Electrolyte Imbalance: Prevention & Treatments

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Electrolyte imbalance can be treated in a number of ways, such as changing your diet, adding mineral supplements, treating the underlying condition, regulating your physical activity, taking diuretics, and using intravenous supplementation.

An electrolyte imbalance occurs when the levels of certain chemicals called electrolytes such as calcium, chloride, magnesium, which are present in your bloodstream, become too high or too low. Electrolytes regulate important functions of our bodies from nerve conduction and muscle movement to blood pH and overall hydration. These electrolytes naturally occur in our bodily fluids like blood and urine.

The level of electrolytes in our bodies are regulated by the kidneys, which produce certain hormones vital to this function. The kidneys constantly monitor the levels of potassium and sodium in your bloodstream, and if they fall below the requisite levels, the hormones remedy the situation. Though in some situations, the electrolytes are either depleted or too many are stored in the body which can cause health concerns.

Ways to Prevent

The best way to prevent an electrolyte imbalance is to maintain a healthy level of fluids in your body, which is relatively easy for most people, barring extreme physical exertion or serious nutrient intake deficiency. Many electrolyte imbalances are therefore experienced by athletes, who lose a significant amount of electrolytes when they work out or participate in a race/contest. People who consume an excessive amount of water (more than 3-4 gallons per day) may also flush out many of their electrolytes, thereby leaving them deficient.

In such cases, it is essential to consume water and other electrolyte-filled drinks, such as sports drinks. While these can be high in sugar, they are also a good method of replenishing electrolytes quickly.

  • Outside of athletic exertions, prevention is best served by a good diet that contains a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
  • Mineral supplements are also a viable option for many people, as these supplements are available for every specific electrolyte in varying strengths.

electrolyte imbalance

Treatments for Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolyte imbalances can be treated using the following formal and natural methods:

Dietary Changes

A quick fix for an electrolyte imbalance includes changing your diet to include more mineral-rich foods, such as bananas, raisins, dates, avocados, beans, potatoes, spinach, and lentils. These foods are also rich in other nutrients and antioxidants that will help your body function better.

Exercising Smarter

If you are a high-performance athlete, properly plan your pre- and post-workout routines with adequate electrolyte intake including sports drinks and mineral supplements. Also, pay attention to your body during workouts; an electrolyte deficiency shouldn’t be “pushed through”, as it can result in unwanted side effects.

Mineral Supplementation

Supporting your diet with mineral supplements of potassium, calcium or phosphate is an excellent way to ensure that your electrolyte levels don’t dip to dangerous levels, particularly if you are an athlete or suffer from diseases linked to mineral deficiency.

Regulating Water Intake

While dehydration can be a major cause of electrolyte imbalance, so too can drinking an excessive amount of water. This essentially flushes out your bladder and kidneys of vital electrolytes. No more than 3 gallons of water should be consumed each day.

Underlying Cause

Many instances of electrolyte imbalance are caused by underlying infections and medical conditions, so an excellent remedy is to address the root of the problem. If you have kidney issues, blood pressure problems, a substance abuse problem or an eating disorder, fixing these issues may be the first step to solving your electrolyte problem.


Some people take diuretics for various medical conditions, or if they want to lose weight quickly. This can also help to eliminate excess minerals from the body if you are suffering from an excess of electrolytes, which is just as dangerous as a deficiency.

Intravenous Solutions

One of the more formal approaches to fixing an electrolyte imbalance is to intravenously add these salts to your bloodstream. This is particularly popular with people who are dehydrated or are severely lacking potassium. Adding a concentrated dose of electrolytes to the body can be dangerous in some cases (particularly with sodium), so speak with your doctor about the options for resolving your electrolyte imbalance.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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