Potassium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, calcium….electrolytes. It’s not just athletes that need to replenish daily with electrolytes, it’s all of us! Why is that? What do these electrolytes do in our bodies? Let’s take a look.
Potassium: Almost everyone consumes far less than the recommended adequate daily intake – some of us not even half of what is recommended. What kinds of issues could be coming up as a result? Well, potassium is responsible for a multitude of functions in the human body. The most important could be the conduction of signaling in cells (muscle cells, nerve cells, brain cells, etc.). Without potassium cells cannot function, leaving a person with inappropriately or poorly working muscle cells (leading to muscle cramps, weakness, fatigue), nerve cells (leading to numbness, tingling, poor nerve conduction), brain cells (leading to mental fatigue, brain fog) and so on. Another notable issue that can arise without enough potassium is elevated blood pressure and increased salt sensitivity.
Magnesium: Perhaps the most important electrolyte in the body is magnesium. Magnesium is involved in countless biochemical pathways which end up influencing the way your entire body functions. Some conditions that magnesium can help include: breathing issues/asthma, high blood pressure, constipation, muscle cramps, muscle fatigue, muscle pain, nervousness, moodiness, anxiety, decreased cognition, and poor circulation, among several others. The simplest way to think about magnesium is that it can promote vascular (blood vessel) relaxation, which will improve blood flow and decrease pressure. So, anything that would improve with better blood flow and lower pressure is likely to benefit from magnesium.
Sodium: This electrolyte gets a bad wrap due to its relationship with elevated blood pressure. If you noticed above that both potassium and magnesium can help to lower blood pressure, perhaps it’s really the relative deficiency of those electrolytes compared to sodium that cause the problem. Sodium is absolutely necessary to the normal functioning of our body. For all of the cellular signals that we mentioned potassium is needed, sodium is also a piece of that equation. Sodium is also hugely important for the overall blood volume and hydration stabilization in the body. Without sodium, hydration is not possible.
Chloride: With fear of sounding redundant, chloride is the third electrolyte responsible for widespread cellular conductions throughout the body. Again, without chloride, no cell signaling can occur. Chloride is also hugely responsible for maintaining blood pH and overall body hydration – two very important tasks necessary to maintain life. Another pivotal role of chloride in the body is to make hydrochloric acid (stomach acid). Without stomach acid, digestion weakens and the absorption of essential nutrients, like B12, will not occur.
Calcium: Most people think of bone density when they think about calcium. Bone density is an essential task for calcium as our bones are prominently composed of calcium, but that’s not the only task calcium has in the body. Calcium is also used with magnesium to support proper muscle contractions. In fact, even though magnesium is needed to relax and repair the sore muscles, calcium is the electrolyte that is released inside the muscle fibers to initiate the contraction of the muscle. So without calcium, we would not be able to use our muscles at all!
For recommendations on how to improve your electrolyte intake or for a personalized look at your electrolyte status, please call our office to schedule a time to meet with a physician.
Dr. C makes posts to this page regularly with new health information, home remedies, and other interesting tidbits.