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What are Electrolytes?
The major electrolytes are as follows:
- sodium (Na+)
- potassium (K+)
- chloride (Cl-)
- calcium (Ca2+)
- magnesium (Mg2+)
- bicarbonate (HCO3-)
- phosphate (PO42-)
- sulfate (SO42-)
Electrolytes are minerals in your blood and other body fluid that carry electric charges. It is important for the balance of electrolytes in your body to be maintained, because they affect the amount of water in your body, blood pH, muscle action, blood pressure and other important processes.
Electrolyte balance is maintained by oral, or in emergencies, intravenous (IV) intake of electrolyte-containing substances, and is regulated by hormones, generally with the kidneys flushing out excess levels. In humans, electrolyte homeostasis is regulated by hormones such as antidiuretic hormone, aldosterone and parathyroid hormone. Serious electrolyte disturbances, such as dehydration and overhydration, may lead to cardiac and neurological complications and, unless they are rapidly resolved, will result in a medical emergency.
Electrolytes are important because they are what your cells (especially nerve, heart, muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells. Your kidneys work to keep the electrolyte concentrations in your blood constant despite changes in your body. For example, when you exercise heavily, you lose electrolytes in your sweat, particularly sodium and potassium. These electrolytes must be replaced to keep the electrolyte concentrations of your body fluids constant. So, many sports drinks have sodium chloride or potassium chloride added to them. They also have sugar and flavorings to provide your body with extra energy and to make the drink taste better.
Electrolytes play a huge role in your adrenal health and adrenal healing. Due to the fact that aldosterone is one of the hormones that regulates electrolytes and aldosterone is made by the adrenal glands. As you have read in the (What is Aldosterone) section, you now know that aldosterone is responsible regulating our sodium and potassium levels. This is another example of the whole endocrine system working to keep your whole body functioning properly.
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