Sodium, potassium and calcium are three of the most essential nutrients to your body. But when any one of them is out of balance – or all three at the same time – it can cause serious effects to your body and the way it operates. Understanding the nature of electrolyte and mineral imbalance can help you stay healthy and make sure your numbers stay normal.
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Sodium, potassium and calcium are three of the main electrolytes your body relies on in order to ensure your body has enough water, maintain blood acidity – or pH – and ensure proper muscle action. When your electrolytes get out of balance, it can cause any number of abnormalities and complications, depending on which specific electrolyte is high or low.
Hyponatremia – or a low level of sodium in the blood – is caused by not consuming enough sodium in your diet or by conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and some kidney disorders. Low sodium may lead to dizziness, muscle weakness or even seizures in extreme cases, according to Merck. When your sodium level is too high – also known as hypernatremia -- you may begin to suffer from elevated blood pressure, or at extreme levels, paralysis, coma and seizures. A normal sodium level is between 135 and 145 milliequivalents per liter.
Calcium is one of the essential building blocks for bones, but it also plays an important role in your blood. Low calcium levels in blood result can result in sepsis, which is a widespread infection throughout your blood and other tissues throughout the body. Low calcium may also result in numbness in the extremities as well as confusion and dizziness. Elevated calcium levels may not present any symptoms, according to Merck, but may result in dehydration, since the kidneys tend to excrete more water when blood calcium levels are elevated. Normal calcium levels vary between 8.5 and 10 mg/dL.
Potassium plays a vital role in your metabolism, regulating muscle tissue and in digestion, according to MedlinePlus. When you have elevated potassium levels, usually due to problems with the kidneys, the body’s tissues are less able to repair themselves, leading to burns and other tissue trauma or even gastrointestinal bleeding. A normal level of potassium is usually 3.7 to 5.2 mEq/L, according to MedlinePlus.
Electrolytes and Physical Activity
Chronic medical conditions can cause abnormal levels in potassium, calcium and sodium, but if you exercise on a frequent basis, you may be susceptible to the effects of electrolyte imbalance as well. As you exercise, your body gives off sweat. That sweat contains not just water, but the electrolytes your body needs to keep you moving. Replenishing those electrolytes by drinking a sports drink packed with potassium, calcium and sodium, for example, can help you avoid feeling dizzy or weak during your workout.