Health information

Violation of water-salt balance: how to recognize what is dangerous

In order for a person to feel healthy, an optimal water-salt balance must be maintained in his body. Salts in our bodies are, above all, a source of electrolytes (minerals contained in the blood and carrying a certain charge). Many functions of the body depend on them, including the ability of the central nervous system to transmit impulses. However, if the body lacks moisture, electrolytes do not work properly. Therefore, the balance of fluid and salt in the human body is considered by experts as inseparable parts of one complex.

What is water-salt balance

Water-salt balance is the ratio in the body of fluids and salts (electrolytes) in a certain amount. If their proportions are violated, the person appears different diseases. Therefore, everyone who cares about their health should know what a water-salt balance is, how to recognize its violations, and also to understand how an imbalance is dangerous to health.

First - about the water. From school we all know that water is the basis of everything. If the water-salt balance is normal, then in the body of an adult should be about 70% moisture, in the bodies of newborns -90%, and the elderly - about 50%. To maintain these indicators, healthy adults should drink 1.5–2 l of water a day. But these are only generalized indicators. A more accurate body need for water is determined by the formula: 1 kg of body weight X per 30-50 ml of water. But even this formula does not allow to determine the ideal daily portion of water. Indicators can vary depending on air temperature, physical activity and the state of human health. If the body gives moisture more than it receives, they talk about dehydration.

And now, with regard to the salts and electrolytes contained in them. If we recall chemistry, then electrolytes are substances that conduct electricity in water. And when it comes to their role in the human body, they are, without exaggeration, irreplaceable. We all need electrolytes (certain salts) to live. Many processes in our bodies could not occur without a small electric current, and it is this substance that creates electrolytes. They affect the functionality of the nervous and muscular systems, the amount of fluid in the tissues, the level of acidity of the body, blood pressure and even the ability to restore damaged tissues. In addition, electrolytes are building and energetic material.

The main human electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, as well as chlorine and phosphorus. Each of them has its own role.

Calcium ions, for example, are necessary for muscle contraction. They are involved in the transmission of nerve impulses, and are also responsible for maintaining the correct heart rhythm.

Potassium is an indispensable component for smooth muscles, to the group of which the heart and the digestive tract belong.

Without sodium ions, most nerve impulses would not be carried out, muscles would lose their ability to contract. In addition, sodium is responsible for the stability of pressure in the blood vessels.

Phosphorus ions are needed to ensure the functionality of the kidneys, and also serve as a source of "fuel" for the muscles.

Chlorine, which the body receives from table salt and many vegetables, is responsible for the balance of fluid in the body and, therefore, for maintaining the correct amount of other electrolytes.

Magnesium salts are extremely important for the health of the nervous system, they contribute to proper muscle contraction, and are also involved in the production of energy.

Why imbalance occurs

If there are too many salts (electrolytes) and too few others in the human body, this leads to an imbalance. The harmony of electrolytes depends on various factors, but primarily on the amount of fluid in the body.

Water-salt imbalance is rarely a primary disorder. More often, it occurs as a complication of serious illness, malnutrition, or taking certain medications. In the initial stages, the disorder is usually asymptomatic. But if the imbalance in time does not stop, then over time it can cause even more serious health problems.

For example, some of the vital electrolytes for the body (sodium and potassium) are removed from the body along with sweat. That is, the more a person sweats, the more salt he loses. Therefore, athletes, people engaged in heavy physical labor, as well as all those who, for various reasons, sweat a lot, experts advise to follow the diet to avoid the loss of important electrolytes. By the way, the imbalance of sodium and potassium is the most common imbalance in water-salt. Vomiting and diarrhea also lead to a rapid decrease in nutrients, since they are accompanied by the loss of large amounts of fluid. It also happens that the level of some electrolytes for various reasons, excessively increased. In such cases, the kidneys and hormones regulate the amount of salts in the body.

The reasons for which there may be a water-salt imbalance:

  • kidney disease;
  • insufficient fluid intake (dehydration);
  • unbalanced nutrition;
  • severe and prolonged vomiting or diarrhea;
  • acid-base imbalance;
  • chronic heart failure;
  • crayfish;
  • bulimia;
  • taking certain medications (especially diuretics);
  • advanced age.

Disorders of water-salt metabolism can also be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, hormonal changes in the body, bad habits, such as smoking or excessive alcohol craving. In addition, the problem may occur due to frequent overeating, in particular with spicy, meat or legume dishes. The balance of salts, as a rule, is disturbed after significant blood loss, as well as as a result of a strong increase in the amount of fluid in the body.

People with kidney stones, glomerulonephritis, lung hyperventilation syndrome, as well as those who consume a lot of salt, may increase the concentration of chlorine ions. Against the background of heart failure, impaired vascular permeability or certain types of renal pathologies, the amount of sodium in the body may increase. Diabetes mellitus, hemolysis of erythrocytes and traumatic toxicosis can cause a violation of water-salt balance in the direction of increasing potassium. And magnesium, as a rule, increases on the background of kidney dysfunction or in the abuse of antacids.

Different pathologies of the thyroid gland or its removal are usually the cause of a strong decrease in the amount of calcium in the blood. Sodium indicators often decrease in the postoperative period, as a result of uncontrolled intake of diuretic drugs or against the background of the disease, accompanied by frequent urination. Liver pathology, alcoholism, intestinal surgery, insulin injections, hyperthyroidism are the most common causes of reducing the amount of potassium in the bloodstream.

Bodybuilders are also at risk of water-salt imbalance, especially during the "drying" period. The most unfortunate example to which a violation of the water-salt balance in athletes can lead is Andreas Munzer, known as a skinless bodybuilder. After another drying, his blood became so thick that his heart could not pump it through the vessels, which is why the athlete died.

Symptoms of imbalance

It should be understood that not all violations of electrolyte concentration are symptomatic. Especially if the shortage or excess of salt is not critical. But if the changes in the blood formula are more serious, then they can be dangerous to the health and even the life of the patient. The reason is that pronounced changes in the amount of some electrolytes can cause deterioration of the functioning of the nervous system and the heart.

If the amount of salts in the body is outside the normal range, then the patient may experience swelling or, conversely, thirst and signs of dehydration. And these are the first alarming symptoms indicating an abnormal amount of fluid and salt in the body. However, in most cases, the signs are more individual and depend on what kind of electrolyte balance is disturbed.


Disruption of water-salt balance in the direction of an excessive increase in the level of calcium occurs in people with cancer. In particular, in persons with lung cancer, breast cancer or melanoma.

Possible symptoms of excess calcium:

  • frequent urination;
  • thirst;
  • arrhythmia;
  • lethargy;
  • fatigue;
  • irritability and capriciousness;
  • nausea;
  • abdominal pain;
  • vomiting;
  • severe muscle weakness;
  • dry mouth;
  • loss of appetite;
  • coma;
  • disturbance of consciousness;
  • constipation;
  • circulatory disorders.

Calcium deficiency is usually accompanied by smooth muscle cramps. The most dangerous manifestation is a spasm of the larynx or large vessels. If a person with such symptoms does not help in time, the attack can end in death.


Nausea, vomiting, and ascending paralysis may indicate an excess of potassium. This is a very dangerous condition, as it quickly causes ventricular fibrillation of the heart, due to which there is a high risk of stopping the atria.

If potassium is deficient, a person can be diagnosed:

  • alkalosis;
  • atony;
  • chronic renal failure;
  • intestinal obstruction;
  • brain pathology;
  • fibrillation of the ventricles of the heart;
  • heart rhythm disorder.


If there are a lot of magnesium ions in the bloodstream, the person's body temperature rises, the heart rate slows down, nausea and vomiting appear. If the amount of magnesium in the body is critically low, then more than 300 biochemical processes slow down or stop, which cannot take place without magnesium salts.


When the concentration of sodium in the blood is less than normal, they speak of hyponatremia. To understand how dangerous this condition can be, it is enough to know that if there is a lack of sodium, a person may lose consciousness, he may have hallucinations, a stupor, and in severe cases even death is possible.

But an excess of this electrolyte is also dangerous to health. This usually happens on the background of dehydration. One of the consequences of hypernatremia is swelling of the brain. In addition, the patient's appetite disappears, vomiting appears, increased sleepiness (sometimes a person may fall into a coma), reflexes are disturbed.

The above symptoms are only part of the possible signs of water and electrolyte imbalance. If the time does not restore the balance of fluid and salt, the consequences caused by the pathology will only progress, which can result in cardiac arrest and death of the patient.

Diagnosis and treatment of imbalance

Determine the amount of fluid and salt in the body by laboratory blood tests. Treatment of electrolyte imbalance depends on the type and severity of the pathology.

If changes in the concentration of electrolytes are caused by malnutrition, then in the absence of other diseases, the consequences for the body are usually small and the condition is restored by correcting the diet.

If the salt deficit is caused by dehydration (for example, after diarrhea or vomiting), then special rehydration therapy will help. In this case, the patient should take a drink consisting of 1 liter of water, 2.6 g of sodium, 1.5 g of potassium chloride and 2.9 g of sodium citrate. Products with this chemical composition are available at most pharmacies.

For more serious water-salt disorders, as a rule, resorted to the intravenous administration of saline solutions. Changes in water-salt balance, life-threatening, are usually the result of severe diseases of the digestive system or kidneys. As a rule, for a dropper in such patients use a saline solution or a prescription infusion, which is individually. In some particularly severe cases, the patient may need a blood transfusion.

Products to restore the water-salt balance

In addition to drug treatment of water and electrolyte imbalance, the patient will need a special diet containing the missing salt. In addition, you will have to constantly monitor the drinking regime, as this is one of the main factors in maintaining water-salt balance. By the way, to eliminate the non-critical imbalance of salts and liquids, you can use ordinary mineral water. It is necessary to drink it from the calculation of 30-50 ml of water per kilogram of body weight. For people who lead a very active lifestyle, playing sports or hiking, it is additionally worth taking mineral complexes.

Table of electrolyte content in food
SodiumTable salt, salty food
ChlorineOlives, Olive Oil, Salty Food
PotassiumPotatoes in uniforms, bananas, dried fruits, nuts
MagnesiumSpinach, pumpkin seeds, cereals, milk
CalciumDairy products, spinach, cabbage
IodineSeafood, fish oil
PhosphorusMilk, fish, nuts, eggs, cereals, meat
IronLiver, red meat, nuts, dried fruits
FluorineSeafood, cereals
CopperGrapes, eggs, buds, spinach, black chocolate
ZincMeat, crabs, beans, egg yolk.

In most cases, maintaining the balance of salts and body fluids is not at all difficult. All that is needed for this is to follow a healthy and balanced diet.

Article author:
Izvozchikova Nina Vladislavovna

Specialty: infectious diseases specialist, gastroenterologist, pulmonologist.

Total experience: 35 years.

Education: 1975-1982, 1MMI, San gig, high qualification, infectious diseases doctor.

Science degree: doctor of the highest category, PhD.


  1. Infectious diseases.
  2. Parasitic diseases.
  3. Emergency conditions.
  4. HIV
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