One Tuesday morning, while I did my checks at the clinic, a young lady (which I’ll call Sade) was rushed in as she was suffering from an extreme condition of lethargy and weakness. My eager self rushed to assist her and subsequently with running some examinations and taking her history.
Sadly, she had been dehydrated, irritable and unable to eat for about 3 days before presentation at the clinic. In addition to this, she had been purging and vomiting over that period. After a series of laboratory investigation, Sade was discovered to have lost significant amount of body fluid and electrolytes, one of which was Chloride!
I started discussing Electrolytes in the body in previous post and I already talked about 2 out of the four major electrolytes. So today, I will be discussing Chloride.
What is Chloride and why is essential?
Chlorine exists in the body as chloride and it is an essential electrolyte mineral… It is also the other component in the common table salt (Salt is the combination of Sodium and Chloride).
Chloride is found around the cells, also in the blood and small amount in the bone .
It is essential because;
• It helps to regulate body fluid balance;
• It helps to regulate the PH(acid/base) balance of body fluids;
• It helps to regulate normal blood level and pressure;
• It aids digestion; and
• And helps to keep potassium at normal balance (read about potassium here).
We get most of our required amount of chloride from table salt and seasonings. Chloride is also contained in tomatoes, spinach, celery and some vegetables. So it is almost impossible to be deficient of this electrolyte. Rather, we might get high levels of Chloride in the body.
But certain conditions can cause an imbalance of Chloride in the body.
Any of these can cause a reduction in the level of Chloride:
• Prolonged and untreated Diarrhea and Vomiting
• Excessive sweating
• Excessive fluid loss, excessive intake of coffee and laxatives
• Heart failure
• Some kidney disorders
How will you know if your body is deficient of Chloride?
When you observe any of these:
• Loss of appetite
• Muscle weakness
• In rare and severe cases, inability to breathe well or swallow.
Excessive intake of salt (Chloride) or foods high in Chloride can increase the level of Chloride in the body leading to:
• Acid-base Imbalance
• Fluid retention (swelling such as puffy face, swollen legs/foot)
• And high blood pressure! Yes… you read right (this is why reducing salt intake is highly recommended for people living with high blood pressure).
Asides excessive salt intake, increase in the level of Chloride may also be caused by dehydration, some drugs, reduced urine output, and kidney disease.
Note that the above symptoms can result from other medical conditions. Hence, it is important to see a medical doctor for further evaluation to arrive at a cognizance diagnosis and get appropriate treatment.
Sade was rehydrated with ORS, Intravenous fluids and antibiotics… she was discharged after 3 days of medical intervention.
Do not take purging/vomiting/excessive sweat lightly! When you are purging take salt and water to maintain the body’s electrolytes.
I hope I have not bored you with this long post? Well, please share with friends and family if you found it helpful!