The Importance Of Electrolytes

April 13th, 2011 by Joanna

I wanted to share an interesting article that I found recently as we will soon be in the heat of summer and sweating quite a bit. Losing electrolytes will have a negative impact on our health if it goes unchecked and therefore will impact the condition of our skin negatively. So please read on and don’t forget to share it with your friends.

Electrolytes are minerals in your blood and other body fluids that carry an electric charge.  They seem complicated, but it is important to know about them because they are needed to maintain homeostasis in the body.  Without a proper amount of electrolytes, you will become dehydrated, fatigued, light headed, and you will experience muscle cramps.  Primary electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, hydrogen phosphate, and hydrogen carbonate.  They are all basically just salts and can be obtained through a proper diet and hydration. 

Electrolytes are used by the cells in order to carry on their basic functions.  Without them, you would not be able to think, walk, or talk.  Electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium, are lost daily through sweat.  They need to be replenished, especially after exercise, by drinking sports drinks or eating electrolyte dense food.  This is the reason why athletes drink Gatorade and Powerade during and after exercise.  The electrolytes keep their energy levels up so they can keep going with their physical activity.

Potassium, a well known electrolyte, plays an important role in regulating blood pressure, bone mass, heart function, and plenty of processes in the body.  People with potassium deficiencies are said to be hyperkalemic.  This can be caused by going on too many fad diets and excessive amounts of sweating without electrolyte replenishment.  Foods that contain high amounts of potassium include: bananas, avocados, oranges, apricots, broccoli, carrots, squash, tomatoes, and cucumber. If you eat a diet rich with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products, your blood potassium levels should be at a healthy level.  Be sure not to eat an excess of potassium because this can pose health problems which is why potassium supplements are not recommended unless they are absolutely needed.

Another well known electrolyte is sodium.  It is not hard to get a proper amount of sodium these days.  Almost every food item has at least a little sodium in it.  However, it is still necessary for you to make up the amounts of sodium lost to your body after you exercise.  Sodium is needed in the body to control blood pressure and hydration.  However, an excess amount of sodium in the diet can cause health problems such as high blood pressure and water retention, so be sure to consume it in moderation.   Foods that naturally contain sodium are meat, fish, dairy products, and vegetables.  Emphasize these foods in your diet instead of processed foods that contain unnatural amounts of sodium that are only there to enhance taste and sustain shelf life.

Without magnesium, our muscles would not be able to contract.  Certain enzymes would not be able to function, and proteins and energy would not be produced.  Clearly, magnesium is an essential mineral to incorporate into your everyday diet and to replenish yourself with.  Most dietary magnesium can be found in green, leafy vegetables but can also be obtained from fruit, nuts, and whole grains.  It’s an important electrolyte that regularly be found in sports drinks.  If you are deficient in magnesium, you will feel sleepy and notice a weakness in your muscles. 

Calcium is important for the proper functioning and building of bones.  Without proper amounts of it, bones will break down leading to osteoporosis.  It can be found in dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and milk.  It can also be found in most sports drinks.  Be sure to obtain your recommended amount of calcium every day and to provide your body with more if you exercise

All electrolytes are essential in the human diet.  The most recognized electrolytes are potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium.  Do not forget to incorporate them all into your diet to avoid deficiencies and other health issues.  If you exercise regularly, remember to keep yourself hydrated not only with water, but with sports drinks.  If sports drinks aren’t your thing, eat a nutritious snack after every work out.   

Brianna Elliott is a contributor for ProbioticSmart.com (a cross-species health blog on the web) as well as PSCLife.com, a reliable low-price leader in health supplements and Probiotics.