Electrolytes are substances that contain free ions that conduct electricity, and they are vital to life for all higher life forms, including human beings. Water contains electrolytes, which is one of the reasons that it is important to drink water regularly.
Electrolytes are vital to the human body because they regulate various functions including nerve function, muscle function, the rebuilding of damaged tissue, the body’s hydration, blood pH and blood pressure. The human body self-regulates the required concentrations of electrolytes in different parts of the body.
Electrolytes maintain the voltage across nerve cells, the cell membranes in our hearts, and our muscles; they also carry electrical impulses to other cells. Fluid level changes in our body can cause the level of electrolytes in our blood to get too high or too low, resulting in major problems.
When we perspire we do not only lose water, but precious electrolytes too, mainly potassium and sodium, which is why it is vital that we drink water regularly in order to replace lost fluids as well as lost electrolytes.
Dehydration can result in hyponatraemia, which is too little sodium or hypokalaemia, which is insufficient levels of potassium. Hypokalaemia can cause heart abnormalities and weakness, and has also been linked to adrenal tumours, starvation or taking diuretics.
As we get older, we become more susceptible to dehydration, over-hydration and fluctuating electrolyte levels due to impaired kidney function and lack of access to food and water. Older people also do not feel thirst as readily and therefore do not realise that they are becoming dehydrated.
An electrolyte imbalance, or incorrect level of calcium, potassium, magnesium or sodium, can result in blood pressure changes; bone disorders; confusion; convulsions; fatigue; lethargy; irregular heartbeat; muscle spasm; nervous system disorders; numbness; seizures; twitching, or weakness.
Drink water regularly in order to maintain your electrolyte levels. If you do not like drinking tap water, invest in a water cooler that will supply you with chilled, tasty drinking water virtually non-stop.