Drinking a sports drink that contains electrolytes and only drinking when thirsty can prevent electrolyte imbalances, according to Healthline. Drinking 4 to 6 ounces every 20 minutes during a strenuous activity is a general guideline for preventing electrolyte imbalance.
Electrolytes in the human body include sodium, magnesium and calcium. Chloride, another electrolyte, is important in keeping the balance of electrolytes and the balance of acidity and alkalinity in the body, reports Healthline. Bicarbonate is another electrolyte that regulates heart function. Intense exercise is one of the most common causes of an electrolyte imbalance. Vomiting, kidney disease and eating disorders are other causes of electrolyte imbalance.
Symptoms of an imbalance are nausea, lethargy and fluid retention, notes Healthline. This condition can be fatal, so medical professionals advise calling 911 if there is confusion, muscle weakness or irregular heartbeat. Other serious symptoms include seizures and chest pain. Treatment depends on whether there is an overabundance of electrolytes or a deficiency and the affected electrolytes. A doctor either increases or decreases fluids to treat this disorder. Hyponatremia is an electrolyte balance disorder that occurs when the body takes in too much fluid and not enough sodium. Also known as water intoxication, it can be deadly. However, it is rare for a severe illness to come from an electrolyte imbalance.