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Electrolytes:Everything You Need to Know and How to Treat an Imbalance


With 3 out of 4 Americans suffering from dehydration each day, it’s no secret that we have an epidemic on our hands. Many are aware that they are dehydrated, but they fail to realize that dehydration can have a dangerous effect on their overall health. Dehydration can be a sign of multiple health issues—one of them being deficient in electrolytes or an electrolyte imbalance. 


What are electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals vital to our everyday health because of their many benefits. These can include nerve and muscle function, hydration, balancing blood acidity, and helping rebuild damaged tissue from physical activity. The more common electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, phosphorus, and magnesium.


How are electrolytes lost?

Electrolytes are lost in a few different ways and vary for each person depending on their daily activities. "Sodium losses average about 1 gram per liter of sweat lost. So if someone loses 1 liter of sweat per hour, they are also losing about 1 gram of sodium per hour, on average. The body also loses chloride in large amounts via sweat, followed with potassium, magnesium, and calcium, albeit in smaller amounts.”


Why do we need them?

Dehydration is often accompanied by electrolyte imbalances. An electrolyte balance occurs when the concentration of a mineral, or electrolyte, becomes too high or too low relative to the amount of water available in the body. When the mineral concentration is high compared to the water, the cells begin to shrink, causing hypernatremia (too much salt in the blood). Hypernatremia can be fatal if not treated. When potassium levels in the blood are too low, hypokalemia can occur, causing abnormal heart rhythms and muscle cramps. Hypokalemia is common and more dangerous in older patients. Hyperchloremia occurs when there is too much chloride in the blood compared to the body's water level. While chloride aids in saliva enzymes and digestion, its levels are managed by the kidneys, which is vital in functioning the body. The kidneys maintain adequate fluid levels and balance electrolytes. To keep electrolyte levels balanced, fluid levels in the body need to be normal.


How Can I Keep a Healthy Balance of Electrolytes?

There are a variety of minerals that are needed each day. Luckily, there are several sources that one can take to increase their intake of electrolytes. Every day, eating an endless option of foods replenishes the electrolytes. 


Below is a list of foods that contain electrolytes: 


  • Leafy Greens: spinach, kale
  • Other Vegetables: avocado, sweet potato, broccoli 
  • Fruits: bananas, watermelon, strawberries, oranges
  • Dairy Products: milk, yogurt, cheese
  • Nuts and Seeds: almonds, peanuts, seeds, nut butter
  • Beans and Lentils: beans, soybeans, tofu, lentils
  • Salty Foods: olives, pickles, canned foods (such as tuna, soups, beans)


If finding foods with electrolytes is difficult, consume drinks with naturally-containing electrolytes instead. Products such as milk, coconut water, orange juice, and soy milk contain magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Coconut water is a more popular choice as it contains multiple electrolytes, such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium. Coconut water is also naturally low in sugar (compared to other sports recovery drinks on the market). An alternative to coconut water that is more effective for replenishing electrolytes is drinking an electrolyte recovery product that contains an Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS). ORS starts rehydrating the body immediately and replenishes the lost electrolytes.


It can be difficult to self-diagnose dehydration, especially if one is constantly dehydrated. The best solution to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance is consistently drinking water throughout the day. Consuming a well-balanced diet will ensure a natural intake of electrolytes from foods and drinks as well. 


Author :  Jennifer Dutton, Blog Writer, DrinkLyte Co. "Helping Grow CPG Brands Beyond Their Potential"