The three hormones that regulate your electrolyte levels
Feb 15, 2018
AldosteroneAldosterone is a steroid responsible for managing the balance of sodium, potassium and water in the blood. Blood pressure is regulated not by the absolute amounts of these three elements, but by their relative amounts, meaning that when the concentration of one increases, the concentration of the others must also increase to maintain a balance. Essentially, aldosterone works like this: When blood sodium levels become too low (or when potassium levels become too high), the body releases aldosterone to encourage the reabsorption of sodium back into the bloodstream. Aldosterone also prompts the sweat glands to reduce the sodium content in perspiration. This returns the balance of sodium relative to potassium and helps the body maintain a normal blood pressure.
When things go wrong:Addison’s Disease: Addison’s disease results when the adrenal glands are damaged, which hampers the body’s ability to produce aldosterone. This means that Addison’s disease patients cannot reabsorb sufficient amounts of sodium, and they experience dangerously-low sodium levels. Thus, patients with Addison’s disease often experience very strong salt cravings.
- How it’s treated: Most patients with Addison’s disease take hormone supplements to replace the missing aldosterone.
- How it’s treated: Type 1 Diabetes patients must receive insulin hormone through injection or other methods.
- How it’s treated: Ketogenic dieters are encouraged to consume very high amounts of sodium, up to two to four grams (2000-4000 mg) of sodium per day, to counteract the low levels of sodium absorption.
Antidiuretic hormoneIf aldosterone is the “sodium-absorption hormone,” antidiuretic hormone is its arch-enemy. Coming into play when there is too much sodium in the blood, antidiuretic hormone encourages the body to reabsorb water, which filters out the excess sodium and returns the sodium-to-water balance to normal levels. Conversely, when a person becomes overhydrated, the body reduces its production of antidiuretic hormone, and water is filtered from the bloodstream through the kidneys and eventually excreted from the body.
When things go wrong:A night of heavy drinking: One of the effects of alcohol is the unnecessary reduction in antidiuretic hormone, which is why a night of heavy drinking leads to frequent urination. However, given that the reduction is abnormal, this results in dehydration if the drinker does not take steps to consume water in addition to alcohol. Additionally, alcohol promotes the secretion of aldosterone, which as we noted above, increases sodium absorption. Thus, after a night of heavy drinking, a person will be left with water levels that are too low, and sodium levels that are too high when compared with potassium. This situation manifests itself through symptoms that include headaches, fatigue, nausea and dizziness … colloquially known as the hangover.
- How it’s treated: If you wake up with a hangover, there is little you can do except take steps to rehydrate and wait. Consuming some additional sodium (an electrolyte product such as SaltStick Caps) will assist your body rehydrate more quickly. To prevent (or at least reduce) hangover symptoms entirely, while consuming alcohol, be sure to consume water at the same time. Experts recommend one glass of water for every one drink. While this will result in even more trips to the bathroom during your night out, the next morning will include far less misery.
- How it’s treated: We are inundated these days with antidotes to stress, which range from meditation to the intake of ancient herbs. In the end, the only solution to stress is a healthy diet and a more relaxed lifestyle (And a bit of exercise! … And perhaps the intake of salt.)
Parathyroid hormoneProduced by the thyroid gland, parathyroid hormone regulates calcium levels in the blood. Calcium, another key electrolyte, is responsible for skeletal health, cardiovascular activity, muscular contraction and the sweating process. Too much or too little of the mineral can have negative side effects. Parathyroid hormone (or PTH) is to calcium what aldosterone is to sodium. When there is too little calcium in the blood, the body releases PTH, which prompts the reabsorption of calcium into the bloodstream. When calcium levels become sufficient, the body then stops releasing PTH so calcium can be filtered by the kidneys.
When things go wrong:Certain types of cancer: Cancer of the parathyroid can cause an overabundance of parathyroid hormone, but this type of cancer is extremely rare. More commonly, certain cancers, such as breast cancer and lung cancer, release parathyroid hormone-related protein (or PTHrP), which has similar effects to PTH. An abundance of PTHrP can cause unnaturally-high levels of calcium in the blood, leading to loss of appetite, fatigue and depression. In fact, it is these symptoms of hypercalcemia that can sometimes lead to a cancer diagnosis, as about 10 to 20 percent of cancer patients develop the condition.
- How its treated: Treatment of hypercalcemia caused by PTHrP includes a mix of hydration practices, that can sometimes include dialysis.