Electrolytes are chemical elements, minerals, which are present in our body, they have positive or negative electrical charges and serve for the execution of many metabolic processes.

They mainly distribute water in the body and are responsible for homeostasis, with the different activities that we carry out daily and through sweat, part of these minerals are lost, which are replaced with the intake of beverages and various foods.

What are electrolytes and what are they for?

Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals, which serve for the development of various bodily functions. Another way of defining them is by saying that they are an ionic solution that has the ability to conduct electrical current.

All electrolytes have normal concentrations in the bloodstream and of course in the cellular content.

Electrolytes in the regulation of body processes

Through electrolytes, very important processes for the body can be regulated, such as osmolarity, a measure that is used to know the concentration of the total substances found in a solution.

That is, through these we can determine the amount of ions present in body fluids, such as blood. It is worth noting that it is necessary to have an electrolyte balance.

Electrolytes have, in addition to the electrical charges already mentioned, some particular levels or concentrations that influence the functioning of the muscles, nerves, body hydration and blood pH.

Thanks to this electrolyte balance and the proper functioning of the kidneys, our body can carry out processes where it eliminates toxins that are present in the form of ammonia and urea.

What is the function of electrolytes?

Electrolytes are involved in processes related to:

  • The water content of the body.
  • Blood pH and acidity.
  • The activity performed by the different muscles.

As part of the different activities that we carry out, part of our electrolytes can be lost, when doing some physical activity, through sweating, for example. For this reason it is necessary to replace them by consuming liquids where they are present.

Electrolytes in the human body

Electrolytes in the human body can be minerals with a positive (+) or negative (-) electrical charge, among these are: Sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium.

The electrical charges of these ions allow them to be conducted and they can be part of the cellular processes that are carried out continuously in our body.

What are the electrolytes present in our body?

According to their characteristics, the classification of electrolytes can be between acids, salts or bases. The following elements are the most common electrolytes in the body:

  • Phosphorus
  • Football
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Sodium
  • Chloride

How can we know the amount of electrolytes that our body has?

Through certain laboratory analysis, we can determine the amount of electrolytes present in the blood or urine, for this special tests or examinations are performed.

Electrolyte levels are measured separately, such as:

  • Serum calcium
  • Serum chloride
  • Ionized calcium
  • Serum potassium
  • serum phosphorus
  • Serum sodium
  • Serum magnesium

Urine tests can measure the levels of chloride, calcium, sodium, potassium, among others.

There are analyzes or complete laboratory tests, from which levels of various minerals can be determined, after performing these analyzes they must be shared with a health specialist, who is the person trained to interpret the results.

Electrolyte concentrations in the body

When electrolytes are in abnormally high concentrations, some disorders can occur, such as:

Hyperkalemia

This medical term refers to an increase in the normal concentration of potassium.

Hypernatremia

It refers to the increase in sodium levels present in the blood.

How can our body lose electrolytes?

  • Electrolytes in the body can be lost throughout any given day, especially when exercising. Through sweating occurs the greatest loss of these elements.
  • Likewise, ions or electrolytes can be eliminated from our body through urine.
  • Another way in which we lose electrolytes occurs in episodes of diarrhea, understanding this as an increase in the number of times we evacuate and when its consistency is altered, becoming more liquid. It also occurs is lost through vomiting.
  • Sometimes kidney disorders can lead to electrolyte loss.

How can we get electrolytes into our body?

Replenishing electrolytes through the intake of water and mineral solutions is very important. Drinking electrolytes such as sodium, for example, brings benefits such as reducing the amount of water lost when urinating, allowing fluids to be absorbed more quickly and incorporated into the work of the muscular and nervous system.

To replace or incorporate electrolytes into our body, a balanced diet and correct hydration are necessary.

On the other hand, vitamin water and sports drinks include lots of electrolytes. A healthy way to provide our body with the electrolytes it requires is through the consumption of foods such as:

  • Vegetables: Carrot, potato, zucchini, tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, cabbage, beets, chard.
  • Fruits: Apples, oranges, lemons, bananas or bananas, which are the richest fruits in potassium.
  • Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin or squash, sesame, among others.
  • Assorted beans.

What are normal electrolyte values?

Imbalance in electrolyte values ​​can affect metabolic functions.

Normal electrolyte values ​​in adults are:

  • Chloride: its values ​​must be between 97 and 107.
  • Calcium: values ​​between 4.5 and 5.5 should be recorded.
  • Magnesium: values ​​from 1.5 to 2.5.
  • Potassium: values ​​must be between 3.5 and 5.3.
  • Sodium: the range should be from 136 to 145.

They are all expressed in mEq / L; which means milliequivalents per liter.

Each laboratory normally includes in the results of the analyzes the tables or ranges that are considered normal, however, the doctors must analyze each case.

To perform these tests, it is usually recommended to fast for at least 8 hours before taking the sample. In each case you can ask the bioanalyst to be more precise.

What can happen in our body if there is an electrolyte imbalance?

The symptom of electrolyte imbalance that occurs will depend on which electrolyte is present under abnormal conditions.

If magnesium, calcium, sodium, or potassium imbalances are found, muscle spasms, seizures, pain, and / or weakness may occur.

Low electrolyte levels can generally cause a person some of these symptoms:

  • Confusion.
  • Presence of alterations in heart rate.
  • Change in blood or blood pressure.
  • Nervous system disorders, although this can manifest itself after long periods of time.
  • Effects on the bones.

High electrolyte levels , meanwhile, can generate:

  • Numbness.
  • Soft spot.
  • Spasms in the muscles.
  • Changes in blood pressure.
  • Irregular heart rate

Each of these cases should be studied by a specialist or doctor, who, according to the patient’s medical history, may recommend that other tests be carried out in addition to recommending an appropriate treatment.

What are serum electrolytes?

Serum electrolytes are the electrolytes present in our blood, it is just another way of referring to the elements found in blood serum. We must bear in mind that serum is known as that part of our blood that does not have cellular content.

What are oral electrolytes or serums?

They are electrolyte solutions for oral intake , called serum, which contain sodium chloride, glucose, trisodium citrate dihydrate and potassium chloride.

These minerals are medically indicated when the person has presented dehydration problems, usually caused by diarrheal diseases or vomiting, since this type of loss of body fluids leads to the loss of electrolytes. By ingesting this serum, they tend to compensate for losses and restore normal levels of these electrolytes.

In some cases or in the face of certain health complications, greater complications occur when administering this solution, even adverse reactions may occur, which, although they are infrequently evidenced, are a possibility.

Sometimes it is necessary to resort to complementary forms of hydration, through medical techniques, such as administering these solutions through the bloodstream.

We can also find electrolyte isotonic hydration drinks, popularly known as sports drinks, ideal for rehydrating the body in the event of electrolyte loss.

conclusion

Finally, it is important to be clear about the need to keep the body adequately hydrated and also in electrolyte balance, so in contrary situations rehydration is essential in order to replace the lost elements, thus avoiding adverse effects that in some cases can be fatal.

In our body the presence of water and other mineral substances is especially important for metabolism, through different activities or some disorders these levels can be affected. Through hydration and proper nutrition we can incorporate and restore the balance of electrolytes, sodium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium.

It is important that evaluations are made periodically in the body levels of these elements that serve to keep our body in good health, especially in children and the elderly, since these can be mainly affected by dehydration and loss of electrolytes.

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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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