Electrolytes play a critical role in the body. These essential minerals are responsible for regulating the osmotic pressure in the cells. They also help maintain the function of nerve cells and muscles. Along with electrolytes, fluids are essential for our organs and body systems. That is why you might have been told to replenish your fluids and electrolytes after a hard workout. This is because electrolytes and hydration go hand-in-hand.
What are Electrolytes?
Electrolyte is an umbrella term that refers to particles that carry a negative or positive electric charge. These are essential minerals that are found in sweat, urine, and blood. When these minerals are dissolved in fluid, they create electrolytes. There are many different types of electrolytes in the body, such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphate, magnesium, and bicarbonate.
What Do Electrolytes Do?
Electrolytes perform a wide variety of functions in the body, such as the following:
- Maintain Fluid Balance – Excessive losses of sodium, such as via sweat, can result in muscle cramps and in some cases, low blood sodium. Sodium is vital for maintaining fluid balance, both during and after activities.
- Regulate Muscle Contractions – Calcium is involved in many muscle functions, including heart, smooth, and skeletal muscles. When in the bloodstream, calcium also has a direct impact on metabolism.
- Prevent Cramping – Potassium, along with calcium, help to prevent muscle cramping. This mineral is found in many food sources and most people have high stores of it within the body.
How to Get Electrolytes
The amount of electrolytes a person needs depends on several factors. Age, activity level, water consumption, and climate are all components to take into consideration. Most people can get enough of these minerals in their daily food and beverage intake. Foods such as spinach, avocado, and strawberries are all great sources. Additionally, in cases where someone is sweating excessively, they may use sports drinks or powders to replace fluids, carbohydrates, and electrolytes that are lost during extreme activity.
Staying Healthy & Hydrated
Dehydration is a major concern when a person does not take in enough fluids. This can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, insatiable appetite, sweet cravings, and lack of thirst. In turn, this need to hydrate and replenish your body with electrolytes can have a negative impact on your dental health if you only bank on sports drinks to bail you out. What I came to figure out is that electrolytes science is so case-by-case and hasn’t yet been mastered by scientists. We can’t tell parents to not give their little athletes more electrolytes in the form of sports drinks, but as a pediatric dentist with the goal of saving the world one tooth at a time, we also cannot promote drinks that are not water and milk. To learn more about the importance of electrolytes and hydration, contact us at Sunshine Smiles Pediatric Dentists in Melbourne, FL.