What are electrolytes?
Chemically speaking, electrolytes are substances that become ions in solutions and acquire the capacity to conduct electricity. They are present in the human body, and the balance of electrolytes in our bodies is essential for normal function of our cells and organs.
They are what your cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle cells) use to maintain voltages across their membranes and carry the electrical impulses (consisting of nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells, basically controlling how cells communicate with each other and how efficiently they take in nutrients and expel waste, etc, allowing them to function as a whole within the body
Your kidneys work to keep the electrolyte concentrations balanced in your blood despite changes in your body. When you exercise heavily, you lose electrolytes in your sweat, particularly sodium and potassium. These electrolytes must be replaced to keep the electrolyte concentrations of your body fluids constant. That is what sports drinks were originally designed to do-replenish the sodium and potassium that was lost during exercise, unfortunately now they are concoctions made up of sugar and chemicals. You will find a natural recipe for an electrolyte rich beverage at the bottom of the post.
The major electrolytes:
- sodium (Na+)
- potassium (K+)
- chloride (Cl-)
- calcium (Ca2+)
- magnesium (Mg2+)
- bicarbonate (HCO3-)
- phosphate (PO42-)
- sulfate (SO42-)
Sodium and Cancer–In the book ‘Beating Cancer with Nutrition‘ the author Patrick Quillin states that, “The ratio of minerals in the “electrolyte soup” that drives cell membrane potential also influences cell membrane dynamics. The ratio of sodium to potassium to calcium to magnesium is crucial. We also have a need for the ultra-trace minerals that are found in the ocean at about 1% concentration, but are missing from standard commercial salt. Potassium is found primarily in unprocessed plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. Sodium is in all foods, with higher concentrations in animal foods, and much more in processed foods. Americans eat 10 times the sodium that our ancestors consumed. An ideal ratio of sodium to potassium would be 1 to 4, but ours is 4 to 1. By drastically changing this ratio, we have changed the “electrolyte soup” that bathes our cells and creates the electrical battery of life. High sodium diets also create an acidic environment within the body and increase both cancer incidence and metastasis.”
Table salt vs sea salt: Ordinary table salt undergoes a great deal of processing that includes bleaching and drying at over 1200 degrees. This high heat alters the natural chemical structure of the salt. Table salt is approximately 97.5% sodium chloride with 2.5% consisting of added moisture absorbents, anti-caking additives, and iodine.
For every gram of excess sodium chloride that your body has to neutralize, it uses up 23 grams of cellular water. Therefore, eating too much sodium can cause fluid to accumulate in your tissues, which may contribute to:
- Unsightly cellulite
- Rheumatism, arthritis and gout
- Kidney and gall bladder stones
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
In contrast, unrefined natural salt, (such as Celtic or Himalayan Sea Salt, is 84% sodium chloride and 16% naturally occurring minerals, including 82 trace minerals that do not go through any heat processing that may alter its chemical structure.
To correct any dietary imbalances you should also eliminate intake of processed foods which are high in processed sodium.
Unrefined natural salt is important to many biological processes including:
- is a major component of your blood plasma, lymphatic, extracellular and amniotic fluids
- Helps carry nutrients into and out of your cells
- Helping the lining of your blood vessels to regulate blood pressure
- Helping you regulate propagation of nerve impulses
- Helping your brain send communication signals to your muscles, so that you can move on demand (sodium-potassium ion exchange).
Potassium –(an electrolyte) is necessary for the function of all living cells. Potassium ion diffusion is a key mechanism in nerve transmission, and potassium depletion in animals, including humans, results in various cardiac dysfunctions. Potassium is found in especially high concentrations within plant cells, and in a mixed diet that is mostly concentrated in fruits.
Potassium rich foods- Apricots (dried) Avocados, Bananas, Beets, Brussels Sprouts, Cantaloupe, Dates, Figs, Kiwi, Lima beans, Honeydew, Milk, Nectarines, Orange juice, oranges, Pears, Peanuts, Potatoes, Prune juice, Prunes, Raisins, Spinach, Tomato products, Winter squash, Yogurt, avocado
Calcium- (an electrolyte) which works in conjunction with various parts of the body such as helping to control the pace of your heart, allows nutrients to move in and out of the cells in the body, and plays a crucial role in nerve and muscle function. Calcium is even known to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Most calcium supplements are made from either calcium carbonate or calcium citrate, both of which are difficult for the body to utilize, and carry side effects with excessive use. Work on getting calcium from food sources and if you choose to supplement, look for a raw, plant-derived source of calcium that includes the necessary mineral companions like vitamin D3, magnesium and vitamin K2 such as Garden of Life Raw Calcium
Foods high in calcium Sesame seeds, spinach, collard greens, black strap molasses, kelp, broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, kale, Brazil nuts, almonds, celery, flax seeds, oranges, leeks,
Magnesium- (an electrolyte) It is estimated that 75% of Americans are deficient in Magnesium which plays an important role in cell health and is an active component in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body such as normal muscle and nerve function, keeping the heart rhythm steady, support a healthy immune system, and strengthening bones. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. There is an interest in the role that magnesium plays in preventing and managing hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer development.
Food sources of magnesium- green vegetables (such as spinach, beans, okra, broccoli, and peas), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax, almonds, raw cacao, dill, basil, chives and whole, unrefined grains.
Supplementing with magnesium– In a study that compared the various forms of magnesium supplements, results suggested lower bio-availability of magnesium oxide, with significantly higher and equal absorption and bio-availability of magnesium chloride, magnesium citrate, magnesium malate, and magnesium lactate. Your body will also absorb magnesium by taking Epsom salt soaking baths.
A natural drink to replace electrolytes
- 1/2 cup freshly pressed orange juice
- 1/4 cup freshly pressed lemon juice
- 2 cups of filtered water or Coconut Water.
- 2 tbsp raw honey or pure maple syrup
- 1/8 tsp Pink Himalayan Salt
- Blend all ingredients in a blender until mixed.
Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency