How to Maintain Electrolyte Balance With Diabetes

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How to Maintain Electrolyte Balance With Diabetes

Did you know that keeping your electrolyte balance in check is critical for managing diabetes?

 Daniesha Govender
By Daniesha Govender
Mari Jordaan
Edited by Mari Jordaan

Updated June 13, 2024.

A woman with diabetes drinking water to maintain her electrolyte balance on a bike ride.

Maintaining electrolyte balance is crucial for everyone, but it's especially important for people with diabetes. Mineral imbalances can directly affect your blood sugar levels and lead to various health issues, such as dehydration, muscle weakness, heart arrhythmias, and neurological disturbances.

In this article, we'll explore the gravity of electrolyte balance for people with glucose intolerance. We'll also provide practical strategies for sustaining optimal ion concentrations through diet, hydration, and supplementation.

» Drink these 4 best types of water for taste and hydration

Key Takeaways

  • Diabetes can disrupt electrolyte amounts through its effects on blood sugar and insulin.
  • Staying hydrated and following a diet rich in essential minerals can help balance ion levels.
  • Keeping track of electrolyte concentrations and making necessary dietary adjustments can help you manage diabetes effectively and prevent complications from mineral imbalances.

Electrolytes and Their Roles in Overall Health

Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge, like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride. These charged minerals perform essential roles in managing the following bodily functions:

  • Fluid balance: Electrolytes sustain the equilibrium of fluids within and outside cells, which is vital for hydration and total cellular function. It's also crucial for nutrient absorption and waste elimination. Sodium and chloride regulate water retention and movement, playing a key role in this process.
  • Blood pressure regulation: Sodium and chloride are indispensable for stabilizing blood pressure, which is critical for cardiovascular health and preventing hypertension.
  • Nerve function: Electrolytes, like sodium, potassium, and calcium, are necessary for transmitting electrical impulses along nerves and across synapses. Nerve signaling is paramount for cognitive functions and reflexes.
  • Muscle function: Calcium and magnesium are necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation, while potassium prevents muscle cramps. Muscle contractions are essential for movement, heartbeats, and breathing.
  • Acid-base balance: Bicarbonate and phosphate act as buffers to maintain the body's pH within a narrow range, which is pivotal for enzymatic activities and overall metabolic processes.
  • Energy production: Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions, including those necessary for adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production—the primary energy currency of cells.
  • Heart health: Minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium are quintessential for preserving a regular heartbeat and proper cardiac function.

» Discover how to get essential minerals for your body

How Can Diabetes Affect Your Electrolyte Balance?

Diabetes significantly impacts ion balance, primarily due to its effects on blood glucose levels and insulin regulation. Hyperglycemia—a common feature of glucose intolerance—leads to osmotic diuresis, where excess glucose in the blood causes increased urine production. This process results in the loss of water and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

» Find out how to quickly replenish electrolytes

Additionally, polyuria (excessive production or passage of urine) can cause sodium concentrations to decrease, leading to hyponatremia—which may trigger symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue.

» Understand how dehydration headaches occur and how to alleviate them

Insulin also plays a critical role in potassium balance, as it helps move potassium from the bloodstream into the cells.

Without proper insulin signaling, potassium stays trapped outside the cells, causing an imbalance and leading to hyperkalemia (high potassium). When insulin starts working properly again, it promotes glucose uptake into cells and also facilitates potassium movement back into the cells. This can lead to a shift in potassium concentrations, causing a potential drop in blood potassium and resulting in hypokalemia (low potassium).

» Add essential water minerals like potassium back to your drinking water to avoid any deficits

Symptoms of Electrolyte Imbalance in People With Diabetes

Electrolyte imbalances in people with diabetes can lead to various symptoms, such as:

  • Hyponatremia (low sodium levels): If your sodium amounts drop too low, you may experience headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Fatigue, confusion, and, in severe cases, seizures are also common signs of this imbalance.
  • Hyperkalemia (high potassium levels): High potassium concentrations can trigger muscle weakness, fatigue, nausea, and palpitations. In critical situations, it can even result in irregular heartbeats and cardiac arrest.
  • Hypokalemia (low potassium levels): Low potassium might lead to muscle cramps, weakness, constipation, and palpitations. In extreme instances, it can cause arrhythmias and paralysis.
  • Hypomagnesemia (low magnesium levels): A magnesium deficiency can induce muscle twitches and cramps, fatigue, and numbness. Severe cases might experience nausea, vomiting, seizures, and heart arrhythmias.
  • Hypercalcemia (high calcium levels): If your calcium amounts are too high, you might suffer from increased thirst and frequent urination, nausea, vomiting, constipation, muscle weakness, confusion, and lethargy.
  • Hypocalcemia (low calcium levels): Low calcium can trigger muscle cramps and spasms, tingling in your fingers and lips, fatigue, and, in severe cases, seizures and cardiac arrhythmias.

» Understand these symptoms and science-based solutions to tackle mineral deficiency

Experiencing these symptoms can worsen your diabetes, increasing the risk of dehydration and cardiovascular problems. They can also make it harder to regulate your blood sugar levels. If you notice any of these signs, seek medical attention immediately to address and correct any electrolyte disparities.

» Find out how dehydration can affect your cardiac health

Early Warning Signs to Look Out For

Early warning signs of electrolyte imbalance include:

  • Persistent muscle cramps
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Changes in heart rhythm
  • Confusion
  • Altered mental state
  • Heart palpitations

These red flags can indicate a potentially serious issue that needs prompt attention.

» Learn how electrolytes fight fatigue and boost your energy levels

Why Should You Maintain Your Electrolyte Balance?

The body obtains electrolytes through diet and hydration. They're essential for maintaining homeostasis and general vitality. They can enhance energy levels, reduce muscle cramps, and improve cognitive functions.

» Uncover essential vitamins and minerals for boosting cognitive functions

I've struggled with migraines for years, but I noticed a significant improvement after adding magnesium supplements to my daily diet. This mineral helped balance my electrolytes and enhanced my overall quality of life.

» Learn how drinking water prevents and treats migraines

The table below shows the healthy ranges for serum levels of the main electrolytes, along with their deficiency and excess levels and recommended daily intakes (based on laboratory values):

ElectrolyteNormal RangeMild to Moderate DeficiencySevere DeficiencyMild to Moderate ExcessSevere Excess Recommended Daily Intake
Sodium135-145 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)125-135 mmol/L<125 mmol/L145-160 mmol/L>160 mmol/L2.4 grams (g)
Potassium3.6-5.5 mmol/L<3.6-<2.5 mmol/L>2.5 mmol/L5-6.5 mmol/L6.5-7 mmol/L1,600-2,000 milligrams (mg)
Calcium8.8-10.7 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)<8.8 mg/dL10.7-11.5 mg/dL>11.5 mg/dL1,000-1,300 mg (varies by age and gender)
Magnesium1.46-2.68 mg/dL<1.46 mg/dL>2.68 mg/dL310-420 mg (varies by age, gender, pregnancy, and lactation status)
Bicarbonate23-30 mmol/L (increases or decreases depending on the acid-base status)Maximum daily dosage: 200 milliequivalents (mEq) for up to 60 years old and 100 mEq (over 60 years old)
Phosphorus3.4-4.5 mg/dL<2.5 mg/dL>4.5 mg/dL100-1,250 mg (varies by age and physiological condition)

Which Foods Should You Eat to Manage Your Electrolyte Balance?

Maintaining a diet high in key electrolytes is crucial for overall health, especially for individuals managing conditions like diabetes.

Let's examine the roles of sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus and see which foods are rich in these important minerals.


Sodium helps sustain fluid balance, supports nerve function, and aids muscle contraction. It's present in table salt. Other healthy sources include:

  • Vegetables (beets, spinach)
  • Vegetable broth
  • Low-sodium pickles
  • Seafood (salmon, shrimp)
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese)
  • Whole grains
  • Salted nuts
  • Seeds

Note: Excessive sodium intake can lead to hypertension.

» Salty foods can also cause increased thirst, so make sure you avoid water intoxication


Potassium is vital for heart function, muscle contraction, and nerve signaling. It helps counteract the effects of sodium, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. You can increase your potassium levels by eating:

  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Avocados
  • Sweet potatoes

» Find out if potassium bicarbonate in bottled water is harmful


Magnesium supports energy production, DNA synthesis, and muscle and nerve function. It also helps regulate blood glucose concentrations and blood pressure.

» Regulate your blood sugar levels by drinking more water

You can find magnesium in:

  • Nuts (almonds, cashews)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, chia)
  • Whole grains
  • Black beans
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale)


Calcium is essential for bone and teeth health, muscle function, nerve transmission, and blood clotting. Adequate intake helps prevent osteoporosis and supports cardiovascular well-being. Dietary sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Fortified plant-based milk
  • Leafy greens (kale, broccoli)
  • Tofu

» Get more calcium from these 7 healthiest types of water


Phosphorus promotes healthy bone and teeth formation, aids energy production, and supports the function of cell membranes and DNA synthesis. It's present in:

  • Dairy products
  • Meats (chicken, beef)
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Whole grains

Ensuring you get the right harmony of electrolytes is key to maintaining proper hydration, muscle function, and nerve signaling. If you have diabetes, it's particularly crucial to keep your ion concentrations balanced to prevent issues like cardiac arrhythmias, muscle weakness, and nerve damage.

Regularly monitoring your levels and following a well-thought-out diet plan can help you control these risks effectively.

» Uncover more ways food and water choices can impact your health

Expert Meal Planning Tips for Maintaining Electrolyte Balance With Diabetes

To ensure you get enough electrolytes, include an assortment of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, nuts, and seeds in your diet. This variety helps cover different minerals while helping you manage your portion sizes to keep your blood glucose levels stable.

» Consider water-based cooking to regulate blood pressure

To control your sodium intake, flavor your food with herbs and spices instead of salt and opt for low-sodium versions of processed foods.

Additionally, cooking meals with fresh ingredients gives you better control over sodium and other additives. Plus, preparing meals in batches ensures you always have healthy options on hand. To stay on top of your nutrient intake, consider keeping a food diary or using a tracking app. Working with a dietitian can also be incredibly helpful, as they can tailor your meal plans to meet your specific needs and preferences.

Staying hydrated is crucial too, so drink plenty of water and limit sugary drinks.

» Discover 4 ways to add electrolytes to drinking water for maximum rehydration

How Can MAYU Water Electrolyte Drops Benefit Diabetics?

MAYU Minerals | Electrolyte Drops can help you maintain balanced electrolyte levels. These drops can also enhance hydration by improving water absorption and retention, counteracting the frequent urination and dehydration that often accompany diabetes.

» Find out more about electrolyte water and its benefits

I recommend MAYU Minerals | Electrolyte Drops for people with diabetes because they offer a balanced blend of sodium, potassium, and magnesium — without any added sugars or calories. They can support muscle function and prevent muscle cramps, fatigue, and cardiac problems without affecting blood glucose concentrations. Additionally, the all-natural formulation minimizes the risk of adverse reactions, which is notably significant if you're managing diabetes.

By incorporating these drops into your daily routine, you can more effectively regulate your glucose intolerance and improve your overall well-being.

» Check out these 5 best sugar-free electrolyte drops

Sustain Your Electrolyte Balance

Eating a balanced diet with mineral-rich foods, staying well-hydrated, and using supplements can help you maintain healthy ion levels. But remember, controlling your electrolytes is an ongoing effort that involves regular checks and adjustments. Work with your healthcare team to improve your general well-being and diabetes management.

» Hydrate and recharge your body with essential vitamins and minerals