Why Are Electrolytes Important


We ask ourselves what electrolytes are and it is a scientific term to refer to salts, specifically ions. Electrolytes are chemicals that conduct electricity when mixed with water.

Your body needs the minerals calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium to carry out standard biochemical functions and also perform a double function as electrolytes. Electrolytes are positive or negative electrically charged ions that maintain nerve and muscle functions, maintain fluid balance and regulate body pH.

runningOnce the electrolytes are in our body, they dissolve into positive and negative charges. These charges have two primary functions: to regulate the flow of water that enters and leaves the cells and generate nerve impulses. Without electrolytes, our cells would die as they keep our body functioning properly.

When you exercise the electrolytes are deposited in the sweat glands. The water follows the electrolytes and as the glands fill the saline mixture is released on the skin. The water then evaporates, which makes you feel cooler and you keep that salty taste in your skin.

Unless you are a professional athlete you are probably getting enough electrolytes through your normal diet so it is not necessary to consume electrolyte drinks.

The main electrolytes are:

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

What are Electrolytes

Electrolytes are essential because cells use them to maintain voltages through their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses, nerve impulses or produce muscle contractions through themselves and other cells.

The kidneys work to keep electrolyte concentrations constant in the blood despite changes in the body. For example, when you exercise a lot, you lose electrolytes in sweat, particularly sodium and potassium. These electrolytes must be replaced regularly to maintain constant electrolyte concentrations of body fluids. Therefore, many sports drinks have added sodium chloride or potassium chloride.

Electrolytic beverages are essential when babies have chronic vomiting or diarrhea, as they lose electrolytes and fluids that must be replaced to prevent dehydration and seizures. Pediatricians do not recommend giving sports drinks to a sick child because they have high sugar levels and it is not an appropriate treatment.

Low electrolytes

When you have low electrolytes because you lose fluids through sweating, urination, diarrhea, vomiting or having an inadequate diet may also lack electrolytes. Low electrolytes can cause serious health complications and become a health hazard.

Prevent dehydration by hydrating with fluids such as sports drinks that contain electrolytes before, during and after rigorous exercise. Avoid prolonged exposure to heat.


Having low calcium most of the time causes muscle spasms and may experience cramps in the arms and legs or numbness and tingle in the fingers and toes.

You may also experience irritability, depression, confusion or severe disorientation may also accompany the lack of this electrolyte. If it lasts over time, it increases the risk of constipation, nausea, appetite disorders, vomiting and increased urination. If you have a moderate to severe deficiency, your doctor can give you calcium.


The low level of potassium is not noticed until the levels are extremely low developing symptoms such as abnormal heart rate, muscle fiber deterioration, muscle weakness, fatigue, and constipation.

In some cases, paralysis may occur, and if it lasts it can damage the kidneys, resulting in kidney failure.

The correction of moderate to severe hypokalemia can involve hospitalization to replace electrolytes and lost fluids, as well as prescription medications to cure damage to the heart or kidneys.


Low sodium causes fatigue, headache, irritability, weakness or muscle spasms and seizures. Sudden drops in sodium levels can cause your brain to swell, which leads to coma or death.

The risk increases if you drink too much water during the activity but do not have enough sodium to balance the fluids in your cells. Keep sodium levels with an adequate intake in your diet. It is treated with hospitalization and intravenous fluids.

Low Magnesium

It is less common and may experience fatigue, weakness and muscle spasms. The treatment may involve supplements and increased amounts in your diet of rich foods. Maintain electrolyte balance with a nutritional diet and regular fluid intake.

Foods with electrolytes

A healthy diet provides the electrolytes that your body needs to function properly. These minerals help your muscles contract and your nerves transmit impulses. Calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and chloride are the most common electrolytes.


Sodium helps regulate blood pressure in the body. Foods such as milk, beet, and celery contain natural sodium. However, salt is naturally found in various foods of seaweeds such as spirulina, tomatoes, celery, and olives.

Calciumnon dairy calcium

Calcium is the most abundantly available electrolyte mineral in your body and plays a crucial role for bones and teeth health. Many foods contain calcium, but the richest sources include yogurt, cabbage, peas and skim milk. One cup of yogurt contains 415 milligrams of calcium.


Potassium helps your body break down carbohydrates, maintain proper growth and regulate the electrical activity of the heart. Potassium is found in a variety of foods such as  broccoli, squash, tomatoes, beans, and peas. The rich fruits are bananas, kiwis, melon, apricots and citrus fruits.


It helps your body maintain adequate levels of calcium, potassium, zinc, copper and vitamin D. It also helps your body produce energy. Good sources are nuts, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and pumpkin.


Phosphorus helps maintain bones, plays a role in the growth, repair, and maintenance of your cells and produces energy from carbohydrates and fat. Dairy products are the primary sources of phosphorus.

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