What are Electrolytes?

Why are electrolytes so important for us?
Bodytomy Staff Sep 30, 2018
In the world of chemistry, electrolytes are substances that contain free ions which make them electrically conductive in nature. The most common electrolyte is an ionic solution although molten and solid electrolytes are also found. Electrolytes are nothing but minerals like sodium, potassium, etc., that get dissolved in the blood.
When these dissolve, they split into smaller particles called ions. These ions are electrically charged, which means, they either carry a positive charge or a negative charge. These charged ions produce electricity that help in the functioning of the bodies of human beings and animals.
It would not be wrong to say that electrolytes are the batteries for a human or animal body. They are commonly found in solutions of acids and bases as well as in salts.


Following are the uses of electrolytes in the body:

They maintain voltages across the cell membranes and carry electrical impulses to the other cells in the body. The kidneys are responsible for maintaining the concentrations of electrolytes in blood constant in spite of the major changes that take place in the body while carrying out any daily activity.
When you workout and sweat heavily, you feel tired because your body loses electrolytes like sodium and potassium. These need to be replaced to maintain the concentration of electrolytes in your bodily fluids.
That is why, energy and sports drinks have a high electrolyte content in them. Similarly, when you suffer from severe diarrhea or vomiting, you actually lose electrolytes from your body. These should be replaced so as to prevent dehydration and seizures.
Your body requires certain specific levels of different chemical compounds to function properly. The most important electrolytes that your body needs are sodium, potassium, and chloride. A lot of heart and nerve processes, muscle coordination, and your body's ability to absorb fluids depend on the concentration of this substance in your body.
Calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and chloride are the most commonly found electrolytes in human body.
They act as key catalysts in numerous enzymatic reactions in the body needed by the cells to convert proteins into amino acids and to produce other organic molecules. The pancreas in your body produce certain kind of enzymes and acids that help in breaking down the food so as to digest it.
If you drink a soft drink that has high electrolyte content, 30 minutes prior to your meal, it will moisten and recharge the tissue lining around the digestive tract. Thus, when you have the meal, the membranes in your body and microorganisms get ready to digest food. It also helps in the process of absorption.
The nervous system requires them for their collective coordination. Due to the exchange of electrolytes like sodium and potassium ions through the nerve membrane( which wrapped with long tendrils of protein ), the nerve impulses are transmitted. At end calcium ion is attached without which, there can be no sense of smell, taste, vision, touch, and awareness.
The vitamins, hormones, and the enzymes that help in activating, regulating, and synchronizing the nervous action, all need an electrolyte ion as a key factor in the structure of their reaction and for the synthesis.
For example, a cobalt ion is essential for the pineal gland to produce melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps in regulation of neurological activity to determine the level of sleep or wakefulness. Electrolytes are also used for unlocking the energy flow in a cell.
If you consume excessive electrolytes, your kidneys help in filtering them. The hormones present in the human body also help in regulating the consumption of these salts.
Consuming excessive or insufficient amounts of this substance, like sodium, can cause health issues like hyper or hyponatremia (excessive or insufficient levels of sodium) and hyperkalemia and hypokalemia (excessive and insufficient levels of potassium respectively). Eating disorders and serious alcoholism causes an imbalance of electrolytes in the body.
The next time you keep a watch on your calorie intake, do not forget electrolytes are important too. Consume them wisely and take care.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.