By Emily Dickerson, ND
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are molecules that dissolve into ions with (+) or (-) charges. Important electrolytes for humans are sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+), chloride (Cl−), hydrogen phosphate (HPO42−), and hydrogen carbonate (HCO3−). These charged molecules play essential roles in many bodily processes, such as the balance of bodily fluids, neurological function, bone building and strength, digestion, muscle function, and blood pressure control.
Electrolyte imbalance occurs with prolonged diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, and excessive hydration without electrolyte supplementation. When it is HOT outside, like Idaho gets in the summer, it is important to utilize electrolyte replacement supplements to prevent electrolyte imbalances.
Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include but are not limited to: fatigue (and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome); weakness; muscle aches, cramps, and spasm; irregular heartbeat or palpitations; insomnia; headaches; dizziness; numbness; anxiety; trouble concentrating; and joint pain.
If you simply haven’t felt well with the increase in temperature, it may be helpful to supplement with a good electrolyte replacement.
Exercise and Heat
When it’s hot out, it is important to make sure that you are getting proper hydration and electrolytes, especially if you are exercising. When exercising in the summer, make sure to bring along sufficient water with electrolyte replacement. Try to exercise in the morning, before it gets too warm.
Proper hydration is also important during the heat of the summer, but if we drink too much water without supplementing with electrolytes, it bathes the cells in water, but water cannot enter the cells without electrolytes. Glucose (sugar) and sodium (salt, Na+) act as co-transporters (both must be present) to enter cells, and water follows, bringing hydration from the outside to the inside of cells. Moral of the story, we need water, electrolytes, and a little sugar to properly hydrate the cells of our body.
Electrolyte Replacements that I Like:
1) Klean Electrolytes by Klean Athlete (capsules) – I like this supplement because the ingredients are simple and it has no unnecessary additives. Because it doesn’t have any sugar, consider taking it with a piece of fresh or dried fruit.
2) Pure Encapsulations Electrolyte/Energy Formula (effervescent powder) – This supplement is great because it has a little sugar in it, which helps to deliver hydration on a cellular level. We carry this product at Boise Natural Health.
3) NUUN tablets (tablets) – Tablets that dissolve in water. I like these because they taste good, are easy to keep in your purse or backpack, and can be found at many stores, such as Fred Meyers, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, etc.
4) Recharge (liquid) – Natural Version of Gatorade. Does not contain all of the artificial coloring and additives that Gatorade does. Can be found at Whole Foods, Boise Co-op, Natural Grocers, etc.
5) Homemade Electrolyte Formula – See Dr. Haynes’ recent article Do You Drink Enough Water for the recipe!
Remember to keep your electrolytes balanced, stay hydrated, and enjoy the rest of your summer!