January 18, 2018

The Connection between Electrolytes and Dehydration, Explained

We know that water deficiency affects the level of electrolytes in the body. But what’s the precise connection between proper hydration and electrolytes and why staying hydrated at all times is important?

What are Electrolytes?

Electrolyte is a term used to describe electrically charged salts or ions that keep the body’s pH level balanced. These ions include potassium, sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and sulfate. The body uses these ions to charge the organs and carry electrical impulses.

For instance, electrolytes maintain proper muscle contraction or nerve reflex.  These electronically charged particles regulate the neuromuscular, excretory and endocrine systems. The kidneys are responsible for keeping the body’s electrolyte concentrations in the blood balanced.

staying hydrated

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But these ions are lost when you sweat. Depleted fluids could lead to electrolyte imbalance. When you are dehydrated, you are losing more fluids than you take in. One of the best ways to keep the electrolytes level in the body balanced is to stay hydrated. Although different types of electrolytes are present in the body, not all of them are affected by dehydration. Sodium, potassium, and chloride are the ions that are most affected when you are water deficient.

Sodium

The body’s sodium level must be kept balanced at all times to prevent illnesses. If the sodium level in the body is too low, you will feel nauseous, fatigued, and exhausted. Recurring headaches, vomiting, and poor cognitive functions are also signs that the body’s sodium levels are too low.

When the sodium level in the body is too high, you will also suffer from unpleasant side effects such as extreme thirst, confusion, and muscle twitching. Severe cases of high sodium levels could trigger seizures and coma. Sodium is closely linked to the body’s fluid balance because water goes to areas of the body with the highest sodium level. Drinking up and staying hydrated helps rebalance the sodium level in the body.

Potassium

Just like sodium, potassium can be affected by water deficiency because most of the body’s potassium supply is stored within the cells. Even the smallest changes in potassium concentration could lead to serious illnesses. Potassium is an essential nutrient that regulates the heart’s rhythm and assists in efficient muscle contraction.

Now imagine if your potassium level is extremely low because you are dehydrated. It could lead to hypokalemia, a condition that could potentially turn deadly. It could trigger cardiac arrhythmias, muscle weakness, and glucose intolerance! Severe cases of hyperkalemia could cause the heart to stop beating, causing death. Drinking more water helps rebalance the potassium level in the system. If you’re always on the go, taking a water bottle with you is the best way to stay hydrated!

staying hydrated

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Chloride

Chloride is a type of negatively charged ion that helps regulate the body’s fluid balance. This electrolyte typically works in conjunction with sodium. When the level of chloride in the bloodstream is too high, it can lead to rapid breathing, chronic fatigue, and disrupted acid balance. While there are many reasons why the chloride level in the body becomes too concentrated, dehydration is the most common cause of it. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water every day helps dilute the level of chloride in the system.

Regardless if you’re not getting enough exercise or you live an active lifestyle, staying hydrated is a must. Do note that electrolyte imbalance could lead to kidney disease. For those who work out regularly, you can drink plain water or make your own health drink to keep your electrolytes balance in check. Professional athletes should drink sports drinks with electrolytes to avoid electrolyte imbalance. Busy? Consider taking a water bottle with you so you can stay hydrated while on the go!

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