You might not be aware of your electrolyte levels on a regular basis, but you could be experiencing symptoms that indicate they’re out of balance. If electrolyte levels are significantly low or high in the body, health issues are likely to develop or get worse.
Electrolytes are essential minerals necessary for the body’s metabolism — the many chemical reactions needed to create energy and sustain life. They’re called electrolytes because when these minerals are dissolved in a liquid they form positive or negative electrically charged ions.
The electrolytes are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium and sodium. They’re considered essential minerals because we can’t live without them but our bodies don’t make them on their own. Essential minerals have to be ingested through eating, drinking or supplements.
Electrolytes play an important role in every major metabolic function, including blood pressure and body fluid regulation, muscle function, and transmitting signals through our nervous system.
We’ve rounded up six signs that you might have an electrolyte imbalance and what to do about it. If you have some of these symptoms, we share some great whole food sources to help you heal.
6. Severe Dehydration
The first sign you might have an electrolyte imbalance is when experiencing symptoms of severe dehydration. This is likely because your blood sodium levels have become too high, a condition called hypernatremia. Severe hydration can include symptoms of heavy thirst, confusion, feeling agitated, and could become serious enough to lead to seizures and result in a coma.
Drinking more water throughout the day can help prevent dehydration from occurring, if your body is absorbing sodium, potassium and other electrolytes properly.
5. Signs of Overhydration
It’s rare to drink so much water that you’re overhydrated, but it’s certainly possible. Hyponatremia (overhydration) is caused by excessively low sodium in the blood. Conditions that can lead to overhydration from low sodium include diabetes, hypothyroidism and severe diarrhea. People who take antidepressants or diuretics are also susceptible to overhydration, depending on the medication’s influence on sodium levels in the body.
If you’re overhydrated, you could experience symptoms like fatigue, weakness, vomiting, and confusion. Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi, are great whole food sources of sodium for raising your levels back up to a healthy range.