Electrolytes: A Key Factor In Hydration

Electrolytes: A Key Factor in Hydration

I have written often about the importance of hydration. Drinking actual water without additives is vital for supplying your body with what plays an essential part in its function. Electrolytes play a key role in effective hydration. They are especially important in the summer when temperatures rise. Not only are we more likely to sweat, but increased activity will increase water loss.

Electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, and magnesium. They regulate the electric charge and flow of water molecules across our cell membranes. In the process of doing this, they play a part in numerous body functions.

The Vital Role Of Electrolytes

Calcium – helps your body with muscle contractions and movement, cell division, nerve signaling, blood clotting, and formation and maintenance of bones and teeth.

Potassium – helps with blood pressure, muscle function, bone health, nerve impulses, balance, and heart contractions.

Sodium – helps maintain fluid balance, nerve signaling, blood pressure, and muscle contractions.

Chloride – helps maintain fluid balance, healthy pH balance, and bolsters digestion.

Magnesium, the master electrolyte – helps with muscle contractions, nerve function, bone building and strength, digestion, heart rhythms, blood glucose levels, immune system, and sustaining a stable protein-fluid balance.

Causes Of Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolyte levels normally fluctuate due to a variety of factors in our daily lives. These include:

  • Fluid loss from heavy exercise
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Diets heavy in processed foods
  • Malabsorption due to poor digestion
  • Medications, including blood pressure meds, diuretics, corticosteroids, antibiotics, and chemotherapy treatments

Symptoms Of Electrolyte Imbalance

Because electrolytes are involved in a wide variety of functions in your body, an imbalance can often result in noticeable symptoms.

Dizziness – when sodium levels rise too quickly, you can feel dizzy or weak.

Fatigue – if your magnesium or potassium drops, you may feel tired.

Muscle Spasms – if you experience muscle spasms or cramps during physical activity, it is likely due to an abrupt drop in potassium, magnesium, or calcium, and related dehydration.

Heart Palpitations – a rise in potassium or calcium levels can interfere with signals between nerves and muscles. This can cause a rapid heart rhythm.

Low Blood Pressure – magnesium imbalance is associated with changes in blood pressure. High levels may cause low blood pressure, while low levels may lead to high blood pressure.

Headaches – experiencing headaches or migraines on a regular basis may be related to low magnesium levels or dehydration.

Water That “Goes Through You” – I have had clients who say that they drink a lot of water (a bottle every couple of hours) but they feel that it goes right through them. In this case, we review the type of water they are drinking and experiment with the addition of electrolytes to their water 1-2 times a day. Low electrolytes can prevent the water from crossing the cell membrane to be used in the cell.

How To Improve Electrolyte Balance

I often find the culprit of electrolyte imbalance is a poor diet that includes very little vegetables. Vegetables, and fruit, provide trace minerals that your body can use, including electrolytes. Here is where a salad with the colors of the rainbow can really benefit your body.

A diet that includes a lot of processed food has been stripped of many nutrients. For the sake of preservation and faster cooking, processed food usually has an abundance of table salt added. Both of these factors are working against you and your body.

Iodized table salt has been common my whole life. I have learned, however, that it is not beneficial for the body. Table salts are chemically synthesized and isolated forms of sodium chloride. It contains no trace minerals and too much sodium. Though iodine can be beneficial, the negative aspects of the salt outweigh those benefits.

I recommend Himalayan Salt or Redmond Real Salt to my clients and to you. These natural salts contain over 80 trace minerals, including electrolytes. If you are craving salty foods, it is likely that your body is actually craving trace minerals.

A Replenishing Beverage

You will see a lot of beverages advertised to boost your electrolytes. But I caution you to read the label before you purchase. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade may have some electrolytes, but they are really glorified sodas. Their sugar or artificial sweetener nullifies their benefit.

There are electrolyte powders you can add to water. Of these, I recommend Ultima, LMNT, or Liquid IV brands. Another option would be to drink a cup (8 oz) of coconut water.

For those who want a DIY electrolyte drink, add the juice of a lemon and a pinch of natural salt (noted above) to your water bottle. You can also add a teaspoon of magnesium powder (Garden of Life Whole Food Magnesium or Natural Vitality Calm) to the water. Shake it up and chug-a-lug.

Enjoy your summer in whatever way you choose. While you are having fun, I hope you will be mindful of your body’s need for electrolytes to balance hydration and enable good function.

Have you noticed some of the symptoms I noted here? If so, what approach will you take to bring electrolytes into balance?

Kelly Lutman Pursue Wellness

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