Electrolytes & Alcohol Abuse

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Abusing alcohol leads to serious health problems. Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of liver disease. Drinking is also a factor in heart disease, kidney disease and other potentially fatal conditions. Electrolytes play an important role in cellular metabolism. Electrolyte imbalances caused by alcohol abuse lead to the degradation of body systems and interfere with cellular metabolism.

Fluid and Sodium Balance

Sodium is the main electrolyte in your body. Sodium regulates your body’s water use. According to Addiction Info, a close relationship exists between water, sodium and changes of fluid volume around the cells. Liquids containing water and sodium salts have an impact on serum sodium levels. Alcohol abuse can have negative effects on water and sodium levels, leading to other related problems. Depending on the amount of alcohol consumption, problems with sodium-water balance can vary.

Acid and Base Balance

Electrolytes control the acid/base system in your body. Your kidneys play a major role in the regulation of this acid/base system. Alcohol abuse can lead to kidney failure. The main functions of kidneys are to regulate the fluids, electrolytes and hormones circulating through your body. Alcohol abuse can compromise the balancing role of the kidneys and lead to kidney and related problems, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Alcohol Withdrawals

Abusing alcohol can lead to alcoholism and withdrawals when trying to quit. According to American Family Physician, abnormal fluid levels, electrolyte levels, and nutrition should be corrected in alcohol withdrawals. In severe alcohol abuse, intravenous fluids may be required due to electrolyte loss from vomiting and sweating. In addition, withdrawals cause a loss of the electrolyte magnesium, leading to a hypomagnesaemia state. Supplementation may be required during withdrawal. Withdrawal from severe alcohol abuse should be under medical supervision and may require medication.

Electrolytes and Nutrition

Alcohol abuse is a major cause of nutritional deficiencies. According to Merck Source, deficiencies of vitamin B6, thiamine and folic acid are common in alcoholism. Deficiencies in these nutrients lead to anemia and neurologic conditions. Alcohol also interferes with the liver and the pancreas, two major organs involved in metabolism. The liver detoxifies the blood of toxins, and the pancreas controls blood sugar and the metabolism of fat. Impairment of these two systems results in an imbalance of fluids, protein and electrolytes. Dehydration is common with alcohol abuse, affecting all the fluid/electrolyte balances in your body.

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