What is an Electrolyte

By Pharmacist Anusuya Kashi

What is an electrolyte

trace mineral electrolytes

Electrolytes are Important

There are complex mechanisms that carefully control the concentration of the different electrolytes in the human body.

This is vital, since electrolytes play such a critical role in various bodily functions, including muscle and nerve operation.

Electrolyte levels have a direct impact on how much water is retained in the body. Not only do they affect hydration, but also blood pressure and the pH of the blood.

Muscle and nerve function

Neurons and muscles in the body are considered electric tissues. Electrical activity drives a large number of activities, such as muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve impulses.

For example, muscle contraction requires a particular concentration of calcium, potassium and sodium ions. Any change in the levels of these electrolytes can lead to too little contraction or too strong a contraction. This, in turn, can lead to major problems in muscle function. 

Dehydration alters electrolyte balance

The amount of water in the body is directly related to the concentration of electrolytes it holds.

Whenever a person becomes dehydrated, there is corresponding change in the level of electrolytes. This electrolyte imbalance can lead to several problems in the normal functioning of the body.

Causes of Electrolyte Imbalance

Whenever there is fluid loss in the body, there is also a loss of electrolytes.

Common conditions of fluid loss include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea 

  • Working hard, especially in a warm environment

  • Strenuous exercise that causes heavy sweating

  • Diuretics, including medications, caffeine and alcohol

Symptoms of Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolyte imbalance is a potentially dangerous situation. It is important to diagnose it early.

Some of the most common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include:

  • Swollen ankles

  • Headaches

  • Weakness 

  • Muscle cramps or spasms

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Changes in blood pressure

  • Twitching movements

  • Numbness

  • Unexplained fatigue

  • Confusion

  • Convulsions 

  • Nervous system disorders

When there is a loss of body fluid, it is vital that this fluid, plus the electrolytes it contained, be replenished.

4 Ways to Replenish Electrolytes

1. Eat foods high in electrolytes

Many vegetables and fruits are rich in minerals and regular consumption of these can help to keep electrolyte levels within a healthy range.

  • Greens, cowpeas and soybeans are rich in calcium

  • Artichoke hearts, legumes, walnuts, peanuts and okra are rich in magnesium

  • Bananas, sweet potatoes, lentils, lima beans and apricots are rich in potassium

  • Sardines, olives, sauerkraut, celery, beef and pork are rich in chloride as well as sodium

  • Sushi and seaweeds are rich in trace mineral electrolytes

2. Drink juices containing electrolytes

electrolyte juices

Although fruits are rich in electrolytes, it may be inconvenient to consume them regularly.

If time is a constraint, it makes sense to occasionally drink natural fruit or vegetable juices made from whole fruits and vegetables.

These juices contain the same electrolytes as the plants they were taken from and can help to replenish electrolytes.

3. Sports electrolyte drinks

Several drinks are helpful for electrolyte replacement.

Quite a few of these, such as Gatorade, are marketed specifically as sports drinks for their ability to replenish electrolytes lost during exercise.

Although the commercially available sports drinks are a source of the vital electrolytes, they have their shortcomings.

  • Most only list one or two electrolytes on their label, like sodium and potassium. While these are important, chloride and magnesium, as well as numerous trace mineral electrolytes, are also important.

  • Most contain huge quantities of refined sugars that are not beneficial to one’s health. While these drinks may replenish some of the electrolytes lost during exercise, they unnecessarily burden the user with empty calories.

  • Most contain numerous other chemicals, including preservatives, artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, and some contain aspartame or other dangerous artificial sweeteners.

It makes sense to look for an electrolyte drink that contains the needed minerals but not the other additives.

4. Make your own electrolyte drink

Sea minerals contain potassium, chloride, magnesium and sodium, plus they also contain trace mineral electrolytes.

Making your own electrolyte drink mix with Ionic Sea Minerals as an ingredient may be the perfect solution for maintaining or replacing electrolytes.

A simple electrolyte drink recipe

  • ½ to 1 teaspoon of Ionic Sea Minerals (depending on how strong you want it)

  • 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt (Ionic Sea Minerals are low in sodium) 

  • 2 liters of water

This refreshing drink can provide all the electrolytes necessary to replenish what was lost from heavy sweating, vomiting, diarrhea or from the use of a diuretic.

One of the best ways to flavor this homemade electrolyte drink is to add in some lemonade.

In a taste test of major brands of natural lemonades, Crystal Light Pure (Amazon, crystal light pure) had the mildest, most pleasing taste.

Of course, you can experiment to find the flavoring that you like best.

Electrolytes for Children

Children are more at risk than adults for dehydration and subsequent electrolyte imbalance.

This is especially true of infants and young children who have a sickness that results in vomiting or diarrhea.

The above electrolyte drink can be very beneficial for such children. When given with a delicious flavoring, it is a great way to help them to rehydrate. 

Electrolytes for Horses

Animals like race horses that are exercised hard also need a good electrolyte product. Just giving a horse water to drink will not replenish needed electrolytes, nor will a salt lick.

If the horse grazes, fertilizing with a sea mineral fertilizer is a great way to get them the electrolytes they need. A sea mineral concentrate may also be added to their drinking water.

Conclusion, what is an electrolyte

When someone suffers from dehydration due to excessive sweating, diarrhea or vomiting, the body suffers from the loss of both fluids and electrolytes.

A loss of electrolytes can affect all major bodily functions and therefore, it is imperative to make up for any such loss.

There are numerous ways to replenish lost electrolytes, including through foods, drinks, sports drinks and a home-made electrolyte drink.

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