Electrolytes such as potassium, sodium and calcium are present in the foods we eat. These elements are essential for nerve and muscle function, and they're often depleted during exercise, hot weather and bouts of illness. An imbalance of electrolytes can often be corrected by eating the right foods. In some cases, an imbalance of electrolyte levels may indicate an allergic reaction to medications or disease. Learn how to identify the symptoms of electrolyte imbalance and treat it with proper diet and supplements.
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Pay attention to your body and notice anything unusual. Symptoms of low sodium levels include swelling, slowed breathing and abdominal cramping. The clinical term for this condition is hypnonatremia, and it's the most common form of electrolyte imbalance.
Identify symptoms like feelings of nausea, weakness, muscle aches and diarrhea as possible side effects of increased potassium levels. If you're training for a marathon, fasting, taking diuretics or you've undergone kidney failure, you may be experiencing a condition called hyperkalemia, which causes an increase in potassium levels in the body.
Pay careful attention to your sodium intake. Identify symptoms like excessive thirst, dry mouth, dark-colored urine and muscle twitching. These are signs of an abundance of sodium in the blood. This condition is called hypernatremia and is a common side effect of dehydration.
Make a note of how many times you visit the bathroom during the day. Increased urination and weakness may be symptoms of hypokalemia, which means there's an abundance of potassium in the blood. This condition is common in people who suffer from kidney disease and people who take laxatives.
Get tested. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms or if you're having unexplained seizures or excessive muscle twitching, you need to get tested for electrolyte imbalances. Your doctor will test either your urine or blood for imbalances of potassium, sodium and calcium. Ask your doctor to explain the results. For example, normal adults should have potassium levels of between 3.5 and 5.3 mg per deciliter. Your doctor should be able to read your results to recommend treatment for slight to severe imbalances.
Tips and warnings
- If you experience symptoms of potassium deficiency, incorporate foods like potatoes, bananas, avocados and raisins into your diet.
- Replace salty snacks with celery if you want a healthier source of sodium in your diet.
- Avoid excessive exercise, taking laxatives for dieting purposes and fasting. Your body needs nourishment to thrive.