Electrolytes: Definition, Functions, Imbalance, and Sources

In several essential processes in our body, electrolytes are involved. They play major roles in conducting muscle contraction nervous impulses, keeping you hydrated, and regulating the pH levels of our bodies.

Here in this article, we will talk all about electrolytes. Let’s start with the basic knowledge, and then we will head towards the function and other things.

What Are Electrolytes?


The umbrella term “electrolyte” is used to refer to all those particles which carry a negative or positive electric charge. The definition of electrolytes differs when it comes to nutrition. Here, electrolytes are the essential minerals that are found in your sweat, blood, and urine.

When all these minerals dissolve in any fluid, they form all those electrolytes — negative or positive ions used in metabolic processes. Here are the electrolytes which are present in the human body.

  • Bicarbonate.
  • Phosphate.
  • Calcium.
  • Chloride.
  • Sodium.
  • Magnesium.
  • Potassium.

Sources Of Electrolytes

A healthy diet and drinking lots of water is the best way to obtain and reach electrolyte balance in your body. Vegetables and fruits are the main sources of electrolytes. Here is a list of some of the foods which provide electrolytes to our body.

  • Magnesium: nuts and seeds.
  • Sodium: cheese, table salt, pink Himalayan salt, pickled foods.
  • Calcium: green leafy vegetable, dairy products, and fortified dairy alternatives.
  • Potassium: vegetables and fruits, such as sweet potato, avocado, and bananas.
  • Chloride: table salt and pink Himalayan salt.

Some forms of electrolytes, such as bicarbonate, are naturally produced in your body. That is why you do not need to worry about including them in your diet.

What Do Electrolytes Do?

Electrolytes are vital for keeping our nervous system along with muscle functioning and also for your internal environment balanced. Here we are discussing what electrolytes do in our system.

Function 1: Proper Nervous System Function

Through our nerve cells, our brain sends electrical signals in order to communicate with the other cells throughout our body. These signals are scientifically named nervous impulses.

By changes to the electrical charge of the nerve cell membrane, nervous impulses are generated. As a result of the electrolyte sodium movement across the nerve cell membrane, the changes occur.

Function 2: Proper Hydration


In your body, water must be kept in the right amount both outside and inside of every cell. Almost every electrolyte, specifical sodium, helps in maintaining the balance of fluid through osmosis.

Osmosis is the particular process in which the water moves through the wall of a cell membrane from a dilute solution toward a more concentrated solution. This particular process prevents cells from bursting from shriveling up due to dehydration or being too full.

Function 3: Muscle Functions

For muscle contraction, electrolyte calcium is required. It lets the muscle fibers slide together and also move over each other when the muscles contract and shorten. In this particular process, magnesium is also required.

Magnesium is crucial because the muscle fibers also need to slide outwards, and the muscles can get relaxation after contraction.

Function 4: Maintain internal pH Levels


In order to stay fit and healthy, our body is always required to regulate the internal pH level. pH is a measure of how alkaline or acidic a solution is. Within our body, it is regulated by chemical buffers or weak bases and acids. These also help in minimizing changes in our internal environment.

Our blood is regulated in order to stay at a pH of around 7.35 to 7.45. In case it deviates from that, our body can not function properly, and we fall sick. For maintaining our blood pH level, having the appropriate balance of electrolytes is fundamental.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the frequently asked questions which can help you get some of the people in the same field.

1. What Are The Signs Of Low Electrolytes?


Ans. These are some of the common signs that a body needs electrolytes.

  • Mental confusion and lost surroundings.
  • Dehydration in the body causes dizziness.
  • An irregular heartbeat (whether it is beating too fast or too slow) is a sign of low electrolytes.

2. What Does An Electrolyte Imbalance Look Like?

Ans. This is one of the reasons why you shouldn’t make muscle spasms, twitching, or even convulsions.

3. Why Do Electrolytes Get Low


Ans. You lose electrolytes when you lose excessive fluids from your body. This can be because of excessive sweating from vigorous exercise, or you are suffering from ailments like diarrhea or fever.

All in all, something is making you lose water from your body and causing dehydration.

4. Can An Electrolyte Imbalance Cause Anxiety?

Ans. If someone is caught with very high and low levels of potassium, it can cause electrolyte imbalance which can give the illusion of a panic attack.

Not necessarily you are dealing with mental health issues like anxiety.

Are Electrolytes Imbalances Bad For Your Health?


Due to some circumstances, the levels of electrolytes in your body can get too low or too high, which causes an imbalance. This imbalance in electrolytes level in your body can leave harmful effects on your health and also can be fatal in some rare cases.

The reason behind this electrolyte imbalance is dehydration which can be due to several reasons, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or heat. That is the major reason you have to be mindful of replacing any lost fluids when you are sick, or it is too hot. Electrolyte replacement drinks such as Ultima Replenisher can be used to supplement water and food intake if needed, especially relevant for performance athletes.

Some particular illnesses, like eating disorders, injuries like severe burns, and kidney disease, also can cause electrolyte imbalances. In case you are suffering from a mild electrolyte disturbance, you might not experience any symptoms.

However, in more severe cases, you will get to experience the following symptoms.

  • Confusion.
  • Tingling and numbness.
  • An irregular or fast heartbeat.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headaches.
  • Muscle cramping and weakness.
  • Convulsions.


There you have it. Now you know what electrolytes are and why they are important for our bodies. In this small guide, we have tried to encapsulate everything that you need to know about Electrolytes. But, even after that if you don’t find the information you were looking for. Feel free to reach out to us.