What Are the Benefits of Electrolytes, and Where Can You Get Them?
What are the benefits of electrolytes? Anyone who has ever seen a sports drink ad will likely have heard of them, but they aren’t just for exercise. We all need electrolytes to function, so everyone should know what they are, why we need them, and where we can get them.
Electrolytes are essential minerals that emit an electrical charge when dissolved in water. Your bodily fluids all contain electrolytes, as they are key for a variety of bodily functions. They help to regulate fluid balance, the nervous system, and muscle maintenance. Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, zinc, and phosphorus are all examples of common electrolytes, and you may already know some foods that contain these minerals.
However, it isn’t enough just to eat foods that contain electrolytes. Electrolytes work together, and we need to make sure we have the right balance of electrolyte levels so they can each do their job well. Read on to learn about the health benefits of electrolytes, how they work together and how they relate to dehydration.
Health Benefits of Electrolytes
We need a variety of electrolytes to function, and each one has a host of benefits. Let’s look at the specific benefits of electrolytes.
Sodium is the main electrolyte our bodies need. It helps us maintain blood pressure as well as overall fluid balance, and it is essential for muscle and nerve function. Too little sodium in the blood is a condition known as hyponatremia. This condition can be life-threatening. It can be the result of fluid loss from excessive sweating or diarrhea, and it needs to be treated right away, potentially with intravenous (IV) fluid or an oral rehydration solution (ORS).
It is also possible for blood sodium levels to be too high, which can cause high blood pressure (hypertension). It is typically the result of eating too much salt. This is a very common problem among those who consume a typical Western diet, as sodium is one of the main pillars of ultra-processed food and fast food. As with all electrolytes, finding the right balance is key: We don’t want too little or too much.
Similar to sodium, potassium helps to regulate fluid, and it is essential for muscle and nerve function. It also helps to regulate heart rate. Too little potassium in the blood is known as hypokalemia, and too much is known as hyperkalemia.
Note that sodium and potassium work together, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Magnesium has many health benefits. Your body needs magnesium to help with brain function, heart rate, and nerves. It also helps muscles to relax after muscle contractions and can assist with alleviating muscle cramps associated with exercise. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in sleep. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve insomnia in the elderly.
Chloride is the negatively charged ion of the chemical chlorine. Your body needs it to regulate blood pressure and volume as well as the balance and pH of bodily fluids. It is most commonly found in table salt, i.e. sodium chloride. It works with sodium and potassium.
Zinc helps to regulate metabolism as well as immune system function. It plays a key role in wound healing, and zinc deficiencies are associated with skin lesions and impaired healing. Additionally, zinc is important for our senses of taste and smell.
While each electrolyte has its own purpose, they all depend on each other for optimal functioning. For example, sodium and potassium work together to regulate blood pressure. Higher levels of sodium will increase blood pressure, while higher levels of potassium will decrease blood pressure. They both must be present in the proper ratio for optimum blood pressure levels.
Magnesium and calcium, another pair of electrolytes, also work with each other. Magnesium is necessary for calcium absorption. You probably know that calcium is important for bone health, but magnesium allows calcium to be deposited in our bones. However, this does not necessarily mean we need to take them at the same time. In fact, taking large amounts of several minerals at once can actually hinder absorption. This is why it is so important to avoid electrolyte imbalance.
There are countless more examples of electrolytes depending on each other to do their jobs, as well as the opposite: electrolytes that hinder the absorption of other electrolytes. For example, calcium inhibits iron absorption, so it is important not to take them at the same time.
Electrolytes and Dehydration
Electrolytes are intimately linked with hydration. They are in your bodily fluids, which of course are more than just water. This is why drinking water by itself is often not enough to relieve dehydration. You also need the right electrolyte levels. Drinking electrolyte drinks, beverages that contain both electrolytes and water, is the fastest way to relieve dehydration.
Anyone can become dehydrated, and most people will experience dehydration at some point in their lives. Excess sweating, consuming too much salt or sugar, loss of fluids due to vomiting or diarrhea, hot weather, and being at a high altitude are just some of the potential causes of dehydration. All of these problems can be alleviated with a good electrolyte drink.
Sources of Electrolytes
Electrolytes are found in some amount in basically all of the foods we eat. You may already know which minerals are contained in certain foods. Celery and beets naturally contain sodium. Potatoes, coconuts, and bananas are all good sources of potassium. Greens, legumes, and whole grains contain magnesium. However, while these foods can be good sources of individual nutrients, none of these contains the perfect balance of electrolytes needed for dehydration.
Sports drinks are fortified with some electrolytes, but they also tend to contain excessive sugar. Coconut water has been touted as a healthy alternative to sports drinks. Though very healthy, coconut water by itself does not have the perfect balance of electrolytes needed to relieve dehydration and often needs to be supplemented with additional minerals. It is also high in sugar.
Use DripDrop to Get Electrolytes That Keep You Hydrated
Electrolytes are essential for your body and especially important to replace when dehydrated. When you become dehydrated, simply drinking water may not be enough. Make sure to drink beverages with electrolytes to replenish your fluids. Instead of choosing a sports drink with too much sugar and not enough salt, consider trying a healthier rehydration solution such as DripDrop.
The patented, doctor-developed formula provides medically relevant electrolyte levels, improving on the World Health Organization’s Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) standards. It is easy to add to water, it can be consumed at any temperature, and it comes in many flavors.