Electrolytes

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Blog by: Akshay Kulkarni

An electrolyte is a substance that conducts electricity when dissolved in water. They regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue. The muscles and neurons are sometimes referred to as the “electric tissues” of the body. They rely on the movement of electrolytes through the fluid inside, outside, or between cells.

They are essential for a number of bodily functions. All humans need electrolytes to survive. Many automatic processes in the body rely on a small electric current to function, and electrolytes provide this charge. Electrolytes interact with each other and the cells in the tissues, nerves, and muscles. A balance of different electrolytes is vital for healthy function. Electrolytes are vital for the normal functioning of the human body. Fruits and vegetables are good sources of electrolytes.

The electrolytes in human bodies include:

  • sodium
  • potassium
  • calcium
  • bicarbonate
  • magnesium
  • chloride
  • phosphate

For example, a muscle needs calcium, sodium, and potassium to contract. When these substances become imbalanced, it can lead to either muscle weakness or excessive contraction. The heart, muscle, and nerve cells use electrolytes to carry electrical impulses to other cells.

Imbalance

The level of an electrolyte in the blood can become too high or too low, leading to an imbalance. Electrolytes levels can change in relation to water levels in the body as well as other factors. Important electrolytes are lost in sweat during exercise, including sodium and potassium. The concentration can also be affected by rapid loss of fluids, such as after a bout of diarrhea or vomiting.

These electrolytes must be replaced to maintain healthy levels. The kidneys and several hormones regulate the concentration of each electrolyte. If levels of a substance are too high, the kidneys filter it from the body, and different hormones act to balance the levels.

An imbalance presents a health issue when the concentration of a certain electrolyte becomes higher than the body can regulate. Low levels of electrolytes can also affect overall health. The most common imbalances are of sodium and potassium.