In a nutshell, electrolytes are a group of minerals or elements that have an electric charge. They are usually found in urine, tissues, blood and in other body fluids. Chlorine, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium and phosphate are all electrolytes. We typically obtain them from various foods that we consume and the fluids that we drink. The electrolytes levels in the body can fluctuate, becoming either too low or too high. This usually occurs when the amount of water in the body changes. It is important that the water you take in should equal to the amount you lose. When you are either dehydrated or overhydrated, it upsets the balance. This is one of the reasons why you should always stay hydrated. There are other factors such as medications and even ailments such as sweating, diarrhoea, vomiting, kidney problems and even liver problems can disrupt water balance in the body.
How Do Electrolytes Affect the Health?
Most of you would be aware that most of the body’s composition about 60 to 70% is made up of fluids. Blood being the largest fluid connective tissue that is responsible for transporting nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. It is typically made of plasma, which is made up of 90% water, and several types of cells. It is through water that all the nutrients and ions are carried to the tissues. Apart from that, water also affects cerebrospinal fluid, aqueous humour, interstitial fluid, lymph and several other fluids found in different tissues of the body. These fluids are all comprised of dissolved ions and water, which essentially means that your body runs on electrolytes.
Function of Electrolytes
Electrolytes carry out a number of physiological activities, including transmitting nerve impulses at synaptic junctions, ensuring the optimal functioning of the kidney, being responsible for knee reflex and even blood clotting. Electrolytes also supervise cell division and even rhythmic heartbeat. All these activities in the body are solely dependent on the release of the capture of ions, which are derived from electrolytes. It is the electrolytes that are found in the body that function as a reservoir of ions. Respective cells can utilise these ions for specific and specialised functions in the body. This essentially means that if there is a lack of electrolyte concentration in the body, most if not all of these processes will come to a halt, going so far as to cause acute disorders or even a breakdown. Hence, it is imperative to maintain the proper fluid and electrolyte balance in the body.
Common Electrolytes in the Body
Sodium is not just the primary ion of fluid between cells, but it also tasked with regulating the volume of extracellular fluid. Additionally, it is also responsible for maintaining the overall pH balance as well. Typically, the sodium levels in the body are regulated. In fact, the kidneys manage the homeostasis or seek to achieve and maintain stable sodium levels in the body. It is important to note that the level of sodium in your body affects the amount of sodium that is excreted as a waste product. In any case, sodium is a necessary element for the vital cellular process in the body.
Unlike sodium which is present outside of the cells, potassium is found inside the cells. Potassium is necessary for muscle contraction, managing nominal blood pressure levels in the body, which prevents or lowers the risk of various chronic conditions from developing in the body. Apart from that, potassium also supervises nerve impulse transmission. This is crucial for the upkeep of the nervous system and overall smooth nerve transmission in the body. Moreover, potassium is essential for the function of several key enzymes, some of which are important for carbohydrate metabolism and for producing biological reactions in the body. Potassium can be found in a number of foods, including prunes, tomato juice, plums, raisins, and bananas. Ensure that when you are switching your diet or incorporating these foods that you are meeting your body’s nutritional needs.
As one of the main negatively charged ions, chloride is responsible for reacting with hydrogen ions to form gastric juice. Chloride is also necessary for maintaining electrolyte balance in the body, managing ion channels land gateways and body fluid regulation. Working with other electrolytes including sodium and potassium is another important role that chloride plays in the body. Additionally, it helps to balance bases and acids, moves fluids in and out of the cells ensuring that you will not suffer dehydration or become sick if your chloride levels drop. It’s helpful to note that if your kidneys aren’t working properly, it means that the chloride levels in the body are too high.
Magnesium ions are typically found in the intracellular fluid. Magnesium is crucial for enzyme stability and the synthesis of fat, nucleic acids and proteins. Moreover, magnesium is needed for muscle contraction, the regulation of heart rhythm, bone formation and blood clotting. The mineral also regulates diverse biochemical reactions in the body and contributes to regular heart rhythm. Magnesium can be obtained from nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and green leafy vegetables such as spinach.