Hello there! I really hope you have been able to learn one or two things about electrolytes in the body and their importance.

Earlier this month, I started talking about electrolytes in the body, but in case you missed it, kindly check it here.

In conclusion, I will briefly talk about the last of the major electrolytes, and that is Bicarbonate (HCO3)!

Let me tell you a story;

Mr. Ade was brought to the accident and emergency unit at almost midnight on the account of difficulty in breathing.

 I immediately swung into action as the nurse on duty… we decided to nebulize and oxygenate him so as to stabilize him. I was taking his medical history alongside the first aid care. On history taking, I asked if he was asthmatic, he said No. I asked if he had any respiratory tract infection such as cough. Yes,he answered. I asked if he smoked, yes he smoked…and I asked further questions. Also he had been purging and vomiting for 6 days and all attempts to stop it had been abortive.

Immediately, the Dr. on call requested to have some laboratory investigations done. Later in the day, the results revealed he had an abnormal Bicarbonate level in his blood.

By now you might be wondering, what is Bicarbonate?

Bicarbonate is one of the electrolytes in the body which helps to keep the body hydrated and ensures the blood has the right amount of acidity.

A normal level of Bicarbonate is between 23mmol/L- 29mmol/L.


When Bicarbonate level is low, any of the following might be responsible:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis- this happens when the body’s blood acid level goes up because it doesn’t have enough insulin to digest sugar (usually in diabetic patients).
  • Metabolic acidosis i.e. the body is producing acid in excess
  • Kidney disease
  • Addison’s disease
  • Ethylene glycol poisoning (which is found in some of our skin care/cosmetic products)
  • When one consume overdose of some drugs such as Aspirin.


If the level of Bicarbonate in the blood/body is high, it could be as a result of;

  • Dehydration (inadequate fluid intake or any disease that causes excessive loss of body fluid)
  • Anorexia
  • Lung diseases like COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Adrenal gland problems, such as Cushing’s syndrome or Conn’s syndrome

Apparently, Mr. Ade was having chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) so his bicarbonate level was high which was why he was weak and unable to breathe properly in addition to his prolonged cough.

A quick lesson to learn from this is to do a proper check up if you have prolonged cough – where there is little or no improvement after treating it for more than 2 weeks with a cough syrup or Antibiotic.

Just like in Mr. Ade’s case, difficulty in breathing, weakness/tiredness could be a sign of an imbalance of Bicarbonate in the body/blood.

Why not just schedule a regular checkup instead of waiting until you are diseased?

Remember it is safer and effective to prevent illnesses/diseases rather than treating/curing them!

 There are other electrolytes in the body although not major:

  • Calcium,
  • Magnesium, and
  • Phosphate

In conclusion, to keep the electrolytes at a balanced level, ensure you drink adequate amount of fluid/water, and eat balanced diet containing fruits and vegetables.

Your comments and questions are welcome if there is anything you’d like to ask or talk about. Kindly share with friends if you found this helpful.


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