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Importance of Electrolytes

Electrolytes are chemical elements or minerals (sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, as well as salts (chloride, bicarbonate, and phosphates) which when are mixed with water undergo a process called disassociation turning them into electrical charges “ions” which carry a positive/negative charges.

This is important because these electrolytes balance each other out and are found both inside and outside of the cells, signaling cells, regulating nerve impulses, contracting muscle function, hydrating the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, maintain pH levels, and help rebuild damaged tissue.

Muscles and nerves are both stimulated by the activity of electrolytes in the intracellular, extracellular and interstitial fluid. Ion channels exist on the surface of the cell membrane to transport electrolytes to and from the cell. For instance, muscle contraction depends on the presence of potassium, calcium and sodium ions, and insufficient levels of these ions may lead to muscle weakness or spasms.

Electrolytes levels change in relation to water levels in the body, and are most commonly lost during exercise but other reasons for an imbalance can include: improper diet and lifestyle, kidney disease, prolonged periods of vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration, imbalance of acids and alkaline, congestive heart failure, cancer treatments, overuse of diuretics, bulimia and old age.

The muscles, heart, and nervous system all rely on electrolytes to carry electrical impulses throughout the bodily tissues. Imbalances depend on which electrolyte is out of balance and whether the level of that substance is too high or too low. Symptoms can include: irregular heartbeat, overall weakness, bone disorders, twitching, increase and decrease of blood pressure, confusion, seizures, numbness, nervous disorders, fatigue, and convulsions.

Evaluation and monitoring can be done by an electrolyte panel, which is usually administered during your yearly physical, but one treatment merely involves drinking more water. Treating an electrolyte imbalance involves either restoring levels if they are too low or reducing concentrations that are too high. If levels are too high, the treatment will depend on the cause of the excess. Low levels are usually treated by supplementing the needed Electrolyte.

Sources for replenishing and ensuring balance could be:

Drink water and/or Electrolyte infused water

Eat a balanced diet

Electrolyte supplements

Electrolyte sports drinks, gels, and candies (Caution, overuse can increase imbalance).

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