When you’re sick, you probably have people recommend getting a sports drink with electrolytes. That’s because these drinks are a great way to get you hydrated fast and rebalance the minerals in your body. But there are many reasons to get electrolytes into your system for your overall health, even when you’re not sick. But first, what exactly are they? Electrolytes are minerals in your body fluids (like blood, tissues, and urine) that carry an electrical charge. The National Library of Medicine states they are “essential for basic life functioning, such as maintaining electrical neutrality in cells, generating and conducting action potentials in the nerves and muscles.” The most significant electrolytes for a healthy body include sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonates.
Many athletes and gym enthusiasts take electrolyte supplements because sweating and dehydration are two factors that can lead to electrolyte imbalance. When you’re working your body, it’s important to stay hydrated while also rebalancing your electrolytes. Certain medications (such as some antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, diuretics, and corticosteroids) can also create imbalances, so be sure the discuss options with your doctor if you’re on any of these. Diarrhea and vomiting during a sickness is also an important time to add electrolytes to your recovery.
Are Your Electrolytes Imbalanced?
If you are experiencing an electrolyte imbalance, you’ll likely notice a few symptoms. These symptoms include frequent urination, dry mouth, headache, fatigue, confusion, mood shifts, irregular heartbeat, stomach pain, vomiting, constipation, appetite loss, and numbness. Your body will let you know if something is not right, and it’s important to listen to it.
An electrolyte-balanced body will have the proper support for muscles, nerves, bones, and your heart and brain. Electrolytes help muscles contract (including your heart beats), balance blood acidity levels (pH), regulate blood pressure, and control fluid balance in our cells. When balanced, you will likely notice enhanced exercise performance, better sleep, a stronger immune system, improved cognitive function, reduction in anxiousness, better stress response, stabilized blood sugar, healthier heart, stronger muscles and bones, better digestion, and fewer headaches.
A great way to get beneficial electrolytes into your system is through a healthy diet. Calcium-packed foods include leafy greens, almonds, yogurt, and cheese. For sodium try cottage cheese, pickles, and olives. Olives also provide chloride, and so do tomatoes and celery. For a phosphate boost, consider nuts, seeds, dairy, fish, and beef. Nuts and seeds are good for magnesium as well, along with dark chocolate and avocado. Think spinach, bananas, beans, and sweet potatoes for potassium. Bicarbonates are found in many foods from potatoes and spinach to breads and buttermilk.
Today, there are many electrolyte supplements on the market. Sports drinks may contain helpful electrolytes, but many of them are also packed with sugars and artificial colors. Additionally, if you want to store electrolytes for food storage, they don’t have a long shelf life. Consider high quality supplements