Doctor's Notes on Electrolytes
Electrolytes are small chemicals that are used in critical cellular processes to allow cells to maintain their stability to generate energy and to augment the function of many cellular metabolites. Five major electrolytes are presented; when they are abnormal or out of balance, they can produce symptoms and signs as follows:
- Sodium (Na); hypernatremia (too much) and hyponatremia (too little) may produce symptoms of lethargy, confusion, weakness, swelling, seizures, coma and/or death
- Potassium (K); hyperkalemia - life-threatening heart rhythm problems, kidney failure; hypokalemia – heart arrhythmias, muscle cramps, weakness, and constipation
- Calcium (Ca); hypercalcemia - kidney stones, abdominal pain depression and heart rhythm disturbances; hypocalcemia - weakness, muscle spasms and heart rhythm disorders
- Magnesium (Mg); - hypermagnesemia - heart rhythm disturbances, muscle weakness, nausea and vomiting, and breathing difficulties; hypomagnesemia - heart rhythm abnormalities muscle cramps and weakness, confusion, hallucinations and seizures
- Bicarbonate (HCO3); low bicarbonate - a fruity or acetone breath, warm dry skin, abdominal pain, increased urination, tachycardia, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and hyperventilation – high bicarbonate levels - shortness of breath, anorexia, dehydration, weak muscles, high blood pressure, thin skin, acne, weight gain (Cushing’s syndrome)
There are many causes of electrolyte imbalances – this is due to constant fluctuation of fluids in the body. It is also influenced by exercise, hot weather, illnesses that include vomiting and diarrhea. Failure to hydrate your body adequately with fluids that contain electrolytes may contribute to electrolyte balances. Diet may play a role; for example, adding too much salt (Na) to foods. In addition, there are both medical and medication - related causes of electrolyte imbalances.
Medical causes of electrolyte imbalances include the following:
Medication – related causes of electrolyte imbalances may include the following:
Food Portion Distortion : Correct Serving Size QuizQuestion
A bagel 20 years ago was 3 inches in diameter and had 140 calories. How many calories do you think are in today's bagel?See Answer
Must Read Articles:
Anatomy of the Digestive SystemDigestion is the process in which food is broken into smaller pieces so the body can use them to build and nourish cells and provide energy. The digestive system is comprised of the mouth and salivary glands, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.
Dehydration in ChildrenDehydration in children can result from not drinking enough liquids, vomiting, diarrhea, or combination of these conditions. Causes of dehydration in children include viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections, diabetes, and increased sweating, and others. Symptoms include sunken eyes, decrease in urination, no tears when crying, dry mouth, lethargy, and irritability. Treatment at home includes proper fluid replacement. Some cases of dehydration are so severe they may require hospitalization.
Diet and NutritionNutrition and diet is needed for health. Read dietary guidelines, dietary reference intakes, food guide pyramid, calories, carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. A healthy variety of food provides nutrients for health and weight management and weight loss.
Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu) Symptoms, Transmission, Contagious, and CureGastroenteritis (stomach flu) is most commonly caused by viruses and bacteria like Norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus, parvovirus, and Astrovirus. Bacteria causing gastroenteritis include Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, salmonella, shigella, Campylobacter, and C. difficile. Other causes may be due to chemical toxins. The stomach flu is contagious because it caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. You get the stomach flu from contaminated food and drinks from poor hygiene (not washing your hands after using the toilet). Common symptoms of the stomach flu are; mild to moderate diarrhea, abdominal cramping, abdominal bloating,and low grade fever. Home remedies to treat the stomach flu include rest and hydration to avoid dehydration. Over-the-counter or prescription medicine may be necessary to treat the signs and symptoms of the stomach flu (gastroenteritis). The stomach flu can be prevented by using proper hygiene when using the bathroom.
Low Potassium (Hypokalemia)Potassium is an electrolyte necessary for bodily functions. Causes of low potassium (hypokalemia) include medications, chronic laxative abuse, kidney failure, leukemia, other mineral deficiencies, vomiting, diarrhea, and malnutrition. Symptoms of low potassium include tiredness, weakness, muscle cramps, tingling, nausea, vomiting, constipation, palpitations, fainting, low blood pressure, abdominal cramping, and bloating. Treatment depends upon the cause of the potassium deficiency.
Vomiting and NauseaVomiting and nausea are common complaints that accompany many conditions and diseases. A few common causes of vomiting and nausea include food poisoning, viruses, vertigo, head injuries, gallbladder disease, appendicitis, migraine, brain tumors, and infections. Treatment of vomiting and nausea depend on the cause of the symptoms.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.