Factors Influencing Fluid & Electrolyte Balance

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Your body needs to maintain a proper level of fluid and electrolytes to function at its best. Learn about factors that influence fluid and electrolyte balance, including vomiting, diarrhea, fever, diet, exercise, diuretics, and kidney problems.

Fluids & Electrolytes

I love to drive, yet I'm the first to admit that I take my car for granted. As long as the engine starts when I turn the key, I'm happy. What I ignore is the fact that under the hood there are many fluids and electrical connections that must be maintained and balanced in order for my car to take me from point A to point B.

The human body is a lot like a car in the sense that it has fluids and electrolytes, which are electrically charged minerals, that need to be in balance. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, must be maintained at certain levels for your nerves, muscles and other body processes to function properly. In this lesson, you'll learn about factors that influence fluid and electrolyte balance in the body.

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  • 0:01 Fluids & Electrolytes
  • 0:55 Illness
  • 1:31 Environmental Factors
  • 2:40 Diet
  • 3:03 Kidney Problems & Diuretics
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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When you're sick, especially if your illness involves vomiting, diarrhea, or a fever, you're at a greater risk for fluid and electrolyte imbalance. These factors cause your body to lose water. If a large amount of water is lost from the body, the result is dehydration.

This would obviously alter the fluid balance of the body, because electrolytes are dissolved in body fluids. It can also alter the electrolyte concentrations. Water can be replenished by drinking, but sometimes when you're feeling ill it can be difficult to drink enough water to replenish what you lost.

Environmental Factors

Dehydration is also a concern for people who engage in heavy exercise. This risk is accentuated if the activity is performed in a hot environment. For example, if the thermometer reads 90 degrees Fahrenheit and you set out to run 20 miles, you can be certain that you will lose a lot of water and salt (aka sodium) through sweat. This loss will decrease the level of water and electrolytes in your body. To correct this imbalance, you need to rehydrate properly. For instance, if you get home after your 20 mile run and only drink water without replenishing the lost salt, you could end up with hyponatremia, which is a condition in which the level of sodium in the blood is too low. To help recall this term you can remember that the prefix hypo means low and the symbol for sodium on the periodic table is Na, so hyponatremia is literally low Na, or low sodium. This condition will leave you feeling tired and confused, and could escalate into seizures or a coma.


The fluid and electrolyte balance in your body is affected by your diet because the foods and beverages you take in provide water and electrolytes. This explains why people with conditions like anorexia nervosa, which is an eating disorder characterized by self-starvation, or bulimia, which is an eating disorder characterized by self-induced vomiting, can develop an imbalance.

Kidney Problems

The kidneys are important regulators of fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Your kidneys have the ability to excrete excess water and electrolytes through the urine. They can also retain water or electrolytes if their levels drop too low. If kidney problems develop due to infection, inflammation, or trauma, the kidneys' ability to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance can be thrown off.

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