Written by Lucy Wyndham
Considering that nearly 93.3 million adults in the USA are either overweight or obese, opting to make healthy lifestyle changes is, without a doubt, a good thing. With summer just around the corner, an increasing number of Washingtonians will up their efforts to lose weight and embark on various diets and exercise regimes. It is, however, easy to become somewhat overzealous in your approach, which cannot only hinder your weight loss progress, but can leave you feeling under the weather as well. One of the most common exercise and weight-related conditions experienced by dieters is an electrolyte imbalance, which is commonly the result of a loss of bodily fluids. While such an imbalance is not always dangerous, it is important to have a clear understanding of it, and to treat it in a timely manner.
What causes an electrolyte imbalance?
Apart from short-term illness that involves vomiting and diarrhea, endocrine and hormonal disorders, and medication, your diet is the most common reason why you may be experiencing an electrolyte imbalance. Sometimes an otherwise-favorable diet, such as keto, results in decreased insulin levels in the body. This causes the kidneys to expel important electrolytes including potassium, sodium, and magnesium. This electrolyte imbalance is often linked to keto flu, and can cause one to feel downright miserable. An imbalance can also occur due to intense exercise, as electrolytes are also excreted when you sweat. It is for this reason that long-distance runners in particular always replenish their electrolytes, both during and after a race.
Symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance
When your electrolyte levels decrease (or increase) you can expect to experience a series of symptoms ranging from mild to severe. One of the most prevalent symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance is fatigue, which is typically brought on by decreased magnesium levels. Low levels of potassium can result in muscle weakness and spasms, tingling in the fingers, palpitations, and a slow heart rate. Other common symptoms of an electrolyte inconsistency include nausea, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea, and headaches. Once it has been established that the symptoms are caused by electrolytes, it is important to treat the actual imbalance and not just the symptoms that have presented themselves.
How to prevent an electrolyte imbalance
Unless there is a serious underlying condition that requires treatment, an electrolyte deficiency can typically be treated through nutrition, hydration, and supplements. Regardless of the diet you are following, there are quite a few foods that you can consume that are naturally rich in essential electrolytes. Some of these foods include leafy greens like spinach and kale, soy milk, coconut water, avocados, and bananas. While it is very important to be well-hydrated, it is as critical to avoid drinking excess fluids that will wash important electrolytes from your system. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an average of 11 cups of water a day, which includes the water from food sources. If you find it hard to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance, it may be a good idea to invest in quality nutritional supplements, including those developed by NUUN, Skratch Labs, Ultima Replenisher, and Salt Stick.
As pesky as an electrolyte imbalance may be, it is both easy to prevent and easy to cure. As long as you follow a healthy diet, stay well-hydrated, and don’t overdo it with the exercise, you shouldn’t have any serious issues to contend with.