Electrolytes and Your Adrenals

By November 6, 2022

Leanne Vogel in Calgary, Alberta

How imbalanced electrolytes can throw off everything in your body.

I had a client come to me recently with fainting spells coupled with high blood pressure. Let’s call him, Jim. During his “attacks” Jim would get super dizzy, nearly pass out, and when tested, his blood pressure was high.

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When he went to the doctor, he was told the attacks were cardiovascular related, and a statin was prescribed (without running a cholesterol panel).

Jim came to me for a blood chemistry session, where I suggested doing a basic workup with an NMR profile (a super detailed cholesterol panel). We got the results back and as I suspected; his labs were functionally beautiful to look at.

The only thing we could glean from the cholesterol markers were that Jim was stressed (slight elevation in LDL-P/apoB), could benefit from supplementing with a bit of omegas (slight increase in small LDL), wasn’t eating enough good healthy fats, and could do with eating a lot more (decreased triglycerides).

There were two clues from the cholesterol panel that informed where we went next: the stress piece, and the not eating enough piece. Looking at the other markers in the panel, it was clear that something else was happening.

Here’s the pattern we saw (using functional ranges):

  • High albumin
  • High hemoglobin
  • High RBC
  • High BUN
  • Low sodium
  • High potassium
  • Low alkaline phosphatase

This, my friends, is a classic chronic dehydration pattern due to mitochondrial dysfunction (you may know it called “adrenal dysfunction” or “adrenal fatigue”). Meaning, Jim has been stressed for a long time, running on empty, and pushing with very little fuel in the tank. Overtime, this has affected his mitochondria from processing fluids correctly, and his adrenals’ ability to regulate the sodium/potassium balance in his body.

What I believe is happening here with Jim is stress leading to severe mitochondrial dysfunction, causing lowered aldosterone (created in the adrenals and responsible for sodium/potassium balance), which leads to the “attack” as the body tries to regulate with all it has, leading to high blood pressure. As the body is experiencing the attack, the blood pressure increases via RASS (1) and the cycle continues to repeat itself, due to stress (2).

This pattern is super common – dehydration due to stress and stress due to dehydration. It’s a never-ending loop that makes us feel worse and worse as time goes on.

What are some signs that this could be happening to you?

  • Tiredness
  • Anxiety
  • Overwhelm
  • Shakiness
  • Headaches
  • Swelling
  • Brain fog
  • Dizziness

The best way to overcome this; as you work to lower stress in your life, is electrolyte supplementation. The body thrives under the proper electrolyte balance. And to understand why, it’s important to grasp the role of electrolytes.

Understanding Electrolytes

Electrolytes (the sodium and potassium in the blood work results above) help us to understand adrenal function.

Sodium is responsible for blood volume, pressure, and absorption of nutrients, glucose, and more. Sodium acts on blood volume because where sodium goes, water must follow. By increasing or decreasing sodium levels in the blood, we directly affect the amount of blood volume via water exchange and thus affecting blood pressure as well. More on this when we discuss aldosterone below.

Sodium is primarily an extracellular mineral, meaning, it is primarily outside of the cell membrane.

Potassium is primarily an intracellular mineral, meaning it resides primarily inside the cell membrane. In fact, 98% of our potassium is intracellular! Potassium can act as a pH influence, as well as working with sodium to influence the sodium-potassium Pump, the firing of nerves and muscle contraction.

You can see that having these two minerals in balance is super important!

So, how does this relate to the adrenals?

The Role of Adrenal Health in Sodium/Potassium Balance

The Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS) regulates blood volume (aka blood pressure). The whole goal of this system is to activate angiotensin II and get it functioning to help cause constriction in the body (aka, a raise in blood pressure/blood volume).

When this system activates, it will increase water and sodium (therefore decreasing potassium) and aldosterone (created by the adrenals) will increase.

Can be stimulated by low sodium, low blood pressure, and high cortisol. This right here is how high stress can lead to high blood pressure.

Next Steps for Jim (and for you!)

It’s incredible how much our blood work can tell us. One of the most invaluable patterns in standard blood work is the dehydration pattern because it’s so prevalent and, it’s one of the easiest things to fix! Not just with water, but with the proper balance of electrolytes so that the water can properly hydrate the cell.

That balance – of electrolytes, in the right proportions for the cell, is where the magic happens in re-hydrating your body, helping your adrenals, and getting your health back.

This is why I love LMNT electrolytes. They recognize that 5 grams of sodium is the minimum required daily for us to live healthy lives (3). Yes, 5 grams of sodium daily (and it’s even high for highly active people).

In Jim’s example, with his fast-paced life, meal skipping, and low sodium diet… it’s no wonder he was having these attacks!

Proper supplementation with electrolytes like those seen in LMNT’s science-backed ratio of electrolytes is a major goal for Jim. In addition to eating enough, swapping unhealthy fats for the good fats, and far less go-go-go.

Try LMNT electrolytes and get a free sample pack with your order

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Hi! I'm Leanne (RHN FBCS)

a Functional Medicine Practitioner, host of the Healthful Pursuit Podcast, and best-selling author of The Keto Diet & Keto for Women. I want to live in a world where every woman has access to knowledge to better her health.

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