Electrolyte Definition

By Fritz Mequiabas, RN,  BSN
Electrolyte definition

What are electrolytes? Electrolytes are defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as:

  • Substances in the fluids of the body that are in charge of how the body processes the absorption of vitamins and minerals as well as elimination of body wastes.

  • Medically, they are the salts in the fluids of the body that can transmit electrical signals.

Electrolytes conduct electrical impulses

Although electrolytes hold a definition of being non-metallic, they are good electrical conductors that electrical impulses or charges can pass through easily.

Electrolytes contain positive ions called “cations”, and negatively charged ions known as “anions”. These two components work together to transmit electrical impulses throughout the body.

Table salt can become an electrolyte

A good example of an electrolyte is table salt, or sodium chloride. Once it is dissolved in water, it breaks down to an ionic form of positively charged sodium and negatively charged chloride.

Once dissolved in water, these two components in salt are called electrolytes, and the solution is able to conduct electricity. 

The Importance of Electrolytes

Needed for nerve function

The organs of the body cannot function without the help of electrolytes. The body needs electrolytes to help it transmit messages to and from the brain. Therefore we need to maintain a good balance of electrolytes.

For instance, when we have the urge to drink water, this thirst message is transmitted to the brain from the body by electrolytes located in the nervous system, and our brain uses electrical impulses to inform us to take action.

Without a proper balance of electrolytes this communication breaks down.

Needed for muscles to function

Electrolytes can be found in the different fluids of our bodies. Electrolytes such as chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium and calcium are required for the relaxation and contraction of muscles.

When electrolytes are out of balance, we may experience malfunctions in the body, including muscle cramping, weakness, an increase or decrease in blood pressure, etc.

Other reasons we need electrolytes

  • They help to keep the body properly hydrated

  • They control the balance of extra cellular and intracellular body fluid

  • They help to maintain a proper pH level

Which Electrolytes are Needed

  • Sodium is a positively charged ion that is responsible for maintaining the balance of fluids within the body.

  • Chloride is a negatively charged ion that works hand in hand with positively charged ions to maintain fluid balance and pressure between body compartments.

  • Potassium plays a vital role in muscle function as well as regulating heartbeat.

  • Calcium plays a vital role in muscle contraction, nerve impulses and blood clotting.

  • Magnesium plays a major role in maintaining a stable heartbeat, building bone mass, nerve functions, muscle functions and boosting of the immune system.

  • The fluids of the body contain 76 electrolyte minerals. Science hasn’t isolated the function of many of these electrolytes.

Interestingly enough, in Dr. Richard Olree’s book, Minerals for the Genetic Code, he has identified 64 electrolyte minerals and subatomic particles that are required for the function of 64 different enzymes in the body.

Replenishing Lost Electrolytes

Americans, and especially those involved in sports, have learned of the importance of electrolytes. Sports electrolyte drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are now widely used for rehydration.

We know that when we sweat because of strenuous exercise, we have to replace both water and electrolytes to stay properly hydrated.

Replacing all lost electrolytes

Unfortunately, popular electrolyte drinks only replace one to three of the electrolytes that have been lost. Most do not contain magnesium, and they don’t contain any of the trace mineral electrolytes contained in body fluids. 

So then, how can we do a better job of electrolyte replacement? We can look to the ocean, which contains all the electrolyte minerals contained in the body. It has been reported that the ratio of minerals in the ocean is almost exactly that of our blood.

I personally recommend an electrolyte mix that you can easily put together at home. It utilizes a concentrated sea mineral product and sea salt to better meet the body’s need for electrolyte replacement.

Conclusion, electrolyte definition

Electrolytes are defined as a very important for the normal body function. Without them, human life is not possible. An increase or decrease of electrolyte balance adverse affect our health.

When we lose body fluids through sweat, diarrhea or vomiting, it is important to replace them in order to maintain a proper balance.

(Return from Electrolyte Definition to What is an Electrolyte)

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