Can You Have Too Many Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals that assist the body in important tasks like muscle and nerve functions. As the name suggests, they do this by helping conduct electricity. But are too many electrolytes bad for you? An imbalance can cause issues, but generally, such issues are rare.
In any case, having an imbalanced level of electrolytes in your system can lead to very real issues. We’ll cover the types of imbalances, how to recognize them, and the best types of fluids to drink and stay away from to keep your body’s electrolyte levels in check.
What is Hypernatremia?
One of the most important electrolytes is sodium, which helps regulate blood pressure, body pH and electrical conductivity around cells. Usually, the kidneys work to correct sodium imbalances by removing the mineral through body fluid, like urine and sweat. However, if sodium accumulates faster than the body can handle—or if enough water isn’t consumed to balance the two out again—an imbalance occurs. That state of imbalance is defined as hypernatremia.
A Common Electrolyte Problem
Hypernatremia is common and is usually caused by dehydration. The brain works in tandem with the body to regulate a variety of substances, including levels of sodium. Thirst is usually created as a motivator to fix mild cases of hypernatremia. Symptoms in more severe cases can include dizziness, lethargy and loss of consciousness.
Signs of Other Electrolyte Imbalances
Four of the most important—and most common—electrolytes are sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium. The imbalance of sodium, hypernatremia, is covered above, so let’s explore the remaining three.
Electrolyte Imbalance: Magnesium
Defined as hypermagnesemia, an imbalance of magnesium can lead to muscle weakness, low blood pressure and impaired breathing. Magnesium doesn’t really circulate in the blood, as its main role is to support bones and proteins. Therefore, hypermagnesemia mostly occurs in people with kidney failure who inject magnesium.
Electrolyte Imbalance: Potassium
Potassium helps avoid abnormal heart rhythms by assisting the muscles that regulate heart rhythm. It also assists with breathing. Too much is defined as hyperkalemia, which causes muscle pains and cramps, lethargy, nausea, and trouble breathing. Once again, kidney issues are a culprit, along with severe bleeding, unchecked diabetes, and dehydration.
Electrolyte Imbalance: Calcium
Hypercalcemia, as it’s called, is usually caused by a hormone condition called hyperparathyroidism. It can also be caused by some cancers. It occurs when calcium migrates from bone into the bloodstream and can cause bone fractures or kidney stones.
How the Body Regulates Electrolytes
There’s a reason the kidneys and water balance are recurring themes among each electrolyte imbalance.
The kidneys act as the brain’s cleanup crew—when the head senses something’s off, it’ll enlist the kidneys to filter out excess electrolytes and expel them through body fluid.
Water balance helps offset the negative effects of overabundant electrolytes and maximize electrolyte effectiveness. Water and electrolytes are a team that works together to keep the body’s performance level high and keep you feeling good. With proper hydration, most of the debilitating outcomes of electrolyte imbalance can be avoided.
Why Electrolytes are Important
Each electrolyte has its own job, but they all work together—and with the rest of the body’s functions—to keep you feeling good. When electrolytes are balanced, they’re operating at their best and to your benefit. Here’s why that’s important for you.
Regulate Muscle Contractions
There’s a wide range of electrolytes, and they’re responsible for regulating a wide range of muscles—we’re not just talking about your biceps.
While the heart is an organ, it consists of four chambers, all made of muscle. Those chambers regulate the heart’s beating, and they do so through electrical impulses assisted by electrolytes, specifically potassium. The diaphragm, a dome-like muscle between the abdomen and chest cavity, is important for breathing. Muscles handle a number of other bodily tasks, including digestion and locomotion. Electrolytes are essential to the regular occurrences that make up you.
When it comes to hydration, electrolytes are like the body’s crossing guards. Once water enters the system, electrolytes can help direct it—and the nutrients it carries—to places in the body it’s needed most. Electrolytes also help maintain fluid balance on a cellular level.
Electrolytes can protect against overhydration, too, in the same way that water can protect against an imbalance of electrolytes.
Messages Through Sodium
Sodium has a particularly important role--it assists the brain with communication across the nervous system by reacting to electrical impulses and moving across never cell membranes. This movement sets off a chain reaction that sends the electrical impulse through different links of the sodium mail chain until the brain’s message reaches its destination.
3 Drinks to Avoid When Keeping Your Electrolytes in Check
While drinks make claims about their electrolyte content in advertisements and on labels, their other ingredients could hurt more than help.
In the right situation, sports drinks high in sodium can be just what the body needs. Usually, these drinks contain high amounts of sodium and are best suited for supplementing high-intensity physical activity. However, for the average person, this is an unnecessary sodium intake.
These drinks usually carry high amounts of sugar, too, with a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade containing 34 grams of sugar and a 12-ounce bottle of Powerade sporting 21 grams.
While sports drinks come backed with sodium, soft drinks are mostly light on electrolytes. That means you’re taking in an excessive amount of sugar without the benefit of sodium. You’re also making an unhealthy choice that can lead to weight gain and put unnecessary strain on the heart.
Soft drinks should be approached as a treat, not a daily hydration option.
Another drink that shouldn’t be considered a hydration option, alcohol, causes the body to remove liquids at an accelerated rate. This raises the possibility of electrolyte imbalance and cuts their effectiveness.
Keep Electrolytes Balanced with DripDrop
Electrolyte imbalance can have a wide range of debilitating effects on the body. However, for the most part, these imbalances are secondary issues caused by preexisting conditions. This makes those imbalances rare, and as for an everyday diet, there’s little reason to worry about taking on too many electrolytes.
DripDrop can help provide those necessary minerals—three times as many as a sports drink. Check out the DripDrop's multi-flavor pouch or subscribe and save 25%. Simply add the packets to water and provide your body with the elements necessary to maintain its water and electrolyte balance.