May 4, 2018

Wordology, Electrolytes

After downing a generic Gatorade drink with my friend Jeff, he asked if I ever thought about electrolytes. Of course we all know electrolytes for batteries are a compound which produces ions when dissolved in a solution such as water. They can be divided into acids, bases, and salts.

However, I had not thought much about what an electrolyte means when it comes to our body, so it sent me on a search. Interesting that it has the same definition. It is basically a substance that conducts electricity when dissolved in water. We most often see the term in conjunction with sports drinks. The main reason is that bodily potassium and sodium electrolytes are lost in sweat during exercise. There are other causes for electrolyte imbalances, including vomiting, diarrhea, poor diet, dehydration, congestive heart failure, cancer treatment, and some drugs.

Electrolytes are essential for a number of bodily functions and are regulated in the body by our kidneys, along with hormones. Many automatic processes in the body rely on a small electric current to function, and electrolytes provide this charge. They regulate nerve and muscle function, hydrate the body, balance blood acidity and pressure, and help rebuild damaged tissue. In addition, heart, muscle, and nerve cells use electrolytes to carry electrical impulses to other cells.

Fruits and vegetables are good sources of electrolytes. Common electrolytes include bicarbonate, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, and sodium.

Incidentally, unless you are a professional athlete or running marathons, you are probably getting a sufficient amount of electrolytes from your regular diet. Consuming sports drinks adds calories and increases levels of electrolytes you do not need.