Electrolyte Regulation

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-20 (EDT)

See Also Lab Tests

Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are present in blood, urine, body fluids and every cell of the body. Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes is key to homeostasis and overall health. Every biological chemical process involves a balance between water and the electrolytes in the intracellular fluid (ICF) and the extracellular fluid (ECF). Electrolytes come from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink. Overall electrolyte regulation is dependent on what and how much you eat and drink and the level of functioning of the kidneys.

Role of Electrolyte Balance

  • If the electrolyte concentrations in the intracelluar (IC) or extracellular (EC) fluid stray even a small degree the function of enzymes and proteins, the metabolism of cells and the electromagnetic energy of the body is altered. The electrolyte balance controls:
  • speed of nervous system transmission
  • contraction and strength of muscles
  • rate of cellular regeneration
  • As long as the ratio of electrolytes within the cell and in the extracellular fluid stays intact, the total volume of electrolytes can go up or down and the acid-base equilibrium required for cell regeneration is maintained.

Primary Electrolytes

The primary electrolytes include sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate and magnesium.[1]

  • Extracellular Fluid (ECF)
  • pH is roughly ~7.2
  • sodium is the primary ion
  • chloride and Bicarbonate are the primary anion
  • Intracellular Fluid (ICF)
  • pH is roughly ~7.4
  • potassium is the primary ion
  • protein and phosphate are the primary anions
  • the intracellular fluid is double the size of the extracellular fluid

Electrolyte Lab Test

Testing for electrolyte levels is done through an electrolyte panel that includes the following tests:

Causes of Electrolyte Imbalance

From a physiological perspective kidney disease is the primary reason for electrolyte imbalance, yet the levels of electrolytes in your body can become too low or too high for the following reasons:

  • Dehydration is a major cause of electrolyte imbalance.
  • Overhydration can also cause a problem.
  • Many prescription medications disrupt electrolyte balance.

Associated Symptoms and Conditions

The following symptoms and conditions are associated with disrupting electrolyte balance.

  • Kidney disease, especially chronic kidney disease can disrupt electrolyte balance slowly over time.
  • Any condition that causes acute vomiting will result in electrolyte imbalance.
  • Any conditions that causes acute diarrhea will result in electrolyte imbalance, especially if prolonged or severe.
  • Extreme or constant sweating


No test can accurately gauge pH due the many buffering mechanisms of the body.

  • Most measurements of electrolyte concentration are of the extracellular fluid such as blood or urine.
  • Rise in serum potassium is a sign of high acidity. This can occur when a large number of cells are severely injured or die.
  • Primary metabolic acid-base disorders are determined by measuring bicarbonate and serum electrolytes.
  • A faster pulse rate at rest is typically associated with more acidic.
  • Urine pH assessment is affected by:
  • Body stores
  • Recent diet
  • Alkalizing steps such as herbs, homeopathics or other supplements
  • Health status
  • Hydration status
  • Activity level
  • Stress levels
  • Medications


  1. Kaczkowski Crystal Heather Acid-Base Balance [1]