I call supplementing with electrolytes and metals: The Electrical Chemistry of the Human.
As the name suggests, electrolytes are minerals with an electrical charge and they circulate in our body through fluids such as blood and urine. Some examples of electrolytes are potassium, magnesium, sodium, calcium, phosphate, and chloride. We get these minerals from the food and drinks we ingest. As happens with other nutrients, levels of electrolytes can either be high or low, but electrolytes are particularly impacted by the amount of water in our bodies. Dehydration (lack of water) or overhydration (excess of water) can mess up our electrolytes balance.
Electrolytes play an important role in our metabolism and in the maintenance of homeostasis. They help regulate the amount of water in the body, and our overall pH level. These minerals are essential for the healthy maintenance of our nervous system and the bi-directional communication channel between our brain and the remaining parts of our body. The kidneys and the liver are two specific organs that help us maintain healthy levels of electrolytes in our body, so when these two organs are impaired for some reason electrolytes balance can be compromised.
Although each electrolyte may have specific functions, common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include headaches, confusion, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, and delirium. More severe symptoms can include seizures, coma, and metabolic acidosis. Checking our level of electrolytes is recommended and even more so as we age and whenever we experience conditions such as vomiting, diarrhea, high fever, or hot weather. Excessive sweating, the use of laxatives, and diuretics can also lead to electrolyte imbalances.
The best way to make sure you keep a healthy electrolyte balance is to have a nutritious diet, characterized by a high intake and variety of plant-based foods, moderate intake of good-quality proteins, and low intake of highly processed foods. Vegetables and fruits are essential to replenish any minerals that are flushed out. The Mediterranean Diet or any other traditional diet that is whole-foods based is a good option to follow. You can also take over-the-counter electrolyte solutions or eventually sports drinks, although you should be wary that some of these products contain high doses of sugar and therefore not a perfect solution.
Although water intake is essential, it is equally important to learn about electrolytes, their role in metabolism and homeostasis as well as the different ways imbalances can compromise our health and well-being. Electrolytes are essential minerals for mental health. When we look at the table of common symptoms of electrolyte imbalance we can find plenty of psychological experiences that are often linked to poor mental health. This shows how the mind and body are not separate from each other, and how nutritional imbalances can contribute to mental health and well-being.
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