Electrolytes: Their Role in Hydration & Maintaining Balance
Electrolytes and their Function in the Body
Electrolytes are substances that typically charge positively or negatively when dissolved in water. On average, an adult's body contains approximately 60% water. Therefore, almost every fluid and cell in the human body has electrolytes. Therefore, almost every fluid and cell in the human body has electrolytes.
Electrolytes have an active role in regulating chemical reactions in the human body. In addition, they are known to maintain the fluid balance between cells. Whatever you eat or drink supplies electrolytes to your body. When you consume excess electrolytes, your kidneys generally filter them out through urine and sweat. Leveraging electrolytes, your cells conduct various electrical charges. This way, your body produces the energy to perform functions like muscle contraction, induce different chemical reactions like hydration, etc.
How Electrolytes affect Hydration
Electrolytes are responsible for balancing the amount of water in your body. When your body is dehydrated, the levels of electrolytes may fall. On the other hand, too much water or overhydration may increase the levels of electrolytes in your body. Electrolytes are minerals like magnesium, potassium, sodium, etc. Your body needs them to function.
When you sweat, your body loses electrolytes. In some circumstances, like performing high-intensity workouts or roaming out in extremely hot weather, you may need to replace electrolytes to prevent deficiency and dehydration.
Potential Consequences of an Electrolyte Imbalance
Electrolyte imbalance may turn out to be severe at times. Dramatic fall in electrolyte levels may lead to various conditions like seizures, cardiac arrest, and even coma. Electrolyte imbalance occurs because of a loss of bodily fluids. You can experience this after vigorous sweating, diarrhea, excessive vomiting, etc. Besides, certain medications and diseases may also lead to electrolyte imbalances. The potential consequences of an electrolyte imbalance may include the following -
Dehydration happens when you lose more fluid than you consume. In this scenario, your body craves adequate water and other fluids to perform everyday functions. If you ignore the condition, it may become deadly. Usually, dehydration includes symptoms like dry mouth, sunken cheeks, eyes, extreme thirst, little to no urination, confusion, fatigue, etc.
Electrolyte imbalances may make you feel extremely sleepy or tired. You will feel drained, and your exhaustion will interrupt your day-to-day activities. Usually, fatigue causes stiff shoulders, uneasiness, impatience, lack of motivation, sleepiness, etc. To combat fatigue, you may need to undergo prolonged treatment and therapies.
Electrolyte imbalances may lead to severe diarrhea. You may experience abdominal pain or cramps, nausea, bloating, etc. Besides, you will likely experience loose, watery, and more frequent bowel movements. Diarrhea can further lead to severe weakness and dehydration.
Electrolyte imbalance may cause various health issues, including mild to severe headaches. Ignoring the symptoms may lead to life-threatening brain damage. Generally, your kidneys clean your body by removing excess water through urination. However, when performing exercises or doing heavy activities, your body diverts the blood flow from the kidneys to the muscles. This may lead to electrolyte imbalances, and as an expected consequence, you may suffer headaches.
Lack of potassium, calcium, and magnesium in the body, also called mineral depletion, may lead to muscle cramps. Leg muscles, specifically the calves, are more prone to muscle cramps. The symptoms may include shooting pain and a hard lump of muscle tissues. Usually, muscle cramps cure on their own. However, in rare cases, it may cause skin abnormalities, weakness, and frequent cramping, and self-treatment may not help. In such cases, you may need to see your doctor.
How to Ensure Adequate Electrolyte Intake for Hydration
Statistics reveal that approximately 75% of the US population is chronically dehydrated. Lack of hydration may cause electrolyte imbalances, leading to critical consequences like the ones mentioned above. Given this, the medical community has set a clear recommendation for daily fluid intake for men. The amount is 15.5 cups of fluid daily; for women, it's 11.5 cups. While it may look like a lot, it's crucial to remember that we consume approximately 20% of fluid from food. However, if you are still struggling to keep yourself properly hydrated, you may need to focus on your electrolyte intake. Here's what you need to do:
Drinking Enough Water
Pay attention to the cruciality of drinking sufficient water. If you don't enjoy drinking regular water, you can make it delicious by adding lemon, honey, etc. Besides, you can consider shakes and juices.
Taking Hydration Tablets
If you dread drinking more than eight glasses of water daily, consider loading your water with electrolytes using high-powered electrolyte tablets. These thoughtfully formulated hydration blends help you supply your body with the adequate dose of primary electrolytes you typically lose through sweat. In addition, they boost the electrolyte level of your body, ensuring adequate hydration.
Consuming Electrolytes-Rich Food
Our body gets 20% of the fluid from food. Thus, consider consuming electrolytes-rich food. You may include watermelon, bananas, berries, avocados, fish, cheese, chicken, broccoli, spinach, etc., in your daily diet.
Electrolyte imbalances are common yet concerning. You may lose electrolytes through strenuous exertion caused by daily activities, exercises, etc. To prevent electrolyte imbalances and maintain a healthy hydration level, consider taking regular breaks, wearing breathable clothes, and, most importantly, replenishing lost electrolytes by drinking half your body weight in ounces daily. You can also turn to hydration or electrolyte supplements to make the most of your fluid consumption.
Frequently Asked Questions
What electrolyte plays a major role in the regulation of water balance?
Electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium play a crucial role in regulating water balance. You should ensure an adequate supply of the said minerals to prevent electrolyte imbalance.
How do electrolytes maintain balance?
Electrolytes help balance the amount of water in your body by balancing your body's base and acid levels. In addition, they help move nutrients into your cells and remove wastes from them.
How do electrolytes hydrate you?
By maintaining the fluid content in your body, electrolytes help keep you hydrated. If you are dehydrated, you may need to turn to electrolytes supplements to eliminate electrolyte imbalances and dehydration.