Why Electrolytes Are Important

We’ve all seen numerous sports drink commercials. “Guzzle this drink. Have more energy. Replace your electrolytes,” they tout. But what’s the idea behind these claims?

First, we need to know what electrolytes are and why they are important to our bodies.

Second, we can determine what’s the best way to maintain our “electrolyte balance.”

Electrolytes are minerals that help with body functions. “They play a vital role in the human body, affecting everything from heartbeat to muscle contraction. Electrolyte levels that are too high or too low can cause health problems,” quoting from What Are Electrolytes?

This article provides a handy list that shows what these minerals assist with (quoting here) …

· Conduction of heartbeat and contraction of heart muscle

· Dilation and contraction of blood vessels

· Conduction of nerve impulses

· Contraction of muscles

· Filtration in the kidneys

· Gastrointestinal movement

· Maintaining proper hydration

· Maintaining internal pH levels (keeping a proper acid-base balance)

Minerals (aka, electrolytes), like sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus, are found in the food we eat, including spinach, almonds, yogurt, mushrooms, tuna, and dill pickles.

For most of us who do moderate daily exercise throughout the year, like a walk or bike ride, we’re getting enough electrolytes from our food and are at a lower risk of losing too many of these minerals through our sweat.

Summer’s coming!

We might take those hours-long hikes in the sun or go for longer bike rides, increasing how much we’re sweating. Warmer temperatures and more and longer outdoor activities can increase the likelihood of electrolyte imbalance.

We can see the effects of electrolyte imbalance in dehydration, fatigue, confusion, muscle cramping, constipation, arrhythmias, and low blood pressure. (If you’re looking for more information about cause and effects of electrolytes imbalances, read through the What Are Electrolytes? article.)

Clearly, electrolytes are important for healthy body functioning. Now, what can you do to help your body maintain that balance, especially during the hotter summer months?

1) Avoid sugary sports drinks.

2) Instead, try real food and drinks like watermelon, bananas, almonds, low-sugar ginger-turmeric kombucha, or coconut water. They’ll provide replenishment and refreshment without that sugar bomb.

Take extra care with your electrolyte balance if … If you’re a person who has low blood pressure. Yes, there are those who struggle with keeping up a normal blood pressure. One conditions that leads to low blood pressure is dysautonomia or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), where you can experience blood pressure fluctuations; and maintaining your electrolyte balance is a key way to manage these fluctuations.

I now know as an adult that I have EDS and have to work to maintain this balance. For example, when I was a kid, if I got up to quickly, my vision would go black, then come back to gray, and then return. I also noticed that I didn’t seem to have the same stamina as other kids my age. When my son was a baby, I was taking a health class, and the teacher required us to run around the track. I mentioned to her that I couldn’t run without losing my vision. The teacher told me i would flunk if I didn’t do the run, so I was the last one in because I lost my vision halfway through. A doctor I worked for was the first person to suggest that it was probably my blood pressure dropping, causing those issues. I asked him what I should do and he just told me not to run! LOL words of wisdom….

The doctor’s theory was correct. Today, I’m intentional about what type of exercise that I do, and I incorporate an electrolyte mix into my daily routine to help maintain my blood pressure. I’d recommend looking for a lower or no-sugar option, like from Paleovalley Essential Electrolytes, which uses monk fruit as a sweetener, or a dōTERRA Electrolyte mix, which is what I use daily!

Even for people without blood-pressure issues, you might need more electrolytes if you are recovering from sickness (this is especially true of children!) or are doing vigorous exercise/training.

You should also make sure to check in with your health practitioner about any medication contradictions when thinking about adding new foods or drinks to your diet. For example, a commonly known issue is with grapefruit and its effects on some blood pressure and cholesterol medications.

This summer, stay hydrated with good foods and fluids that fuel your body and bring you all the electrolytes you need!