Why Electrolytes are important

Why Electrolytes are important

When we hear the word Electrolytes many associate it with sports of being sick.  They know the importance of making sure you have them.  So what are they and why do you need them?

Electrolytes are minerals in the body that carry an electric charge and are essential for various bodily functions. They include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate, and bicarbonate. These minerals help regulate fluid balance, maintain proper nerve and muscle function, support hydration, and facilitate other important processes in the body. Electrolytes are typically obtained through the consumption of certain foods and beverages, and they can also be replenished through oral rehydration solutions or intravenous fluids in cases of dehydration or electrolyte imbalances.

Electrolytes play several crucial roles in maintaining a healthy body:

1. Fluid balance: Electrolytes help regulate the amount of water in the body and ensure proper hydration. They control the movement of fluids between cells, tissues, and the bloodstream, maintaining the balance necessary for optimal bodily functions.

2. Nerve function: Electrolytes are involved in transmitting electrical impulses along nerves, allowing for proper communication between the brain and various parts of the body. Sodium, potassium, and calcium ions are particularly important for nerve signaling.

3. Muscle function: Electrolytes are essential for muscle contraction and relaxation. They help maintain the proper balance of ions inside and outside muscle cells, allowing muscles to contract and relax efficiently. Calcium, potassium, and magnesium are particularly important for muscle function.

4. pH balance: Electrolytes help regulate the body’s acid-base balance, maintaining a stable pH level. They act as buffers, preventing excessive acidity or alkalinity in the body, which is crucial for normal cell function.

5. Nutrient absorption: Electrolytes facilitate the absorption of nutrients in the digestive system. Sodium, potassium, and chloride ions, for example, are involved in the transport of nutrients across cell membranes.

6. Waste removal: Electrolytes help in the elimination of waste products from the body. They assist in maintaining proper kidney function, which filters waste and toxins from the blood and excretes them in urine.

If you are wondering how much you need daily of the major ones here is what is needed for someone that is 18 or older. 

  • Sodium: 500 milligrams
  • Chloride: 750 milligrams
  • Potassium: 2,000 milligrams
  • Magnesium: 400 milligrams
  • Phosphorus: 700 milligrams
  • Calcium: 1000-1200 milligrams

Bicarbonate: Usually determined by your doctor because it is done by body weight.

Electrolytes are especially important for our heart.  The two that are important are potassium and phosphorus.  If there are too many high or too low there can be some major problems with your heart.  

When your electrolytes are low, it can lead to an electrolyte imbalance in your body. Electrolytes are essential for various bodily functions. They include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate.

Low electrolyte levels can occur due to excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, kidney problems, certain medications, or inadequate intake of these minerals. The consequences of low electrolytes can vary depending on which electrolyte is affected and the severity of the imbalance. Some common symptoms and effects of low electrolytes include:

 Muscle cramps: Low levels of electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium can cause muscle cramps, spasms, or weakness.

2. Fatigue and weakness: Electrolyte imbalances can lead to fatigue, weakness, and a general lack of energy.

3. Irregular heartbeat: Electrolytes like potassium and calcium play a crucial role in maintaining the electrical signals that regulate your heartbeat. Low levels of these electrolytes can cause irregular heart rhythms or palpitations.

4. Dizziness and lightheadedness: Low electrolyte levels can affect blood pressure and fluid balance, leading to dizziness or lightheadedness.

5. Nausea and vomiting: Electrolyte imbalances can cause gastrointestinal disturbances, including nausea and vomiting.

6. Headaches: Low electrolyte levels, particularly sodium, can contribute to headaches or migraines.

7. Confusion and cognitive changes: Severe electrolyte imbalances, especially low sodium levels, can affect brain function, leading to confusion, difficulty concentrating, or even seizures.

8. Fluid imbalances: Electrolytes help regulate fluid balance in the body. Low electrolyte levels can disrupt this balance, leading to dehydration or fluid retention.

It is important to maintain proper electrolyte balance for optimal bodily function. If you experience persistent symptoms or suspect an electrolyte imbalance, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Overall, electrolytes are vital for maintaining proper bodily functions, including hydration, nerve and muscle function, pH balance, nutrient absorption, and waste removal.

The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or health provider before starting a new health regime or program. Do not ignore medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you’ve read on this site.

Michelle LeSueur BeP, CNC, CSN, CNS, CPT