What are Electrolytes? Why are They Actually Important?

Electrolytes are minerals dissolved in water or other bodily fluids that carry an electric charge (1). They include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate. Electrolytes are essential for the basic cellular functioning of the human body (2).

Sodium is essential for the proper functioning of the human body by maintaining cellular homeostasis, maintaining extracellular fluid volume, regulating blood pressure, and controlling overall electrolyte balance. Your sodium serum levels should be between 135 to 145 mmol/L. If you have less than 135 mmol/L, you may have hyponatremia (too much water and not enough salt) which can manifest with symptoms such as headaches, confusion, nausea, delirium, muscle cramps, seizure, coma, and/or death (3). If you have more than 145 mmol/L, you may have hypernatremia (too much salt and not enough water) which can present with symptoms of severe thirst, rapid breathing, sleeping difficulty, restlessness, muscle twitching, seizures, coma, and/or death (4).

The FDA recommends less than 2,300mg of sodium per day. If you want to lower your sodium levels, eat more vegetables, avoid highly processed foods, look for “low sodium” or “no salt added” labels, and replace salt with no sodium seasoning like Mrs. Dash (5). Read more…

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