Don't Sweat Out the Good Stuff

Electrolyte imbalance can be caused by excessive exercise and sweating

Published: 23rd September 2015 04:36 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd September 2015 04:36 AM   |  A+A-


Exercising to sweat it out is great but it can cause an imbalance in electrolytes and fluctuation in body fluids.

When you sweat too much as a result of exercise, hot weather or illness, then levels of certain electrolytes may be lowered. Vomiting and diarrhea are other causes of electrolyte imbalances as they cause excessive fluid loss and this may some times result in serious health conditions.

“Electrolyte imbalances can also be caused by a deficiency or an overabundance of minerals in the body. The imbalance may sometimes lead to seizure and also may result in coma,” says Dr Pavan Kumar, associate professor, Department of Medicine, MS Ramaiah Medical College Hospital.

Minerals like potassium in the body are responsible for good reflexes, smooth muscle movement, regular heart beat and  muscles cramp free. In case of  hyperkalemia and hypercalcemia which are indicative of excess amounts of potassium and calcium, respectively,  the overall balance and functioning of the nerves, cardiovascular system, and muscles, can be disrupted, says Dr Kumar.

He said that maintenance of sodium level around 135 to 145 units is good and for potassium level, 3.5 t 5 milligram is good. Low blood sodium (hyponatremia) occurs when patients have an abnormally low amount of sodium in  blood or when they have too much water in  blood. Low blood sodium is common in older adults. “This may result in drowsiness, dehydration and in some cases coma,” says Dr Kumar.

Symptoms of electrolyte


Electrolyte imbalances may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Electrolyte imbalance may cause:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  •  Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Trembling
  • Constipation
  • Dark urine
  •  Decreased urine output
  • Dry mouth, foul breath
  • Dry skin
  • Lack of perspiration
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stiff or aching joints

Tejaswi Nataraj, internal medicine, BGS Global Hospital, says essential minerals in the body  are necessary for nerve and muscle function and other critical processes. They are particles that can carry an electrical charge and are present in blood, plasma, urine, and other fluids. Electrolytes exist in the form of calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, and sodium that can be obtained from fluids, supplements, and foods. For example, bananas are excellent sources of potassium.

The balance of electrolytes is constantly shifting due to fluctuating fluid levels in your body. For example, when you sweat as a result of exercise, hot weather, or illness, electrolyte levels may be low. Vomiting and diarrhea are other causes of electrolyte imbalances, as they result in excessive fluid loss. You must replenish these fluids and electrolytes in order to prevent dehydration, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Experts say that even medical conditions including diabetes, diarrhea, kidney disease and vomiting cause such imbalances.

Dr Asima Banu, associate professor, department of microbiology, Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital says that too much alcohol is bad as it causes imbalances of electrolytes, the electrically conductive ions in body fluids, which affects sodium and potassium levels.These ionic imbalances interfere with normal body processes by altering the chemical composition and concentration of fluids throughout body. “Heavy alcohol drinkers or drug users may experience muscle breakdown due to the breakdown of potassium into the blood from within muscle cells.”

Complications caused by electrolyte imbalance:

Because electrolyte imbalances can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage.

Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain),overheating, convulsions, shock and unconsciousness are some of the complications that can occur, say doctors.

Tips to beat electrolyte imbalance:

Take a well-balanced diet including a variety of fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, bananas, water-laden fruit such as watermelons, apples and pineapples.

Adequate potassium level maintenance can also be achieved by eating sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, spinach and oranges.

After exercising, it is important to cool your body down before drinking water. This decreases water loss and increases electrolyte absorption.

Avoid soaking in the bath for more than 20 minutes to avoid sweating out the magnesium.

When exercising, sip a drink every 15 to 20 minutes.

After experiencing excessive diarrhea or vomiting, you can sip electrolyte replacement drinks or ices designed to treat infants.These help with your electrolyte levels and are easy on your stomach.

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