What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are in your blood, urine and body fluids. Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes helps your body’s blood chemistry, muscle action and other processes. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.
Levels of electrolytes in your body can become too low or too high. That can happen when the amount of water in your body changes, causing dehydration or overhydration. Causes include some medicines, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating or kidney problems. Problems most often occur with levels of sodium, potassium or calcium.
Common electrolytes include:
Electrolytes can be acids, bases, or salts. They can be measured by different blood tests. Each electrolyte can be measured separately, such as:
– Ionized calcium
– Serum calcium
– Serum chloride
– Serum magnesium
– Serum phosphorus
– Serum potassium
– Serum sodium
Note: Serum is the part of blood that doesn’t contain cells.
Benefits of Electrolyte Supplements
“Replaces minerals that your body might lose due to too much heat and perspiration.”
“Prevents tiredness and muscle cramps that can be caused by heat stress.”
“Fluid and Salt Supplements(FSS) may be used to prevent catabolism and normalize body hydration status and electrolyte values during Bedrest.”
Precautions and Side Effects
“Make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have kidney disease.”
“Some brands of this medicine contain sodium (salt). If you are on a low-salt diet, ask for a brand that does not have extra salt. Do not use a brand that has salt unless your doctor says it is okay.”
“Possible Side Effects includes Mild diarrhea, Severe diarrhea, vomiting, muscle twitching.”
An electrolyte is a substance that produces an electrically conducting solution when dissolved in a polar solvent, such as water. The dissolved electrolyte separates into cations and anions, which disperse uniformly through the solvent. Electrically, such a solution is neutral. If an electric potential is applied to such a solution, the cations of the solution are drawn to the electrode that has an abundance of electrons, while the anions are drawn to the electrode that has a deficit of electrons. The movement of anions and cations in opposite directions within the solution amounts to a current. This includes most soluble salts, acids, and bases. Some gases, such as hydrogen chloride, under conditions of high temperature or low pressure can also function as electrolytes. Electrolyte solutions can also result from the dissolution of some biological (e.g., DNA, polypeptides) and synthetic polymers (e.g., polystyrene sulfonate), termed “polyelectrolytes”, which contain charged functional groups. A substance that dissociates into ions in solution acquires the capacity to conduct electricity. Sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate are examples of electrolytes, informally known as “lytes”.
In medicine, electrolyte replacement is needed when a patient has prolonged vomiting or diarrhea, and as a response to strenuous athletic activity. Commercial electrolyte solutions are available, particularly for sick children (oral rehydration solutions) and athletes (sports drinks). Electrolyte monitoring is important in the treatment of anorexia and bulimia.