Electrolytes:What they are and why you need them to stay healthy.
If feeling good and performing at your best 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 does not contain the natural electrolytes we used to consume in our daily lives. These electrolytes are important for maintaining basic body functions, but what are electrolytes and why do you need them to stay healthy.
What are electrolytes?
Most people have heard of electrolytes - no wonder with all the commercials for sports drinks. But few 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 various parts 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 most of their electrolytes from their diet.
Everyone needs to take in the required amounts of each electrolyte to maintain proper body function. Without adequate intake, deficiencies can occur. Electrolytes are lost primarily through sweat, blood, urine and other body fluids.
The body needs electrolytes to perform a number of important functions, including:
- Muscle function
- Proper hydration
- Nervous system function .
- 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 several ways, such as by carrying water to the different parts of the body that need it and by helping to maintain the proper balance of fluids inside and outside the cells through a process called osmosis. In osmosis, water moves from one side of the cell membrane, where the electrolyte mixture is diluted, to the other side, where the electrolytes are more concentrated.
When the electrolyte balance is balanced, osmosis prevents the cells from becoming too full of water or losing too much water.
When our bodies are low in electrolytes, dehydration occurs quickly because our bodies are unable to regulate the amount of water that leaves the cells and the body as a whole.
Dehydration can be caused by not enough water, but also by an imbalance of electrolytes.
Our nervous system is driven.
The body uses electrolytes to facilitate the transmission of messages from the brain to the cells and vice versa, which drives our nervous system. The brain communicates with cells by sending electrical signals to nerve cells in the body. These electrical signals occur when the electrical charge of the nerve cell membrane is changed.
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 triggering 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 slide into each other and push over each other to allow muscles to shorten and contract.
An adequate supply of magnesium is necessary for 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 the pH level in the body. The body needs to maintain a pH between 7.35 and 7.45 to avoid becoming too acidic or too alkaline, which can lead to a failure of bodily functions.
Bicarbonate is especially important when it comes to maintaining the body's normal pH because 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 water balance and body functioning. 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. Not only does sodium play an important role in maintaining water balance, but it is also needed for muscles and nerves to function properly.
Sodium is naturally absorbed through food, so most people do not need to supplement their sodium intake unless they sweat profusely or salt or work long hours outdoors 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, bread and rolls, pizza, sandwiches, cold cuts and sausages, soup, and burritos and tacos are among the top six sources of sodium in the Western diet.
When people have a sodium deficiency, they may experience a condition called hyponatremia. Hyponatremia occurs when sodium in the body is diluted, increasing the amount of water in the body and causing cells to swell. Signs of hyponatremia include nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, loss of energy, restlessness, drowsiness, irritability, muscle weakness, spasms and cramps. In severe cases, hyponatremia can lead to seizures, coma, or even death. Hyponatremia usually occurs when you drink too much water without replacing your electrolytes.
While too little sodium in your body can lead to dehydration and other scary symptoms, too much sodium can also be problematic. Too much sodium can lead to water retention that makes you feel bloated and distended, but it can also increase your risk for 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 potassium in the body 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 it is also important for muscles to contract properly, which is why most of it is stored in muscles. The body also needs potassium for the nerves to send and receive signals properly.
An estimated 98 percent of Europeans do not consume enough potassium in their diet. This is largely because potassium is naturally found in foods such as fruits and vegetables, which many Americans do not eat enough of. However, potassium deficiency is usually the result of chronic diarrhea or chronic vomiting, not inadequate 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 it most commonly results from chronic vomiting or diarrhea, it can also be caused by excessive sweating and blood loss. Common signs of hypokalemia include weakness and fatigue, muscle cramps and twitching, digestive problems, palpitations, muscle pain and stiffness, tingling and numbness, difficulty breathing and mood swings.
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 amounts 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 the cells. Chloride also helps regulate blood pressure, maintain proper blood volume and maintain proper pH of body fluids.
Most people get most of their chloride needs from table salt, but it is also found in vegetables such as seaweed, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, rye and celery.
Most people take in enough chloride through their diet, but deficiencies can occur when the body loses a lot of fluid quickly through heavy sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting. People who take diuretic medications are also at risk for chloride deficiency. Symptoms of chloride deficiency or hypochloremia include fluid loss, weakness or fatigue, diarrhea or vomiting, dehydration and shortness of breath. It is often accompanied by hyponatremia, which is a low level of sodium in the blood. It is also possible to have too much chloride in the blood. If this is the case, it is usually a sign that the kidneys are not functioning properly, rather than excessive chloride intake.
Magnesium is one of the most important electrolytes because it is needed to carry out more than 600 different cellular reactions. Although magnesium is an incredibly important electrolyte, about two-thirds of Americans do not consume enough magnesium through diet alone.
Among the many functions magnesium performs are DNA production, maintaining a regular, healthy heartbeat, supporting healthy brain function and regulating muscle contractions. Magnesium is naturally found in foods such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, spinach, cashews, peanuts, black beans, potatoes, brown rice and yogurt.
Magnesium deficiency or hypomagnesemia can be caused by inadequate dietary 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 cramps, 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 overstimulated, which can lead to permanent damage or cause stroke or heart failure.
Phosphate is a form of phosphorus. The body contains both charged and uncharged phosphate, with uncharged phosphate, which is stored in the bones, making up about 85 percent of the phosphate in the body. The remaining 15 percent of the phosphate in the body is charged and is found in the cells.
Phosphate is important for building 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 produce energy, build cell membranes and make DNA.
Phosphate is commonly found in foods such as yogurt, milk, salmon, scallops, cheese, chicken, lentils, beef, and potatoes.
Phosphate deficiency is relatively rare, but can occur with poor 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. However, calcium is also an important electrolyte. Most people know how important calcium is for developing strong bones and teeth, but calcium's role as an electrolyte is less well known.
The body needs calcium in its electrolyte form for the 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 found in bones and teeth, but the remaining percent is found in cells.
Calcium is commonly found in foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, green leafy vegetables, baked goods and other products made from enriched flour, as well as in beverages with added calcium.
Calcium deficiency, also called hypocalcemia, may not cause symptoms in the early stages. The more advanced the deficiency and the longer it lasts, the more likely symptoms will occur. 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 cause seizures in otherwise healthy people.
Bicarbonate is one of the lesser-known electrolytes in the body, but that doesn't mean it's not important. Bicarbonate is primarily needed to maintain proper pH balance in the body, but it also works closely with other electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and chloride. In concert with other electrolytes, bicarbonate helps maintain electrical neutrality in cells.
Bicarbonate can be obtained naturally from food, such as 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 are out of balance, dangerous conditions such as acidosis or alkalosis can occur, leading 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 higher risk for electrolyte imbalance or deficiency than others.
The elderly and young children are considered at particular risk for electrolyte imbalance or deficiency because they may have difficulty absorbing the right amount of electrolytes to meet their needs.
Children are smaller than adults and metabolize fluids and electrolytes more quickly, making it difficult for them to absorb 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 an imbalance in electrolyte balance. Older adults are also more likely to take medications such as diuretics, which affect the electrolyte balance in the body. They may also often not eat or drink enough for a variety of reasons, including 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 for electrolyte imbalances or deficiencies, especially if they sweat a lot or are overweight.
One of the main ways electrolytes are lost is through sweat. Therefore, people who sweat a lot in their daily lives need to be especially careful to maintain the proper balance of electrolytes.
Some diseases also increase the risk of electrolyte imbalances and deficiencies.
Conditions that increase the risk for electrolyte imbalance include:
- Alcohol use disorder .
- Congestive heart failure .
- Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia .
- Thyroid disease
- Kidney disease
- Trauma, such as severe burns or bone fractures .
- Disorders of the adrenal cortex
Warning signs (mild).
If you're affected by an electrolyte imbalance, you may not notice it right away. Mild electrolyte imbalances often show no symptoms until they become more severe.
However, there are some warning signs of an electrolyte imbalance that you should watch out for, including:
- Muscle cramps
- Mental confusion .
- Irregular heartbeat
When an electrolyte imbalance becomes more severe, it can cause other symptoms as well.
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include:
- Rapid heartbeat .
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Muscle cramps
- Irregular heartbeat
- Convulsions or seizures
- Cramping in the abdomen
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness and tingling
Reasons to see 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 a more severe electrolyte imbalance can be very dangerous and requires medical attention.
You should definitely seek medical attention if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Drop in blood pressure .
- Decreased elasticity of the skin
- Acceleration of heart rate
- Sunken eyes
These are signs of severe dehydration, and rehydration must be done at a medical facility to properly diagnose and treat the electrolyte deficiency.
How to keep your electrolytes in check.
The best way to avoid an electrolyte deficiency is to support your body's health and water balance by consuming the necessary amount of electrolytes each day.
Each person's electrolyte needs vary slightly depending on activity level, age and medical conditions that can affect electrolyte balance.
While some people are able to get enough electrolytes through food or drink alone, others may need to add electrolyte supplements to their diet, especially if they exercise regularly or work outdoors in a warm environment. In fact, an estimated 50 percent of the population suffers from electrolyte deficiencies 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 also contain unnecessary additives such as sugar, artificial colors, carbohydrates and calories.
Electrolyte concentrates like Hydration by le melo are the perfect alternative for those who know they need to replace electrolytes, but want to avoid the additives that aren't absolutely necessary. You can think of it like a multivitamin for hydration!
Electrolyte concentrates like Low Carb Hydrate by le melo replace the electrolytes you lose during a strenuous or long workout, when you're outdoors, or after a night of drinking, and is also suitable for vegans. It has a natural full spectrum electrolyte profile and contains 0 calories, 0 sugar and no artificial flavors or sweeteners. In short, it's as healthy as you can get! Just because electrolyte concentrates like le melo contain no calories, however, doesn't mean they are devoid of electrolytes. Compared to commercial sports drinks, le melo contains three times the amount of electrolytes you'd find in a supermarket bottle.
Electrolyte concentrates restore the proper balance of electrolytes in your body and help you recover faster.
In addition, a balanced electrolyte level supports your immune system and prepares your body to fight off viruses and other pathogens.
Le melo can easily be mixed into any water bottle, so you don't have to carry around a bulky sports drink. le melo contains no calories, no sugar, and no or low carbohydrates, and is formulated precisely to provide the electrolytes you need. When water isn't enough, le melo helps you feel great and perform at your best.
Electrolyte powders are another convenient and easy option for supplementing electrolytes. Electrolyte powders can be thought of as a mixture of concentrates and capsules. You mix the electrolyte powder directly into your water or drink, just like a concentrate, but like capsules, the powder is measured out in the exact amount you need to get the electrolytes your body craves.
Electrolyte powders are incredibly versatile because they are either unflavored or lightly flavored, which means you can mix them into just about any drink. Whether you add electrolyte powder to your water bottle or mix it into your morning smoothie, you have many options for consuming electrolyte powder.
The one thing you should look for in electrolyte powders is to read the label carefully. Electrolyte powders are often sold in supermarkets with other drink mixes that have no health or hydration benefits, so it's easy to accidentally reach for the wrong powder. Always check the label to make sure you're actually buying an electrolyte-specific powder and not just adding extra sugar and dye to your water!
Foods with high electrolyte content.
We've already established that people used to get all the electrolytes they needed directly from their diet, but that's no longer the case.
Not only do many people today not eat enough natural foods like fruits and vegetables to get adequate electrolytes, but water today is too heavily purified and filtered to remove the naturally occurring minerals that used to help us stay hydrated.
This means that people today need to pay very close attention to what they eat and drink to avoid dehydration and prevent electrolyte imbalances.
Even people who consume a lot of fruits and vegetables can be at risk of electrolyte deficiency. Due to unsustainable farming practices, the soil in which many commercial fruits and vegetables are grown often doesn't contain the electrolytes and minerals your body needs. Spinach, kale and other vegetables are especially likely to have lower electrolyte levels than you would expect if they were grown in overly managed soil.
Therefore, an electrolyte supplement can be a sort of insurance policy to help you stay hydrated, regardless of where your food was grown.
Nonetheless, choosing electrolyte- and nutrient-rich foods 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, as these foods are naturally rich in electrolytes and nutrients that you need for your daily activities.
When it comes to what to drink throughout the day, choose beverages that are naturally rich in electrolytes, such as water, milk and limited amounts of coffee and tea.
The Bottom Line.
Our bodies need electrolytes to function properly. Without them, our muscles can't contract properly, our nerves can't carry messages through the body, our internal pH balance isn't 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 serves slightly different functions, all electrolytes are needed to keep the body in top shape.
Electrolyte deficiencies are most likely to occur in the very young or very old, but anyone can become electrolyte deficient. If you sweat a lot during exercise, drink too much alcohol, work in the heat, or suffer from various health problems, you're at higher risk for an imbalance. If you have symptoms such as muscle cramps, dizziness, mental confusion, or an irregular heartbeat, you could be suffering from an electrolyte deficiency.
To prevent an electrolyte imbalance and keep your body functioning properly, it's important to eat a diet rich in whole foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein. Drinking water, while helpful, is not enough on its own because today's water is over-purified and does not contain the minerals your body needs.
Instead, an electrolyte blend like le melo can help your body get the electrolytes it needs without the added sugars, 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. Include an electrolyte supplement in your daily routine and start feeling better.