What are Electrolytes and What are the Most Common Sources of Electrolytes?

Electrolytes, Home Made Electrolyte Sports Drink
Electrolytes, Home Made Electrolyte Sports Drink—madaise (Flickr.com)

You’ve heard about it. You know it’s important for your health, but what are electrolytes and why are they so important? Well, in its simplest form, electrolytes are just various forms of salts, especially ions. So, electrolytes are really electrically-charged ions and these ions either move to a positive electrode (anode) or a negative electrode (cathode). Positively charged ions. called cations move, to the cathode and negatively charged ions, called anions, move to the anode.

Just like seawater, your blood has high concentrations of sodium chloride which contain numerous electrolytes. Other fluids in your body that contain electrolytes are plasma and interstitial fluids (between tissues and within organs).

Sodium chloride contains the following electrolytes:

Although this video is about electrolytes, I think this dude overdosed on the stuff. He’s a little whacked out but I think he explains pretty well…sort of…kind of???

Voltages across the cell membranes are maintained by the cells using electrolytes and electrical impulses to other cells and across themselves are carried using electrolytes too. This is the reason electrolytes are so important. The blood acidity, fluid levels, muscle and organ function, are also affected by electrolytes. Changes in the body can affect the levels of electrolytes and can result in the loss of electrolytes as well.

Despite the changes in the body, the concentrations of electrolytes in the blood are kept constant by the kidneys. For instance, electrolytes, especially potassium and sodium, are lost in the sweat produced during heavy exercise. The only way the electrolyte concentrations of the body fluids can be kept constant if by replacing these electrolytes. Many sports drinks contain potassium chloride or sodium chloride in them. These drinks also provide the body with additional energy and also have a nice, flavorful taste because of the flavorings and sugar added to them.

Children suffering from chronic diarrhea or vomiting, probably because of intestinal flu viruses, are also given electrolyte drinks. Children lose electrolytes when they have diarrhea or vomit. In order to prevent dehydration and seizures, replacing these electrolytes and fluids becomes necessary. Just like sports drinks, drinks like Pedialyte also contain potassium and sodium. However, giving sports drinks to children who are ill is not recommended by pediatricians. The concentrations of sugar in sports drinks are a lot higher than Pedialyte, which is not good for children, especially if they are ill.