By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, BHMS
What does electrolyte mean
We've all heard about ‘rehydrating’ or ‘replenishing your electrolytes’.
But, is it that big a deal? What exactly does electrolyte even mean? Let's find out.
Our bodies are 70% water, but not just water, but an ionic solution, called electrolytes. This ionic solution keeps our muscles, nerves and entire body functioning properly.
Electrolytes are mineral ions, individual atoms that are not chemically bonded to any other atom.
Their outer electron shell is not fulfilled, having either extra electrons, or not enough electrons. This gives every electrolyte either a positive or negative charge. It is this positive or negative charge that makes them so useful to the body.
Electrolytes are responsible for helping to maintain healthy blood chemistry.
To understand what an electrolyte means, we must know this. The primary electrolytes required by the body are cations (ions that carry a positive charge) and anions (ions that carry a negative charge).
Any time our electrolyte balance is disturbed our body will have symptoms.
Our electrolyte balance can be adversely affected by the following:
Electrolytes are essential mineral salts that are crucial for numerous bodily functions, including:
Electrolytes play an important role by ensuring that the fluid levels remain balanced between the inside and outside of cells.
Cells are able to adjust their fluid level by altering their concentration of electrolytes.
This method of balancing fluid is critical for proper hydration, muscle and nerve function, and maintaining proper blood pH levels. Starting to understand what exactly electrolytes are? Great, let's proceed!
Electrolytes also play an important role in electrical conduction in the body.
The electrolytes in the cells help in carrying electric impulses across the cell and to neighboring cells, which is used for muscle contraction and nerve impulses.
The concentration of electrolytes in the body is controlled by various hormones. These hormones are mostly produced by kidneys and adrenal glands.
These are the main hormones that are responsible for regulating proper electrolyte balance in the body.
Thirst is another mechanism used by the body to keep electrolyte concentrations in balance. When the body becomes dehydrated it triggers the thirst mechanism.
Some of the common electrolytes found in the body are calcium, potassium, sodium, phosphate, magnesium and chloride.
To further understand what an electrolyte means, we must understand function. The important functions of these electrolytes are listed below:
Sodium helps in regulating the level of water not contained in cells, which then helps in maintaining proper blood pressure.
Potassium is an essential electrolyte.
Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body. Nearly half of the Magnesium in our bodies is found in our bones.
The other half is used in the cells of organs and other body tissues.
Magnesium is an essential mineral in the body.
Phosphate is primarily found in bones and teeth, playing an important role in their formation and maintenance.
There are several ways by which we lose electrolytes on a regular basis. These include sweating, urination and through the intestinal tract.
Other medical conditions such as diarrhea, vomiting and kidney malfunction can also lead to a loss of fluids and electrolytes from the body.
If electrolytes are lost and not replaced, the effects of electrolyte imbalance may occur.
Excessive perspiration can lead to drop in both potassium, sodium and magnesium levels, which if not replaced immediately, can lead to muscle weakness, muscle cramps, dizziness and confusion.
Our body is mostly composed of water, water which contain electrolytes. These bodily fluids work together to control all the functions of life.
Electrolytes are the essential minerals that contain the strong electrical potential needed to enhance cellular function.
Any imbalance in electrolytes can affect the overall function of the body. Hence, it is necessary to restore both water and electrolytes anytime body fluids are lost.