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 How Do Electrolytes Work in Our Body?

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RašytiTemos pavadinimas: How Do Electrolytes Work in Our Body?   28/08/11, 04:15 pm

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Electrolytes are ions or mineral salts present in your body fluids to help it function properly and keep it hydrated by maintaining a salt balance in your body. Every time you perspire, you lose electrolytes in your body through sweat. This makes you feel more thirsty and you drink more water. Electrolytes are present in the food and water we consume. The salts derived from everything you eat and drink, is dissolved into your body and passed on to various fluids like blood, urine, cellular fluids.

How Electrolytes Serve Us

* Electrolytes are a kind of mineral salts and are mainly present in the form of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfate, phosphate and chloride ions. They restore and maintain appropriate hydration levels in different parts of the body.
* Any deficiency in the salts can cause health issues such as, lethargy, depression, weakness, coma and heart problems.
* These salts, as ions and with their property of maintaining osmotic pressure, also help in muscle contraction, produce and carry electrical signals from the brain to the cells and vice versa. This explains the reason you get muscle cramps after indulging in heavy physical activities because sometimes when the electrical signals are unable to be reach a part of your body, the muscles are unable to relax properly and this causes a spasm.
* The kidney separates electrolytes from your blood and regulate its level in the body. So, when electrolyte levels deplete, you get frequent nature calls than normal. This flushes out water from your body and equates its level with that of electrolytes present in the body. If there is excess concentration of electrolytes in your body than required, you will feel more thirsty than usual to make up for the less quantity of water.
* Excessive loss of electrolytes in the body can cause severe dehydration and affect the cardiac and central nervous system. This will lead to diarrhea, purging and even kidney failure of hyponatremia in extreme cases.
* Electrolytes work in our body at the cellular level, and if they are present in low amounts than required, they can affect all major systems and organs. They work in our body by also maintaining the body temperature and keep it cool.
* However, excessive consumption of electrolytes can cause unnecessary water retention leading to swollen muscles. This happens when you take additional supplements or consume too much salt to replenish electrolyte levels in your body. At this time, the sodium levels will increase and become unnaturally high which will lead to retention of excess of water. If your body temperature rises more than normal it can make you sick and affect your physical strength.
* If you try to replenish electrolytes lost by drinking a lot of water at once, you will be actually diluting the amount already present in your blood through such high intake of water. It is wiser to keep drinking water over a period instead of drinking altogether at once.
* Any imbalance in the level of electrolytes in our body can prove fatal within hours, especially to those already suffering from gastrointestinal problems. It disrupts the functioning of the body and makes it weak.
* Adrenal hormones like aldosterone and para-thyroid help regulate electrolytes and maintain the intracellular as well as extracellular chemical balance. You can get your electrolyte levels checked through an electrolyte panel blood test.

Imbalance of Electrolytes

No. Electrolyte Side Effects Symptoms
1. Sodium Deficiency: Leads to Hyponatremia
Kidney diseases or over-consumption of water can cause low sodium levels in the body

Excess: Leads to Hypernatremia
Loss of water can cause dehydration and raise sodium levels in the body Brain damage, thyroid,
cancer and pneumonia

Fever, vomiting, diarrhea,
weakness, swelling
2. Potassium Deficiency: Leads to Hypokalemia
Causes abnormal transfer of electrical impulses

Excess: Leads to Hyperkalemia
Caused by intake of laxatives or diuretics. The condition is also observed in diabetic ketoacidosis Excessive urination,
kidney failure, cardiac problems

Vomiting, sweating,
diarrhea
3. Calcium Deficiency: Leads to Hypocalcemia
Caused due to eating disorders or malfunction of the parathyroid hormone

Excess: Leads to Hypercalcemia
Caused due to breast cancer, kidney failure, high levels of vitamin A or D Muscle cramps, weakness
cardiac problems

Depression, kidney
stones, abdominal pain
4. Magnesium Deficiency: Leads to Hypomagnesemia
Caused by over-consumption of alcohol, malnutrition, excessive loss of fluids

Excess: Leads to Hypermagnesemia
Closely related to hypocalcemia and hyperkalemia Inability of intestines
to absorb, confusion

Adrenal insufficiency,
diabetic ketoacidosis

Remember, you only require 250mg of sodium per day to derive its necessary amount for your body. Athletes may require twice more than the normal person due to intense physical activity. However, these are sufficiently obtained from your daily diet. It is recommended that you do not prolong you workouts exceeding two hours because after that, it can cause severe loss of electrolytes in your body. You will suffer from muscle cramps and exhaustion. It will become difficult to get your body to work out the next day. I am sure, if your body starts to feel exhausted again after a day of hard work, sure you will know what are the reasons at work and what is to be done before its too late. Always stay hydrated.
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