What Are Electrolytes, And How Do They Help The Body?


Electrolytes are essential for the human body to survive. Several processes in the body depend on electrolytes to provide a small electric current. A balance between different electrolytes is crucial for the body to function normally.

The elderly are often at risk of electrolyte imbalance in the body. Symptoms like nausea and confusion in your parents might make doctors prescribe an electrolytes test for them. But before you start inquiring about electrolytes test cost, understand what the components are and their function in the human body. 

Understanding Electrolytes and Key Terms Associated with Them

Electrolytes are elements that possess an electrical charge when dissolved in water. The charge in electrolytes can be either positive or negative. 

Since an adult body consists of 60% water, every cell and fluid inside the body contains electrolytes. The purpose of electrolytes is to look after chemical reactions inside your body. They help maintain a balance between fluids outside as well as inside cells. 

The body receives electrolytes from what we are drinking and eating. We lose electrolytes when we are sweating. The kidneys filter out the excess electrolytes in our body via urine. 

The major electrolytes found in the body are as follows:

  • Sodium: It helps cells maintain proper fluid balance. It enables the absorption of nutrients into the cells. Sodium is the most commonly found electrolyte ion inside the body.
  • Potassium: When a potassium ion enters a cell, a sodium ion leaves, and vice versa. The substance is focused on maintaining the functions of your heart.
  • Magnesium: The element is responsible for converting nutrients into energy. The brain and muscles in our body are reliant on magnesium.
  • Calcium: The purpose of calcium is more than building strong bones and teeth. Calcium controls your muscles, sends signals to the nerves, manages heart rhythm, and more. Calcium imbalance can trigger symptoms in different systems inside the body.
  • Chloride: Chloride enables cells to maintain the external and internal fluid balance. It is responsible for managing the normal pH level in the body.
  • Phosphate: It is responsible for sending molecules and chemical compounds out of the cells. They help with metabolizing nutrients inside the body. They are a key part of nucleotides that serve as human DNA’s building blocks.
  • Bicarbonate: The lungs don’t send all the carbon dioxide for you to breathe out. Some of the carbon dioxides get recycled into bicarbonates. The body uses bicarbonates to normalize blood pH levels. 

Electrolyte imbalance can mean both more and less of something. The word hyper denotes too much of something, while hypo indicates too little of it.  

How Do Electrolytes Function Inside the Body?

Our cells utilize electrolytes to conduct electrical charges and make muscles contract. The same electrical charges also aid various chemical reactions. It deals with hydration and maintaining fluid balance.  

Understanding how salt water conducts electricity will help you understand the mechanism of electrolytes. Salt contains positively charged sodium ions and negatively charged chloride ions. When they are combined, the opposite charges can balance each other out.

The sodium and chlorine atoms are separated when salt gets dissolved in water. The atoms once again become positively and negatively charged. Since the sodium and chlorine ions have opposing electrical charges, electricity jumps between them. 

Electricity uses ions to travel inside the salt water. Similarly, our body utilizes ions to send chemical compounds in and out of the cells. Therefore, electrolytes are all about maintaining chemical balance inside the body at the most basic level.

What Causes Electrolyte Imbalance?

Electrolyte imbalance can occur as a result of the following:

  • Low hydration levels after exercise or strenuous physical activities
  • Vomiting or diarrhea for a long time
  • Severe dehydration
  • Improper diet
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Bulimia
  • Old age, since the kidneys become less efficient with time
  • Kidney diseases
  • Cancer treatment
  • Improper acid-base balance inside the body

Ending Note

The treatment for electrolyte imbalance often involves restoring normal levels. When the electrolyte levels reach a high, treatment revolves around dealing with the cause of the excess. But when the body starts losing electrolytes, the treatment often involves glucose and water infusion.

Medical professionals usually treat low levels by supplementing the needed electrolyte. The treatment will usually rely on the severity of the imbalance. Sometimes a person also needs to be hospitalized for the treatment of electrolyte imbalance. 

But before the treatment can begin, medical tests are required to diagnose the levels. The electrolytes test cost is quite affordable at Metropolis India. You can expect accurate test results and treatment at Metropolis India. 

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