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Are Electrolytes Healthy For You?

By: @gooodmoodfoood

I am sure you have seen a lot of information on social media and the internet lately about drinking electrolytes. This may be slightly confusing because we have been told for years that sodium is bad for us and is making us dehydrated! In reality, ultra-processed foods high in processed sodium leave us feeling dehydrated and lethargic. When an individual eats a mostly healthy, whole food-based diet, they are likely not getting enough salt. Confusing, I know.

Electrolyte packets or adding salt into your water ensure our bodies receive enough sodium and electrolytes to increase hydration. Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are vital electrolytes that we need to ensure our bodies are functioning at their optimal levels. When we exercise or sweat, a lot of what we release is electrolytes and sodium. We want to replace these electrolytes so our bodies can stayย hydrated, maintain healthy pH levels, nerve function, and muscle contractions.ย Studies suggest we may excrete 4 to 6 grams of sodium per day. It is important to replenish this loss to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease and heart failure.

You are likely to consume less sodium if you practice fasting, eat a whole foods or paleo diet, or other low-carb or keto diets. When we hear that Americans are consuming too much sodium, it scares us from consuming it! For most Americans, yes, we could stand to reduce our sodium intake from ultra-processed foods. However, for those of us who eat relatively healthy, we may want to add in sodium.

When we are consuming electrolytes, we are not just consuming sodium but also potassium and magnesium which are all necessary for optimal health. The sodium-potassium pump in our bodies maintains the membrane potential of our cells, and the ratio of sodium out of the cell and potassium into the cell is a 3:2 ratio. When we drink a lot of "plain" water, we are diluting the electrical signals from electrolytes in the body so they become less potent. When individuals are over-hydrated, called hyponatremia, they do not necessarily have less electrolytes or sodium in their system, but it is diluted. So, for the majority of us who are consuming balanced diets, we generally want to increase our electrolyte consumption to ensure that we are maintaining this ratio.

References:

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/electrolyte-drinks-beneficial-or-not/ https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/21790-electrolytes https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22110105/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20430135/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537088/#:~:text=%5B3%5D%5B4%5D%20The,higher %20level%20of%20potassium%20intracellularly.

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