How to Incorporate Electrolytes Into Your Diet Naturally
Tips to finally get on top of your hydration.
The average electrolyte intake can often not be enough to keep the body properly hydrated. This can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, which in turn can lead to symptoms like muscle cramps, brain fog and fatigue. Some electrolytes are found naturally in foods that we eat every day, but there are also some other ways to get electrolytes without taking supplements or drinking sports drinks. Here are some ways to get more electrolytes into your day.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are minerals in our blood and other bodily fluids that carry an electric charge. Electrolytes help regulate the amount of water in our bodies, control muscle contractions and transmit nerve impulses. Some electrolytes are more important to our bodies than others, but the primary electrolytes include magnesium, potassium, sodium chloride (salt), calcium and phosphate (Medline Plus).
These are minerals that carry a positive or negative electric charge. They're found in all bodily fluids, including sweat, urine and blood. These minerals help your body regulate heart rate and maintain muscle contractions throughout the day so you have more energy when needed. When you sweat heavily or exercise for long periods of time, your electrolyte levels can become depleted. You can also lose them through urine or from illness. This is partly why drinking lots of water is so crucial after a workout, and replenishing your body with fluids if you are sick is a must. Even mild dehydration can actually lead to an electrolyte imbalance, which is why it's so important that you replace those electrolytes frequently.
The most popular types of electrolytes are:
Sodium helps your cells maintain the right amount of fluid. Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke (Harvard.edu), while not enough sodium can cause confusion, weaker reflexes, nausea and vomiting, and potentially seizures.
Magnesium is an essential part of our body. We need a certain amount of magnesium every day. Too much or too little magnesium can contribute to problems like high blood pressure and heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and migraine headaches (Health Direct).
Calcium is an important mineral in your body. It helps you maintain muscle tone, regulate heartbeat and prevent bone fractures. Too much calcium in your blood can lead to kidney stones, while too little can potentially result in diseases such as osteoporosis. A lack of calcium has also been known to contribute to muscle spasms (NCBI).
Sodium ions enter your cells along with potassium ions. Your body uses potassium ions to regulate your heartbeat, and you need potassium ions to maintain your heart function. If you have too much potassium inside your cells, your heart can start to beat irregularly. You may feel weak, confused and unable to stand up. If you have too little potassium, you may get dizzy easily. The heart needs potassium to beat and regulate blood pressure (MedicinePlus).
How Can I Get Electrolytes?
There are a few different ways to get more electrolytes into your body! The most common way is to eat foods that contain electrolytes. Another way is to take electrolyte supplements or drink electrolyte drinks. You can also get electrolytes through IV therapy, which is a way of directly giving electrolytes to your bloodstream but should only be used when approved by a doctor. Before consuming anything with electrolytes or supplementation of any type, you should always consult with your doctor.
Symptoms of Electrolyte Deficiency
If you're not getting enough electrolytes, you might start to experience some negative symptoms. These can include:
• Muscle Weakness
• Muscle Contractions
• Heart and Kidney Health
• High Blood Pressure
• Brain Fog
• Blood clotting
It's important to listen to your body and pay attention if you think electrolytes are affecting you. You can help avoid an imbalance by simply drinking more water every day. Electrolytes regulate neurotransmitters in your brain that control how you think, feel, and act. When they are imbalanced, it can cause you to feel fatigue or become confused easily! If you are concerned electrolytes are affecting you, call your doctor to discuss electrolyte testing.
According to the NCBI, "The kidney is a principally responsible organ for retention and excretion of electrolytes and fluid in healthy individuals. But, other mechanisms like hormonal interactions of antidiuretic hormone, aldosterone, and parathyroid hormone, and other factors such as physiological stress also play important roles in regulating fluid and electrolyte balance in (an) organism."
What Causes An Electrolyte Deficiency?
There are many things that could lead to an electrolyte imbalance, including excessive sweating (from over-exercising), eating an imbalanced diet with not enough minerals from whole fruits and vegetables, proteins, and legumes, heavy alcohol consumption, having trouble absorbing nutrients, or being sick.
How Can I Prevent Electrolyte Deficiency?
There are a few ways that you can prevent electrolyte deficiencies. The easiest way is to make sure that you are eating foods that contain electrolytes and drinking plenty of fluids (especially water). Your doctor can also do an electrolyte panel and your blood PH levels to pinpoint your exact deficiencies and how to treat them.
One of the most common causes of a lack of electrolytes is dehydration. When you are dehydrated, your body doesn’t have enough water to function properly, which can lead to an electrolyte deficiency. This is why it’s so important to drink lots of fluids (especially water) when you are sick or exercising.
How much water do I need to drink?
There is no one specific answer to this question. It really depends on a variety of factors including your age, activity level and climate. However, the general guideline is that you should aim to drink around 11 cups of water per day (MayoClinic). You can also receive hydration from liquids such as soup, juice or tea. And contrary to what some may think, coffee isn't considered dehydrating, so you can safely drink your morning cup-of-joe without fear of further dehydration (PubMed).
Sports drinks can replenish electrolytes after a hard workout, during an emergency or if you're sick or injured. But if you're worried about having to drink sports drinks in excess, you should know that a balanced diet that includes electrolyte-rich foods should, for the most part, be sufficient. Your body's natural ability to regulate electrolytes properly and maintain correct levels is generally enough to keep you from experiencing bad side effects or imbalances.
However, in some cases, such as when vomiting or diarrhea are frequent, adding a rehydration solution that has electrolytes may be beneficial, and a sports drink is a great way to deliver these nutrients fast.
How Many Electrolytes Do We Need Each Day?
For the average human, we need around approximately 1,600 to 2,000 mg (40 to 50 mEq) of electrolytes each day (NCBI). This can vary depending on your activity level and a wide range of other factors.
How can we get more electrolytes into our diet?
• Drink water
• Use coconut water in smoothies or drink by itself
• Practice proper hydration
• Make sure to balance your sodium intake
• Eat foods that are rich in potassium
• Take a calcium supplement if you do not already get enough in your diet
• Consume more minerals
• Eat celery, apple and lemon, which can be found in cold-pressed juices
• Enjoy banana, almond milk and kale smoothies
Tip: Always consult a doctor before making any changes to your diet.
Foods That Contain Electrolytes
There are a few different ways to get more electrolytes into your routine. One is by eating foods that contain electrolytes. Some common electrolyte-rich foods include fruits and vegetables, dairy products, meat, nuts, legumes, and whole grains (WebMD).
Natural Ways to Get Electrolytes:
Here are also some ways to get electrolytes naturally:
• Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, bananas and avocados
• Drink lots of fluids, especially water, herbal teas and even juices that are rich in fresh fruits and veggies
• Take a magnesium supplement
• Add salt to your food (if your blood sugar is within normal ranges)
• Eat more potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, and bananas
• Try electrolyte supplements if you are experiencing symptoms of a mineral imbalance or have a really intense workout plan
• Speak to your doctor, who will always have great recommendations for you
Alcohol and Hydration
We all know that drinking alcohol in excess isn’t good for us, but we often don’t think about how it can also dehydrate us and deplete electrolytes. When you drink alcohol, your body expends a lot of energy trying to break down the ethanol. This process causes you to lose fluids and electrolytes, which can lead to an imbalance and contribute to future problems with your kidneys if consumed in excess (PubMed).
If you are going out for a night on the town, it’s best not to drink too much alcohol. But if you do choose to have that glass of wine or beer with dinner, be sure that you also drink lots of water in addition.
Can you consume too many electrolytes?
Yes, it is possible to consume too many electrolytes! This can happen if you are drinking lots of sports drinks or electrolyte-enhanced water or if you are taking a lot of electrolyte supplements. When this happens, your body will not be able to absorb and use the electrolytes properly, which can contribute to a variety of health problems (HospitalityHealthER).
Some common symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, muscle weakness or spasms, and irregular heartbeat. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to speak with your doctor.
How to Balance Your Electrolyte Levels After Sickness
If you've been sick and lost electrolytes through vomiting or diarrhea, it's important to restore these electrolytes as soon as possible. This can be done by drinking fluids that contain electrolytes, like sports drinks, Pedialyte or Rehydration Solution. You can also eat electrolyte-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, but only once approved by your doctor.
You can also try electrolyte supplements or electrolytes in pill form to get back the electrolytes you've lost. These are available over-the-counter at pharmacies, but be sure that you speak with your doctor before taking any supplement if you are experiencing any electrolyte imbalance symptoms.
It's also important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, when you're trying to restore your electrolyte levels. Staying hydrated can help your body absorb and use the electrolytes properly.
If you're feeling tired, sore or just not yourself, it might be time to get some electrolytes. Always speak to a doctor if you are experiencing any weird side effects either from taking too many electrolytes or not enough. Be sure to include electrolytes in your diet every day, but also make sure to drink plenty of fluids and eat a healthy balanced diet. A balance of fluids, the right diet and intentional hydration can support a healthier lifestyle. Whenever it comes to your body, make sure to always check with your healthcare provider before attempting to take new supplements or make any changes to your lifestyle.