What Happens When Your Body is Low in Electrolytes?

I call supplementing with electrolytes and metals: The Electrical Chemistry of the Human.

Steve Magee

As the name suggests, electrolytes are minerals with an electrical charge and they circulate in our body through fluids such as blood and urine. Some examples of electrolytes are potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, phosphate, and chloride. We get these minerals from the food and drinks we ingest. As happens with other nutrients, levels of electrolytes can either be high or low, but electrolytes are particularly impacted by the amount of water in our bodies. Dehydration (lack of water) or overhydration (excess of water) can mess up our electrolytes balance.

Electrolytes play an important role in our metabolism and in the maintenance of homeostasis. They help regulate the amount of water in the body, and our overall pH level. These minerals are essential for the healthy maintenance of our nervous system and the bi-directional communication channel between our brain and the remaining parts of our body. The kidneys and the liver are two specific organs that help us maintain healthy levels of electrolytes in our body, so when these two organs are impaired for some reason electrolytes balance can be compromised.

HeadachesDizzinessFatigue
ConfusionNauseaMuscle spasms
VomitingDiarrheaIrregular heartbeat
Common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance

Although each electrolyte may have specific functions, common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include headaches, confusion, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, and delirium. More severe symptoms can include seizures, coma, and metabolic acidosis. Checking our level of electrolytes is recommended and even more so as we age and whenever we experience conditions such as vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, or hot weather. Excessive sweating, the use of laxatives, and diuretics can also lead to electrolyte imbalances.

SpinachBroccoliOrangesTomatoes
LentilsPeanutsBananasYogurt
Sunflower seedsStrawberriesOlivesAlmonds
AvocadoWatermelonRaisinsKale
Foods rich in electrolytes

The best way to make sure you keep a healthy electrolyte balance is to have a nutritious diet, characterized by a high intake and variety of plant-based foods, moderate intake of good-quality proteins, and low intake of highly processed foods. Vegetables and fruits are essential to replenish any minerals that are flushed out. The Mediterranean Diet or any other traditional diet that is whole-foods based is a good option to follow. You can also take over-the-counter electrolyte solutions or eventually sports drinks, although you should be wary that some of these products contain high doses of sugar and therefore not a perfect solution.

Tools to Help You Stay Hydrated

Concluding Thoughts

Although water intake is essential, it is equally important to learn about electrolytes, their role in metabolism and homeostasis as well as the different ways imbalances can compromise our health and well-being. Electrolytes are essential minerals for mental health. When we look at the table of common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance we can find plenty of psychological experiences that are often linked to poor mental health. This shows how the mind and body are not separate from each other, and how nutritional imbalances can contribute to mental health and well-being.

Other blogs you may want to read:

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Anyone who knows me knows that I love Mediterranean food and appreciate the myriad of scientific studies that demonstrate its benefits. In this blog post, I will share what the scientific community has to say about osteoarthritis (OA) and the Mediterranean diet (MDiet).

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27 Comments

  1. Eri Tz says:

    I have to admit that I was not aware of the importance of electrolytes for our wellbeing. This post was really important and enlightening about them. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and learn about this. I appreciate your time and feedback 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I certainly did not know how important electrolytes are for your general well being. It’s great to learn something new. Thank for this enlightening post Vanessa 💙

      Like

  2. I didn’t know about this term or what it is about. I have learnt something today. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jeannie 😊 I’m happy you could take something out of it. Thank you for taking the time to read, I appreciate your feedback ❤️

      Like

  3. Never even thought about electrolytes this way before! Great post, I’ll have to think about what’s in my diet now as some symptoms do apply to me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Hannah! I appreciate your feedback and time. Paying attention to our body’s signs is key 😊

      Like

  4. Benny says:

    Not just a great article, but also an important one. We tend to forget how important it is to stay properly hydrated. This is a great reminder to keep the levels topped up, but not too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Benny, I appreciate your time and feedback. That’s a great point to have in mind indeed!

      Like

  5. I didn’t focus on the electrolytes and that this would be important but I will check it out. Thank you for the information about it. I’m always hydrated all day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good news 😊 Try to pay attention to the signs your body gives, it’s the best advisor 🙌

      Like

  6. Wow I didn’t realize by increasing my H2O intake, I was impacting my electrolytes. I’ve been trying to increase my H2O intake..a lot. I wonder if going back to adding chlorophyll in my water would help. Thank you for this great post! Definitely doing my homework!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe chlorophyll is packed with magnesium and antioxidants, which adds value in itself. You can add it and make sure you have foods rich in potassium such as bananas to balance it out 🙌 Let me know how you worked it out 😘

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Cassie says:

    I became aware of how electrolytes affect me several years go. You hit the nail on the head by mentioning dehydration. It also makes sense that being over-hydrated would also cause issues. For me, I know that I need to not only replenish any water my body needs if I’ve overexerted myself, but the electrolytes as well. Sodium is usually the culprit. I can tell when I have a headache caused by dehydration/ low electrolytes. A sort of quick fix solution can be taking a swig of pickle juice for me! Along with consistently drinking water of course. Glad you shared this with people. It might help someone who may not be aware they can do more to help themselves feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yes, that is such a great tip, pickle juice. Dehydration headaches give so much discomfort. Thank you for sharing! I will make a note to include another post with some practical solutions like that one. I went deeper on this subject because I noticed there were days in which I drank so much water and yet would remain dehydrated pretty much of the time. If there’s an imbalance, the water absorption rate seems to differ. Thank you for your valuable input, Cassie! 🙌 ❤️

      Like

  8. This is really interesting Vanessa. I never thought about electrolytes but maybe I have been low on them a few times without realising. Is there any way you can test your electrolyte levels? Thanks for sharing x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you can request it when you do a blood test. I don’t know if there are simpler ways to find out, at least other than paying attention to the signs the body gives us. I will check on that and report back! x

      Like

  9. Thank you for sharing this valuable information. Over the last couple of years, we have learned that the human body needs various nutrients in our systems to function well. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true, it’s truly a masterpiece of engineering! Thank you for taking the time to read it, I much appreciate your feedback 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely, and you’re welcome! Anytime.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. PineCanvas says:

    I have never thought about electrolytes… I have always struggled with this “at least 2 litres” per day rule. But maybe I just get enough from food, because I tend to eat a lot of these you have listed as good?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s a guideline that works for most people but not all. There’s so much influencing our hydration, water is not the only factor. I’d have to have a look into your eating habits to properly answer your question ❤️

      Like

  11. Kelly Diane says:

    This is really interesting. I always lack electrolytes and feel nausea after a hard workout at the gym. I’m definitely going to try and boost them naturally in future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Try having a banana pre-workout. I hope you are carrying your water bottle with you all times 🙌 Let me know if boosting electrolytes changes your results. I will do my best to share a few more natural ways to replenish electrolytes in July ❤️

      Like

  12. AmethystAP says:

    Reading this has me thinking about how I can ensure I have adequate electrolyte levels. I didn’t realise how important they are for both mind and body. Thanks for the food suggestions and for sharing this insightful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read 🤗 They are really essential of the nervous system health ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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