Electrolytes: what they are and why you need them to stay healthy
Electrolytes: what they are and why you need them to stay healthy
- What are electrolytes
- The role of electrolytes in our body
- The electrolytes you should know about
- Electrolyte imbalances and deficiencies
- How to keep your electrolytes in check
- The bottom line
If feeling good and performing well is important to you, you may already know that water alone is not enough to keep your body hydrated. Today's water is over-purified and lacks the natural electrolytes that we used to ingest in our daily lives. These electrolytes are important for maintaining basic bodily functions, but what are electrolytes and why do you need them to stay healthy?
What are Electrolytes?
Most people have heard of electrolytes before - no wonder with all the sports drink commercials. But few people know what role electrolytes actually play in the body and how important they are.
Electrolytes are charged minerals that carry either a positive or negative charge and conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They are found in different areas of the body, including cells, muscles, bones and organs.
Although electrolyte drinks and capsules are a good way to replenish electrolyte stores, most people get the majority of their electrolytes from diet.
Every human being must consume the required amounts of each electrolyte in order to keep the body functioning properly. Without sufficient intake, a deficiency can occur. Electrolytes are lost primarily through sweat, blood, urine, and other bodily fluids.
The body needs electrolytes to perform a number of important functions such as: B:
- muscle function
- Proper hydration
- function of the nervous system
- Balancing the internal pH
The role of electrolytes in our body
As mentioned earlier, electrolytes are essential for a number of functions in our body. Some electrolytes are involved in hundreds of different chemical reactions that keep us healthy.
Electrolytes keep us hydrated.
One of the most important jobs of electrolytes is to keep us hydrated.
Electrolytes affect our water balance in various ways, e.g. B. by directing water to the different parts of the body that need it and by helping to maintain the proper fluid balance inside and outside the cells through a process called osmosis. In osmosis, the water moves from one side of the cell membrane, where the electrolyte mix is more dilute, to the other side, where the electrolytes are more concentrated.
When the electrolyte balance is balanced, osmosis prevents cells from overfilling with water or losing too much water.
When our bodies are deficient in electrolytes, dehydration quickly occurs because our bodies are unable to regulate the amount of water leaving cells and the body as a whole.
Dehydration can be caused by not drinking enough water, but it can also be caused by an imbalance in electrolytes.
Our nervous system is fueled.
The body uses electrolytes to facilitate the transmission of messages from the brain to cells and vice versa, which fuels our nervous system. The brain communicates with cells by sending electrical signals to nerve cells in the body. These electrical signals are produced when the electrical charge on the nerve cell membrane changes.
Without an adequate supply of sodium and other electrolytes, the body's nervous system cannot function properly.
Sodium, one of the most important electrolytes in the body, causes these changes by moving across the nerve cell membrane and setting off a chain reaction of other sodium ions.
Our muscles contract.
A number of different electrolytes play an important role in the contraction of our muscles, including calcium.
Without an adequate supply of electrolytes, muscle fibers cannot slip and slide over one another to allow muscles to shorten and contract.
Adequate supply of magnesium is necessary to allow muscle fibers to slide outward, allowing muscles to lengthen and relax after contraction.
Regulating our pH.
In addition to the above functions, electrolytes also help regulate pH levels in the body. The body needs to maintain a pH between 7.35 and 7.45 so it doesn't become too acidic or too basic, which can lead to a breakdown in bodily functions.
Bicarbonate is particularly important when it comes to maintaining the body's normal pH levels as it acts as a chemical buffer to minimize changes in the internal environment.
The electrolytes you should know about
There are seven main electrolytes naturally occurring in the human body, each of which is extremely important in maintaining hydration and proper functioning of the body. The seven main electrolytes include sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, calcium and bicarbonate.
Sodium plays an important role in maintaining fluid balance in the body, making it one of the most important electrolytes in the body. In addition to playing an important role in maintaining hydration, sodium is also required for muscles and nerves to function properly.
Sodium is absorbed naturally from food, so most people don't need to supplement their sodium intake unless they have profuse or salty sweats or long hours of outdoor work in the heat. Although sodium occurs naturally in some foods, most people in Europe get most of their sodium from processed foods. According to the Health Organization, the top six sources of sodium in the Western diet include bread and rolls, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and sausages, soup, and burritos and tacos.
When people are deficient in sodium , they can develop something called hyponatremia . Hyponatremia occurs when the sodium in the body becomes diluted, causing the body's water content to rise and causing cells to swell. Signs of hyponatremia include nausea and vomiting, headache , confusion, loss of energy, restlessness, drowsiness, irritability, muscle weakness, spasms, and convulsions. In severe cases, hyponatremia can lead to seizures, coma, or even death. Hyponatremia usually develops when you drink too much water without replacing your electrolytes.
While too little sodium in your body can lead to dehydration and other frightening symptoms, too much sodium can also be problematic. Too much sodium can cause water retention, making you feel bloated and bloated, but it can also increase your risk of serious health conditions like heart failure, high blood pressure, kidney stones, osteoporosis, stroke, stomach cancer, and an enlarged heart muscle.
About 80 percent of the body's potassium is stored in muscle cells, while red blood cells, liver cells, and bone cells contain the remaining 20 percent.
Potassium is needed by the body to maintain water balance , but is also important for muscles to contract properly, which is why most of it is stored in the muscles. The body also needs potassium for the nerves to send and receive signals properly.
An estimated 98 percent of Europeans do not get enough potassium from their diet. That's largely because potassium is naturally found in foods like fruits and vegetables, which many Americans don't eat enough of. However, a potassium deficiency is usually the result of chronic diarrhea or chronic vomiting and not of insufficient intake. Common sources of potassium include bananas, oranges, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, mushrooms, and leafy greens, among other fruits and vegetables.
Potassium deficiency is also known as hypokalemia. Although most commonly caused by chronic vomiting or diarrhea, it can also be caused by excessive sweating and blood loss. Common signs of hypokalemia include weakness and fatigue, muscle spasms and twitches, digestive problems, palpitations, muscle pain and stiffness, tingling and numbness, difficulty breathing, and mood changes.
Most people are familiar with chloride in the form of table salt, which is a combination of sodium and chloride. Chloride is another important electrolyte that is needed in the right amount for the body to function properly.
Electrolyte is needed to maintain fluid balance in the body as it regulates the amount of fluid inside and outside of cells. Also, chloride helps regulate blood pressure, maintain proper blood volume, and maintain proper pH levels of body fluids.
Most people get most of their chloride needs from table salt, but it's also found in vegetables like seaweed, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, rye, and celery.
Most people get enough chloride through their diet, but a deficiency can occur when the body loses a lot of fluids quickly through profuse sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting. People who take diuretic medications are also at risk of developing chloride deficiency. Symptoms of chloride deficiency, or hypochloremia, include dehydration, weakness or fatigue, diarrhea or vomiting, dehydration, and shortness of breath. It is often accompanied by hyponatraemia, i.e. a low sodium level in the blood. It's also possible to have too much chloride in your blood. When this occurs, it's usually a sign that the kidneys aren't working properly, and not excessive chloride intake.
Magnesium is one of the most important electrolytes because it is needed to carry out more than 600 different cell reactions. Although magnesium is an incredibly important electrolyte, about two-thirds of Americans don't get enough magnesium from diet alone.
The many functions magnesium serves include DNA production, maintaining a regular, healthy heartbeat, supporting healthy brain function, and regulating muscle contractions. Magnesium is naturally found in foods like pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, spinach, cashews, peanuts, black beans, potatoes, brown rice, and yogurt.
Magnesium deficiency , or hypomagnesemia, can be caused by inadequate food intake or magnesium losses. Because magnesium affects so many different chemical reactions in the body, the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are varied. Common symptoms include muscle twitching and spasms, mental disorders, osteoporosis, fatigue and muscle weakness, high blood pressure, asthma, and irregular heartbeat. A magnesium deficiency can also cause the cells of the muscles, heart, and brain to become overexcited, which can lead to permanent damage or cause a stroke or heart failure.
Phosphate is a form of phosphorus. The body contains both charged and uncharged phosphate, with the uncharged phosphate stored in the bones accounting for about 85 percent of the phosphate in the body. The remaining 15 percent of the phosphate in the body is charged and resides in the cells.
Phosphate is important for the formation of strong bones and teeth and also plays an important role in energy production. The body also uses phosphate as a building block for substances it uses to generate energy, build cell membranes and make DNA.
Phosphate is commonly found in foods like yogurt, milk, salmon, scallops, cheese, chicken, lentils, beef, and potatoes.
Phosphorus deficiency is relatively rare, but can occur with improper diet, eating disorders and certain diseases. Symptoms of phosphate deficiency include bone problems such as weak or brittle bones, loss of appetite, anxiety, irregular breathing, joint stiffness, weakness, fatigue, irritability, numbness, and changes in body weight.
Calcium is most often discussed in relation to its role as a component of strong bones and teeth. Calcium is also an important electrolyte. Most people know how important calcium is for the development of strong bones and teeth, but calcium's role as an electrolyte is less well understood.
The body needs calcium in its electrolyte form in order for blood to circulate properly, muscles to move properly, and hormones to be released regularly. Calcium also plays an important role in transmitting messages from the brain to the body. About 99 percent of calcium is in the bones and teeth, but the remaining percent is in the cells.
Calcium is commonly found in foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, green leafy vegetables, baked goods and other fortified flour products, and calcium-supplied beverages.
Calcium deficiency, also called hypocalcemia, may not cause symptoms in the early stages. The further the deficiency has progressed and the longer it lasts, the more likely it is that symptoms will appear. Common symptoms of calcium deficiency include confusion, memory loss, muscle cramps, numbness and tingling in the hands, feet and face, depression, hallucinations, weak and brittle nails and easily brittle bones. Severe calcium deficiency can lead to seizures in otherwise healthy people.
Bicarbonate is one of the lesser-known electrolytes in the body, but that doesn't mean it isn't important. Bicarbonate is primarily required for maintaining proper pH balance in the body, but it also works closely with other electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and chloride. In interaction with other electrolytes, bicarbonate helps maintain electrical neutrality in cells.
Bicarbonate can be obtained naturally from food, e.g. B. through bananas, potatoes and spinach.
A bicarbonate deficiency can have dangerous health consequences because bicarbonate is needed to maintain the body's pH balance. When pH levels become imbalanced, dangerous conditions such as acidosis or alkalosis can result, which can lead to serious health problems. The kidneys are responsible for regulating the concentration of bicarbonate in the blood.
Electrolyte imbalances and deficiencies
Who is most at risk?
Electrolyte imbalance can affect anyone, but some people are at greater risk of electrolyte imbalance or deficiency than others.
Elderly people and young children are thought to be particularly at risk of experiencing electrolyte imbalance or depletion because they may have trouble getting the right amount of electrolytes to meet their needs.
Children are smaller than adults and metabolize fluids and electrolytes faster, making it difficult for them to get enough electrolytes. Children often get sick and vomit and have diarrhea, which can quickly lead to an electrolyte imbalance in young children.
Older adults, on the other hand, are more likely to have an electrolyte imbalance than younger adults for several reasons. First, kidney function often declines with age, which can lead to electrolyte imbalances. Older adults are also more likely to take medications, such as diuretics, that affect the electrolyte balance in the body. They may also often not eat or drink enough for a variety of reasons, such as loss of appetite or thirst, difficulty swallowing due to a disability, or irregular access to food and drink.
People who exercise regularly or work outdoors are also at risk of developing an electrolyte imbalance or deficiency, especially if they sweat profusely or are overweight.
One of the main ways that electrolytes are lost is through sweat. That's why people who sweat a lot every day need to pay extra attention to maintaining the right balance of electrolytes.
Some diseases also increase the risk of electrolyte imbalances and deficiencies.
Conditions that increase the risk of an electrolyte imbalance include:
- alcohol use disorder
- Congestive heart failure
- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia
- thyroid disorders
- kidney disease
- Trauma, such as severe burns or broken bones
- Disorders of the adrenal cortex
warning sign (light)
If you're afflicted with an electrolyte imbalance, you may not realize it right away. Mild electrolyte imbalances often show no symptoms until they become severe.
However, there are some warning signs of an electrolyte imbalance to look out for, such as: B:
- muscle cramps
- mental confusion
- Irregular heartbeat
When an electrolyte imbalance becomes more severe, it can cause other symptoms as well.
Symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- diarrhea or constipation
- muscle cramps
- Irregular heartbeat
- convulsions or seizures
- cramps in the abdomen
- muscle weakness
- numbness and tingling
Reasons for visiting a doctor
A mild electrolyte imbalance can be corrected by taking an electrolyte supplement and proactively consuming foods and beverages high in natural electrolytes, but more severe electrolyte imbalances can be very dangerous and require medical attention.
You should definitely see a doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- drop in blood pressure
- Decreased elasticity of the skin
- acceleration of the heart rate
- sunken eyes
These are signs of severe dehydration, and rehydration must be done in a medical facility to properly diagnose and treat the electrolyte deficiency.
How to keep your electrolytes in check
The best way to avoid electrolyte deficiencies is to support your body's health and hydration levels by getting the right amount of electrolytes each day.
Each person's electrolyte requirements vary slightly based on activity level, age, and medical conditions that can affect electrolyte balance.
While some people are able to get enough electrolytes from food or drink alone, others may need to incorporate electrolyte supplements into their diets, especially if they exercise regularly or work outdoors in a warm environment. In fact, an estimated 50 percent of the population is electrolyte deficient and 75 percent of people are chronically dehydrated.
Low carb hydration
When it comes to replenishing electrolytes , the first thing that often comes to mind is colorful sports drinks that are not of good quality. Commercial sports drinks are not only big, bulky and heavy, but they also contain unnecessary additives such as sugar, artificial colors, carbohydrates and calories.
Electrolytes from le melo are the perfect alternative for everyone who knows that they have to replace electrolytes, but want to do without the additives that are not absolutely necessary. Think of it as a hydration multivitamin!
Electrolyte sticks like Zero Sugar from le melo replace the electrolytes that you lose during a strenuous or long workout, when being outdoors or after a night of drinking, and are also suitable for vegans. It has a natural full-spectrum electrolyte profile and contains 0 calories, 0 sugars and no artificial flavors or sweeteners. In short, it's as healthy as can be! Just because electrolyte powders like le melo do not contain any calories does not mean that they do without electrolytes. Compared to standard sports drinks, le melo contains three times the amount of electrolytes that you will find in a bottle from the supermarket.
Electrolyte concentrates restore the proper balance of electrolytes in the body and help you recover faster.
A balanced electrolyte balance also supports your immune system and prepares your body to fight off viruses and other pathogens.
Le melo can be easily mixed into any water bottle, so you don't have to carry a bulky sports drink with you. Containing no calories, no sugar and no or low carbohydrates, le melo is precisely formulated to provide the electrolytes you need. When water isn't enough, le melo helps you feel good and perform at your best.
Electrolyte powders are another convenient and easy option for replenishing electrolytes. Electrolyte powders can be thought of as a mixture of concentrates and capsules. You mix the electrolyte powder directly into your water or beverage, just like a concentrate, but like the capsules, the powder is measured out in the exact amount you need to get the electrolytes your body craves.
Electrolyte powders are incredibly versatile, being either unflavored or lightly flavored, meaning you can mix them into just about any drink. Whether you're adding electrolyte powder to your water bottle or mixing it into your morning smoothie, there are many ways to consume electrolyte powder.
The only thing to look out for with electrolyte powders is to read the label carefully. Electrolyte powders are often sold in supermarkets alongside other drink mixes that have no health or hydration benefits, making it easy to accidentally choose the wrong powder. Always check the label to make sure you are actually buying an electrolyte specific powder and not just added sugar and coloring to your water!
Foods high in electrolytes
We've already established that people used to get all the electrolytes they need directly from their diet, but that's no longer the case.
Not only are many people today not consuming enough natural foods, such as fruits and vegetables, to be adequately supplied with electrolytes, but also that water is now overly purified and filtered to remove the naturally occurring minerals that keep us used to help stay hydrated.
This means that people today need to be very careful about what they eat and drink to avoid dehydration and prevent electrolyte imbalance.
Even people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables can be at risk of an electrolyte deficiency. Due to unsustainable farming practices, the soil on which many commercial fruits and vegetables are grown often does not contain the electrolytes and minerals your body needs. Spinach, kale, and other vegetables are particularly likely to have lower levels of electrolytes than would be expected when grown on over-cultivated soils.
As such, an electrolyte drink can be an insurance policy of sorts, helping you stay hydrated no matter where your food was grown.
Nonetheless, choosing foods high in electrolytes and nutrients that support healthy hydration is incredibly important to keeping your body functioning, feeling good, and performing at its best.
Make sure you're eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein because these foods are naturally rich in electrolytes and nutrients you need for your daily activities.
When it comes to what to drink throughout the day, choose beverages that are naturally high in electrolytes, like water, milk, and limited amounts of coffee and tea.
The bottom line
Our bodies need electrolytes to function properly. Without them, our muscles cannot contract properly, our nerves cannot carry messages throughout the body, our internal pH balance is not maintained, and we become dehydrated. That's why it's so important to make sure you're getting the electrolytes you need.
The seven electrolytes in the body include sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, phosphate and bicarbonate. Although each of them serves slightly different functions, all electrolytes are needed to keep the body in peak condition.
Electrolyte deficiencies are most likely to occur in the very young or very old, but anyone can develop an electrolyte deficiency. If you sweat profusely during exercise, drink too much alcohol, work in the heat, or suffer from various health conditions, you are at a higher risk of imbalance. If you have symptoms like muscle spasms, dizziness, mental confusion, or an irregular heartbeat, you could be suffering from an electrolyte deficiency.
Eating a diet rich in whole foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein, is important to preventing an electrolyte imbalance and keeping your body functioning properly. While drinking water is helpful, it is not enough on its own because today's water is over-purified and lacks the minerals your body needs.
Instead, an electrolyte blend like le melo can help your body get the electrolytes it needs without the added sugar, calories, carbohydrates, and artificial colors found in commercial sports drinks . They are also suitable for vegans!
Don't wait until it's too late and your performance starts to suffer. Incorporate an electrolyte supplement into your daily routine and start feeling better.