It’s important to keep the electrolytes in your body balanced, including sodium and magnesium. Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge. They’re found in your blood and other body fluids. Sodium and magnesium are important for many critical bodily processes, such as regulating nerve impulses and muscle function. Your body is designed to efficiently regulate electrolytes and may only need extra help in times of illness. If you have or suspect an electrolyte imbalance, consult a doctor.
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Importance of Electrolytes
Keeping your electrolytes in balance is critical, because they affect your blood acidity, or pH, as well as the amount of water in your body and important processes including muscle action, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition to sodium and magnesium, other electrolytes include calcium, chloride and phosphorus, potassium, chloride, carbonate and phosphate.
Magnesium is needed in your body for nearly all of its biochemical processes. It helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, controls your heartbeat, keeps your bones strong, helps to regulate your blood pressure, helps to control blood sugar levels and assists in supporting your body's immune system, according to NIH. Magnesium deficiency can cause muscle weakness, irritability and irregular heartbeat, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
You need sodium to regulate the water balance in your body and to generate and conduct nerve impulses. If you have a low sodium level, this can lead to drowsiness, confusion, muscle weakness and seizures. Having a quick fall in your sodium level can cause more severe symptoms than a slow fall would.
Reasons for Changing Levels
Your electrolyte levels often change when the water levels in your body change. For example, you can have a low sodium level by excreting too much of this electrolyte via urine or sweat, drinking too much fluid or not consuming enough sodium in your diet, according to Merck. A sodium level that is too high may be caused by dehydration or diuretics that make your body excrete more water than sodium.
Tests and Diagnosis
Your doctor can diagnose electrolyte abnormalities by measuring your electrolyte levels in a blood or urine sample. If an abnormality exists, other tests may be needed to find the cause. For example, you may lose magnesium due to illness, vomiting, sweating, diabetes or excessive soda or alcohol consumption, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. You may end up with a low sodium level if your body produces too much antidiuretic hormone. This hormone signals your kidneys to retain water. This may be caused by medical conditions such as pneumonia or stroke. Drugs also can lead to overproduction of this hormone, including some antidepressants and anticonvulsants, according to Merck.
Prevention and Solution
If you have an imbalance in sodium and magnesium, your doctor is likely to advise you to eat foods rich in these electrolytes or to take supplements, according to Merck. The best food sources of magnesium are peas, green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts and grains in which the outer layers and germ are not removed, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. An extremely low sodium level may need to be restored by gradually and steadily administering sodium and water to you intravenously.