Intracellular (ICF) and Extracellular (ECF) Fluids

Free «Intracellular (ICF) and Extracellular (ECF) Fluids» Essay Sample


Water is an essential constituent of the human body that contributes to its normal functioning. Without the fluids contained in the organism, the body will not be able to perform all the activities in a proper way. Furthermore, with the loss of the fluids, a living thing usually loses necessary inorganic substances called electrolytes that can lead to the disruption of the homeostasis or water balance. Therefore, the current paper deals with the categories of the fluids and their differences, such electrolytes as sodium and potassium, their contribution to electrolyte balance, as well as three ways to the homeostasis’ disruption and ways to solve it.

Intracellular and Extracellular Fluids and Their Distinctions

Human body includes two major fluid compartments. The intercellular fluid compartment (ICF) occupies nearly two-thirds of all water in the organism and flows within the body cells. In contrast to ICF, the extracellular fluid compartment (ECF) forms the remaining one-third of the water. It is located in the bones, body tissues, and vascular systems, including blood and lymph. Furthermore, plasma and interstitial fluid are two more compartments in the ECF. Plasma is regarded as the fluid part of blood, while the interstitial fluid fills the spaces between the cells’ tissues. Despite the location of such fluids inside the organism, ICF and ECF have different functions. The intracellular fluid is supposed to transport food within the cells and lead the waste products out of them. It also keeps the cell integral. In its turn, the ECF carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells. Additionally, it maintains the cells in the constant moisture by moisturizing them. The other aspect that is worth mentioning is characteristic ions contained in both fluids. Each of them has its own pattern of electrolytes. Plasma, which is the constituent of ECF, is high in protein. The main cation in ECF is sodium, while the chief anion is chloride. Unlike extracellular fluid, the intracellular fluid contains small portions of chloride and sodium. Its positively charged ion is considered potassium, and hydrogen phosphate is its significant anion. Furthermore, the concentrations of the electrolytes are opposite (“Body fluids,” 2013).

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The Contribution of Potassium and Sodium to the Electrolyte Balance

Both electrolytes are extremely significant in the human body as far as they contribute to the proper functioning of the organism. Potassium, along with sodium, regulates the electrolyte balance in the tissues and blood. The sodium-potassium flux forms the electrical potential that assists in the conduction of the nerve impulses. When potassium comes out of the cell, it creates favorable conditions for the nerve impulse to progress. Therefore, the potassium is the cause of muscle contractions and heartbeat. It also takes part in various kinds of metabolism (including glucose and glycogen metabolism responsible for energy production). Despite these important functions, potassium also pumps sodium out of the cells preserving the electrolyte balance. As far as sodium’s gain or loss leads to the gain or loss in water, the consequence may become water imbalance. For example, the intake of too much salt may result in thirst. In such case, a person is in need to drink in order to replenish the water storage. Such actions result in the water accumulation within the cell. Consequently, if potassium does not force sodium out, the cells will swell and ultimately burst. Therefore, both potassium and sodium are essential not only for the heartbeat and a healthy nervous system but also for preservation of the electrolyte balance (Haas, 2011).

The Disruption of Homeostasis

Electrolyte Imbalances

Homeostasis is a self-regulating progress in the organism that is responsible for the stability maintenance and adjustments to the conditions that are the most favorable for survival. However, the human body cannot be sustainable constantly as it is harmful for the organism. Consequently, if the appropriate electrolyte levels and pH of the body fluids are not maintained, it will lead to the disruption of homeostasis. Concerning electrolyte imbalances that can be destroying for stable functioning of the organism, they are viewed as the most common and significant. They involve the increased or decreased amount of sodium, calcium, chloride, phosphate, magnesium, and potassium. Such condition may cause serious diseases. For instance, the phosphate anion found in both extracellular and intracellular fluids is critical for cellular metabolism. Obviously, phosphate imbalances contribute to the disruption of homeostasis causing some therapeutic interventions for other illnesses. When phosphate shifts from ECF compartments to the cells, the phosphate level decreases to 2.5 mg/dL. In its turn, it leads to muscle weakness and pain, probable seizures, and mental changes. This imbalance is called hypophosphatemia. In contrast to it, hyperphosphatemia (with phosphate level 4.5 mg/dL) occurs when phosphate shifts to the extracellular fluid from the cell. It results in numbness and tingling in the fingertips or muscle cramps (Walker, 2010).


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Acid-Base Imbalances

Analyzing the change of pH level that can contribute to the disruption of homeostasis, there are two kinds of acid-base imbalances, namely respiratory and metabolic. Lungs normally regulate carbonic acid levels by retention or excretion of the carbon dioxide. Problems with regulation result in respiratory alkalosis or acidosis. In its turn, kidneys control bicarbonate and hydrogen ion levels, and troubles with this function may lead to either metabolic acidosis or alkalosis. Speaking more specifically about the respiratory imbalances, each of two disorders contribute to the disruption of homeostasis. When pH falls below 7.35, it means that acid levels increase, which is caused by hypoventilation and carbon dioxide keeping. Such condition is called respiratory acidosis. When it occurs, the kidneys preserve bicarbonate to restore the normal carbonic acid. Due to this, the level of pH decreases. However, another disorder that influences homeostasis is respiratory alkalosis. In such condition, the pH level grows up to 7.45 and the kidneys do not release bicarbonate but store it (Walker, 2010).

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Solutions to Stabilize Homeostasis

There are numerous ways to return homeostasis. For maintaining the necessary amount of electrolytes, it is adequate to keep a healthy diet. For instance, sodium responsible for maintaining blood volume and muscles contraction contains in ham, bacon, and iodinated salt. Therefore, to restore sodium balance in organism, an individual should consume more or less products that contain it, however, depending at the level of electrolyte. The same concerns other substances necessary for organism. A person should eat those products that would either increase or decrease the level of relevant electrolytes. Another solution that can return the body to homeostasis and prevent it from electrolyte, acid-base, and fluid imbalances is regular weight-bearing physical training. For example, running, bicycling, walking, and horse riding have a beneficial effect on the calcium balance. As a matter of fact, older man and postmenopausal women that have a high rate of bone loss have a possibility to slow down this process and reduce the chance of osteoporosis by doing regular exercises (Walker, 2010).

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To conclude, two major compartments occur in the human body, which are intracellular (ICF) and extracellular fluid (ECF) sections. The first is located within the cells and responsible for transportation food in them. In contrast to it, the function of the extracellular fluid found in the tissues, bones, and blood is to carry the nutrients and oxygen to the cells. The main difference between the fluids is in their characteristic ions. ICF contains potassium and hydrogen phosphate, while ECF possesses sodium and chloride. Sodium and potassium take part in creation of favorable conditions for nerve impulses’ progression. In addition, they make the muscles contract. However, the electrolyte balance may be damaged by the shifts from the intracellular to the extracellular fluids and vice versa causing some disorders and, consequently, the disruption of homeostasis. To prevent it, an individual should pay attention to his/her health and attempt to keep a healthy diet and do physical exercises.

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