We have all heard of electrolytes, but not many of us actually know what they do—besides being a key part of Gatorade commercials.
This article will address the importance of electrolytes in our bodies, what they are, what they do, and the sign and causes of electrolyte deficiency.
Electrolytes are important minerals stored in your body. The main electrolyte minerals include sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and bicarbonate.
They are called electrolytes because they are electrically charged. These minerals perform important functions throughout the body.
They regulate the amount of water in our bodies, control muscle action, regulate blood chemistry, and are crucial for nerve functions.
When our electrolytes become depleted, we may experience symptoms of electrolyte deficiency.
A deficiency in electrolytes is a mineral deficiency usually tied to dehydration, sweating, and or a bad diet. Rarer causes can be kidney disease, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
Most electrolyte problems involve deficiencies in sodium, potassium, or calcium.
Mild deficiency is usually caused by excess sweating. It can also be caused by vomiting or diarrhea, which depletes large quantities of fluids from your body.
More serious causes can be Addison’s disease, diabetes, heat exhaustion, heart disease, or kidney disease. Electrolyte deficiency can also be a by-product of cancer.
Mild symptoms of deficiency include:
If you experience any of these symptoms, you may suffer from mineral deficiency. The easiest way to remedy this is to drink plenty of fluids, stay in a cool area, and eat foods to replenish the depleted minerals.
Since electrolyte deficiency is most often caused by dehydration and excess sweating leaching out these minerals, you will want to stay hydrated and focus on eating specific mineral-rich foods, such as bananas for potassium, salty snacks for sodium, and so forth.
In addition, there are different multi-vitamin and multi-mineral supplements (in liquid, powder, or pill form) that can help keep your electrolyte levels balanced.
A few of the better electrolyte products are:
Trace Minerals Research Electrolytes -- available in liquid, tablets or powder packets
Serious endurance athletes, skiiers, snowboarders, and hikers may also want to consider a Camelbak Hydration Pak.
Serious symptoms of deficiency include:
If you experience any of these serious symptoms, seek immediate medical care. They can be a sign of a greater problem occurring in your body such as heart disease or kidney failure.
Your doctor will test your blood and find out what specific minerals you are lacking and why.
Our bodies need vital electrically charged minerals to stay healthy. Much of the food we eat contains these essential minerals, so we want to choose a diverse range of foods to hit all the major minerals.
And as always, stay hydrated with clean, filtered drinking water.