What are electrolytes?

What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals found in the body that confer an electric charge. They are responsible for conducting electrical charges required for the cells to communicate with one another. You often hear electrolytes in relation to dehydration. This is because when one is dehydrated, he or she often tends to lose electrolytes, too. There are also instances when there is too much of a particular electrolyte.

 

What are the electrolytes in our bodies?

The main electrolytes of our bodies are Sodium and Potassium (Na and K). The other major electrolytes include Chloride, Calcium, Phosphate, and Magnesium. All of these are required in certain amounts in the body.

 

Sodium

Sodium (Na) is the main electrolyte in the outside of the cells. You probably know that when Na combines with Chloride (Cl), there will be salt or NaCl. Sodium is one of the main factors that regulate fluid inside the body.

 

Potassium

Conversely, potassium is the main electrolyte found inside the cells. They are mainly responsible for muscle contractions, especially that of the heart.

 

Phosphate and Calcium

Phosphate and Calcium are two of the most abundant minerals found in the body. They are responsible for the structure of the cell membrane. They also take part in bone mineralization.

 

What are their roles in the body?

Electrolytes are important components of the human body. They are basically inside every cell of a human being. Thus, an imbalance of any of these electrolytes will affect the body systemically. They conduct electrical charges required for normal cell function. Moreover, they are also responsible for the normal acid-base balance or pH of the body.

 

Electrolyte Deficiencies

Surprisingly, we lose electrolytes regularly. Just sweating causes us to lose a lot of these electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium. Urinating and bowel movements also make us lose some electrolytes. 

 

In some cases, our medical conditions may cause imbalances in any of these electrolytes. For example, a person with impaired kidney function may have an excess of potassium. In the same way that having severe diarrhea and vomiting will cause us to lose a lot of electrolytes.

 

When the deficiency is not too drastic, a person may not feel any symptoms. However, if the deficiency is too much, symptoms like muscle cramping, confusion, thirst, and lack of energy may be experienced.

 

How to Replenish Electrolytes

On a normal day, we can easily replenish our electrolytes by drinking enough water and eating vegetables and fruits. A normal healthy body can regulate these electrolytes whenever they are in excess or running out. However, in cases where we actively lose electrolytes such as in diarrhea or vomiting, we may need to take electrolyte replacements. This may be in the form of electrolyte drinks.

 

There is no doubt that electrolytes are important substances in our bodies. However, many people are not aware of how we unknowingly lose these electrolytes on a daily basis. Keeping ourselves properly hydrated and having a balanced diet is the key to make sure we never suffer from any deficiencies.