced diet with electrolyte-rich foods like spinach, lentils, and nuts
- Limit your time outdoors in extremely hot weather
- If you're sick, stay hydrated
- Limit your carbonated or sugary beverage intake
- Coconut water and electrolyte-infused water can help balance electrolytes
» Check out 4 ways to add electrolytes to drinking water for max hydration
Keep Your Electrolytes Up With Mayu
Most electrolytes are absorbed by certain fruits in the daily diet. But there are multiple factors that can create an imbalance, such as certain medications. To ensure your electrolyte levels are optimal, consider replacing electrolytes like magnesium and other minerals with Mayu Water's Electrolyte Drops. These drops are a healthy alternative to sugary drinks, meaning no blood sugar spikes.
To help you stay hydrated, the Mayu Swirl—which enhances water through aeration—makes a great pairing with electrolyte drops. You'll be able to enjoy water that is healthier and free of chemicals than tap or bottled water.