Symptoms of Low Electrolytes

Symptoms of Low Electrolytes


If you’ve finished a tough work out and found yourself feeling less than your best, you might be experiencing more than dehydration. Electrolytes are the vitamins and minerals used by your body to ensure its systems run effectively – they’re present throughout your body, and they can be sweated out when you’re overheated, whether that’s due to exercise, hard work or simply hot weather.

If your electrolyte levels dip below normal it can have serious effects. These substances serve a number of different functions in the body, from helping your cells maintain the right level of hydration, to helping transmit nerve impulses from your brain, to making sure your muscles function properly.

It’s clear from this overview that you want all your electrolytes to be working properly, but let’s take a closer look at what each one does for you.

The Seven Electrolytes

  • Sodium helps your body to regulate water effectively: it helps you transfer water between cells and your bloodstream to make sure they’re neither over nor under-hydrated, and also helps your body shed excess water when it needs to.
  • Chloride also plays a part in how your body handles water, as well as balancing acidity in your body’s tissues
  • Potassium ensures your heartbeat stays regular and helps with neuron transmission
  • Magnesium helps nerve impulses transmit throughout your body and also affects your mood.
  • Calcium ensures your muscles function correctly, making sure you can do what you want when you want to.
  • Phosphate helps your cells function, from energy production to healing.
  • Bicarbonate helps your cells maintain homeostasis and a normal level of acidity.

Reasons Electrolytes Run Low

Exercise isn’t the only reason your electrolyte levels might dip, though it is a big one. Heatwaves see lots of people suffering from low electrolytes, as they deplete them as they sweat and aren’t as familiar with the steps they need to take to rehydrate safely as experienced athletes are.

Once your electrolyte levels have started to dip it’s easy to make the situation worse: you’ll be feeling dehydrated as well and will naturally drink some water to quench your thirst. Drinking too much without also topping up your electrolytes can make a bad situation worse as, rather than simply rehydrating and feeling better, you’ll dilute the remaining electrolytes in your system. Swamped in all that extra water, they’ll be less effective and you’ll find yourself feeling worse! It might not even quench your thirst, as one of the most important things electrolytes do for you is allow your body to use water effectively!

There are also health conditions that can limit your body’s ability to absorb electrolytes from your diet, making it difficult for you to maintain healthy levels of these important nutrients.

What Happens?

When your body starts running low on electrolytes, certain important processes start to work less efficiently. Your body begins to lose the ability to balance the level of water in its cells and bloodstream. Normally, you can shift water into your cells when they need it, or back into your bloodstream if they don’t, and eventually filter that water through the kidneys so it can leave the body altogether. When your electrolyte levels fall your body starts to lose the ability to manage this process effectively.

On top of that, when your electrolyte levels drift below safe levels your nerve impulses flow less efficiently, and your muscles react more slowly and less regularly.

What Does it Feel Like?

The physical effects in your body create dramatic and unpleasant symptoms if you let the causes go without doing anything.

Symptoms of low electrolytes start with a headache, similar to dehydration. If you don’t take any action, they escalate quickly. You’ll find yourself feeling exhausted and lethargic, and you’ll have to work harder to get things done as your muscles respond more sluggishly.

Even if you drink lots of water you might still find yourself feeling thirsty, as without electrolytes to manage how your body uses that water, it can’t get to where it needs to hydrate your cells and actually quench your thirst.

As your body’s systems start to get out of balance, you may find that you’re experiencing diarrhoea (or constipation) as well as vomiting – aware that something is wrong, your body tries to flush away toxins, but this actually makes the situation worse!

Eventually, if you don’t top up your electrolytes and restore normal function, you’ll experience muscle spasms (including an irregular heartbeat), mental confusion, and unconsciousness.

Avoiding Low Electrolytes

If you want to avoid this list of symptoms, O.R.S. can help: our electrolyte replacement tablets are based on the World Health Authority standards for rehydration, so you know they contain everything your body needs after exercise, illness or a heatwave and they dissolve quickly in water, making them convenient to use whenever and wherever you need them.