by Prof. D-r Dragan Danilovski, MD, PhD

Water-electrolyte balance

A number of the major minerals described above have basic functions as electrolytes in controlling the body’s vital water balance. This collective function is fundamental to health and often a vital part of patient care. In brief summary here, we will look at the three basic interdependent factors that control this balance:

(1)  The water itself (the solvent base for solutions),

(2)  The various particles (solutes) in solution in the water, and

(3)  The separating membranes that control the flow.



Body water distribution


If you are a woman, your body is about 50% to 55% water. If you are a man, your body is about 55% to 60% water. The higher water content in most men is a result of their greater muscle mass. The remaining 40% of a man's weight is about 18% protein and related substances, 15% fat, and 7% minerals. A woman's remaining body composition is about the same except for a somewhat smaller muscle mass and a larger fat deposit.


Water functions


(1)  Helps give structure and form to the body through the turgor it provides for tissues

(2)  Creates the water-based environment necessary for the vast array of chemical actions and reactions that comprise the body’s metabolism and sustain life, and

(3)  Provides the means for maintaining a stable body temperature.


Water compartments


Consider the water in your body in two compartments:

(1) The total water outside of cells— the extracellular fluid compartment (ECF), and

(2) The total water inside of cells—the intracellular fluid compartment (ICF).

1. Extracellular fluid (ECF). Water outside of cells makes up about 20% of the total body weight. It consists of four parts:

(1) Blood plasma, which accounts for about 25% of the ECF and 5% of body weight;

(2) Interstitial fluid, the water surrounding the cells;

(3) Secretory fluid, the water circulating in transit; and

(4) Dense tissue fluid, water in dense connective tissue, cartilage, bone.

2. Intracellular fluid (ICF). Water inside cells makes up about 40% to 45% of the total body weight. Since the body cells handle our vast metabolic activity, it is no surprise that the total water inside cells is about twice the amount outside.


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