Hydration 101: Electrolytes and their Functions in Our Body
Are you suffering from chronic diarrhoea and vomiting? Are you feeling tired most of the time and your skin looks dull and less elastic? Is your blood pressure level steadily decreasing over the past few weeks or months? Do you feel like you’re in the verge of fainting frequently than in the previous years?
If your answer to most of these questions is a resounding YES, you might be experiencing the health-damaging effects of electrolyte imbalance. Healthline says the illnesses mentioned previously are some of the symptoms felt by people with electrolyte disorder. Dizziness, fatigue, weak muscles, headache, heightened irritability and convulsions are also known signs of electrolyte imbalance.
Electrolyte: In a Gist
The word ‘electrolyte’ is actually the scientific term for salts or ions, which is electrically-charged. Specifically, this can either be positively-charged (anode) or negatively-charged (cathode) ions. And for us to stay healthy, our body needs to have a balanced number of cathodes and anodes. Otherwise, signs of electrolyte imbalance will start to emerge, signalling the onset of health issues. Specifically, individuals who lack the necessary electrolytes can start to feel that their heart rate is faster than the usual and they’d begin to develop chronic nausea or lethargy.
We acquire electrolytes via the food we eat, as well as from liquids and supplements. Specifically, there are six ions commonly found in our body. The first is Calcium, which is mainly responsible for building and maintaining strong bones. This also affects muscle and nerve functions, especially muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. Sodium is another important electrolyte. As the dominant positive ion in the body, it regulates the body’s water content. Apart from this, this also aides nerve communication in the nervous system. Yes, the presence of sodium hastens up body processes, but too much of this ion can also result to illnesses, especially hypernatremia. Chloride is also a common and this is usually found in the blood and fluid outer layer of cells. Along with sodium, chloride helps control the body’s fluids. Our body also needs Potassium electrolytes. This is the dominant cathode inside our cells. Potassium is needed to maintain the normal functions of cells and muscles. We also need Magnesium. This mineral helps convert blood sugar into energy for the body. Besides, magnesium also supports the body’s over 300 enzyme reactions. Phosphate is also an essential electrolyte. This mineral aides the absorption of calcium in the bones, as well as regulate the blood’s acidity level.
Why We Need Electrolytes?
Electrolyte is basically what fuels our body. Yes, there are many reasons explaining the necessity of ions in the body. However, these can be summarised into three points:
- Steer clear from electrolyte imbalance and disorders – Imbalances can either be a ‘hypo’ (low) or ‘hyper’ (high) prefixed to the electrolyte’s scientific name. For instance, hyponatremia refers to a lack of sodium in the body and hypernatremia signifies high sodium content. With a balanced number of electrolytes, we’ll be able to lower our risk of developing the extremes of ion content in our body.
- Replenish, hydrate and restore the body – Electrolytes fuel our body. However, we’ll lose these through sweating, severe burns, vomiting, diarrhoea, alcohol intake and too much caffeine consumption. If we want to keep going and sustain our energy, it’s best to take in foods rich in nutrients we need.
- Maintain a healthy and fit body – Apart from regular exercise and proper diet, making sure we have the right dose of cathodes and anions can help us maintain a fit and healthy body.
Ways to Acquire the Much-Needed Electrolytes
So where can you best get the nutrients you need? Apart from vitamins, there are only two best sources of electrolytes:
- Proper Diet – Indulge in foods rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and sodium to get these nutrients. Quick tip: Opt for organic foods because these are healthier than processed types, which may already contain synthetic ingredients.
- Liquid Supplements – Grab a bottle of electrolyte drinks whenever you feel that you’re dehydrated, especially if you’re working on physically exhausting jobs. There are flavoured drinks, which are also more refreshing than plain water.
Electrolytes play a vital role in our body, knowing these keep our bones, muscles and cells fully functional. In the long run, eating right and taking in supplements such as vitamins, energy drink powder and electrolyte drinks are two of the best ways to balance our body’s ion content and keep our body healthy.