Why are electrolytes important
What are Electrolytes?
The term electrolyte literally means an electrically charged ion that moves either towards a positive or a negative electrode. Whether it will move towards the positively charged anode or the negatively charged cathode will depend on the electrolyte’s own charge; that is it will move towards the positively charged electrode if it’s an anion or negatively charged ion and if it’s a cation or a positively charged ion, it will move towards the negatively charged cathode. These charged electrolytes or salts as they are more commonly called when it comes to our biology, are necessary for the body to survive. The most important electrolytes which the human body needs to function properly are sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), bicarbonate (HCO3-), chloride (Cl-), sulfate (SO42-), magnesium (Mg2+), calcium (Ca2+) and phosphate (PO42-).
Why are they Important?
Without electrolytes, it would be impossible for the nerve, cardiac and muscle cells in particular to maintain the necessary amount of voltage in their membranes. Also, electrolytes are important for these cells to transfer electrical impulses across for actions such as muscle contractions and nerve signals. Therefore, it should be understood that almost all functions within our body is a result of electrical signals that are sent from the brain to the different parts of our body via the various complicated systems working within the body, and electrolytes are the conductors that make this entire process possible.
The electrolytes within our body stay dissolved inside our bodily fluids (both intracellular and extracellular), but the balance between the concentration of electrolytes within our cells and the electrolytes outside the cells must be ensured by our system automatically in order to maintain homeostasis. In emergency conditions, the patients are often given a steady supply of saline water by injecting it directly inside their blood stream. This helps the patient’s internal homeostasis to balance itself out and in the process, ensures that the continuous transfer of electrical signals from the brain to the body is not hampered.
Electrolytes or the various important salts are always a part of a sportsman’s or an athlete’s drink because it replenishes or hydrates their bodies quickly. Hydration by taking in electrolytes is a sure shot effect because water inside the body starts to move to and from intracellular and extracellular fluids as soon as the new electrolytes are consumed; in order to balance the electrolyte concentration between the two regions and in the process, the entire body becomes rejuvenated. In fact, all of us should drink beverages with the appropriate salts (chiefly sodium chloride and potassium chloride) in them and not just athletes or sports persons. It is particularly beneficial after one goes through a rigorous physical ordeal such as weight training, running, cycling, etc. One should be careful not to administer a sports drink to a sick individual though, because the high sugar and salt content may not be suited for a weak body as it would be for a fit and strong body. Children suffering from diarrhea or other diseases that causes them to lose a lot of electrolytes via the constant defecation and vomiting might be administered mild energy drinks such as Pedialyte.