Information for Patients
Fluid and Electrolyte Balance
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are in your blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids. Electrolytes are important because they help
- Balance the amount of water in your body
- Balance your body's acid/base (pH) level
- Move nutrients into your cells
- Move wastes out of your cells
- Make sure that your nerves, muscles, the heart, and the brain work the way they should
Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.
The levels of electrolytes in your body can become too low or too high. This can happen when the amount of water in your body changes. The amount of water that you take in should equal the amount you lose. If something upsets this balance, you may have too little water (dehydration) or too much water (overhydration). Some medicines, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, and liver or kidney problems can all upset your water balance.
Treatment helps you to manage the imbalance. It also involves identifying and treating what caused the imbalance.
Potassium is a mineral that your body needs to work properly. It is a type of electrolyte. It helps your nerves to function and muscles to contract. It helps your heartbeat stay regular. It also helps move nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells. A diet rich in potassium helps to offset some of sodium's harmful effects on blood pressure.
Many people get all the potassium they need from what they eat and drink. Sources of potassium in the diet include
- Leafy greens, such as spinach and collards
- Fruit from vines, such as grapes and blackberries
- Root vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes
- Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit
Your kidneys help to keep the right amount of potassium in your body. If you have chronic kidney disease, your kidneys may not remove extra potassium from the blood. Some medicines also can raise your potassium level. You may need a special diet to lower the amount of potassium that you eat.