Electrolytes regulate the cardiovascular, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems. The combination and balance of electrolytes, as well as other minerals, are what produce their effectiveness. And, when one is deficient or over-consumed, it harms the body. Electrolytes and minerals all work independently but need to function interdependently to be effective for the body. We find this primarily between the pairs of potassium and sodium and Magnesium and calcium. Their jobs are maintaining voltages for cells and transferring impulses to other cells through the body, causing contraction and relaxation. Sodium and calcium, for example, contract the heart, nerves, and muscles and create the electrical impulse for the heartbeat. Potassium and Magnesium, on the other hand, relax the heart, the nervous system, blood vessels, and muscles.
- Potassium stabilizes blood pressure, helps rebuild muscles by synthesizing proteins from amino acids, and regulates blood sugar absorption.
- Sodium regulates and controls the fluid balance in the body.
- Magnesium is stored in teeth and bones, regulates blood sugar levels, and synthesizes fats for energy and proteins to rebuild muscles. It is critical in keeping the immune system healthy and is the most abundantly used electrolyte in the body for more than 300 reactions.
- Calcium regulates hormone and enzyme release and the PH-balance in the body. It helps blood to clot and form bones and teeth.
Common Issues From Electrolyte Imbalance
- Not consuming enough potassium and Magnesium.
- Consuming excessive amounts of high sodium from eating processed foods and high amounts of calcium from taking pills.
These imbalances are the culprits for Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart arrhythmias, nervous system disorders, and musculoskeletal issues. Your body cannot function optimally and well when it is an imbalance.
The Dangers Of Too Many Electrolytes
- Too much sodium, formally referred to as hypernatremia, can cause dizziness, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Too much potassium, known as hyperkalemia, can impact your kidney function and cause heart arrhythmia, nausea, and an irregular pulse.
- Too much calcium, known as hypercalcemia, can lead to fatigue, lethargy, seizures, and bone and joint pain.
- Too much Magnesium, known as hypermagnesemia, can cause muscle weakness, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and heart arrhythmia. At its worst, it can cause muscular and neurological damage.
Sodium and Potassium
In general, potassium relaxes muscles and dilates veins and arteries, and sodium contracts them. When potassium is low, and sodium is high, it disrupts the electrical charges that imbalance homeostasis in the body, producing muscle tension, cramps, heart flutters, fibrillation, irregular heartbeats, the reason why hypertension appears.
The American diet is deficient in potassium and high in sodium because of the lack of fruits and vegetables and too many processed foods. According to Harvard Health, Americans are not consuming enough potassium, at about 1 to 2g a day, and the requirement is between 3.5-4.7g per day. Sodium is the bigger problem, it's consumed three times more than needed, between 6-8g a day. The maximum amount of sodium required per day is 1.3g.
It's ok to consume a little more potassium because of sweating, especially if you workout. When you consume too much potassium or sodium, the body excretes it through the urine naturally. But, when consuming excessive amounts, the body cannot eliminate them so quickly. Therefore, excessive amounts of sodium attract water. Attracting water floods the cells, flushing out potassium and Magnesium. Increasing the body's fluid level increases urination, and therefore, electrolytes are eliminated from the body because of too much sodium. When potassium is sufficient in the cell, it balances sodium outside the cell. Sodium is essential to have, not in excessive quantities, so don't neglect it. You can have a problem with low sodium, but that is not the situation today.
Magnesium and Calcium
The imbalance between Magnesium and calcium poses another threat. Magnesium, like potassium, people are not consuming close to the RDV (Recommended Daily Value). Magnesium's recommended daily value is 420mg, but today's research experts think this is way too low. The recommended amount is 1000mg because Magnesium is the most abundantly used mineral in the body. It is crucial to have enough Magnesium in your body because organs, like the heart, primarily use Magnesium. The heart requires the most Magnesium than any other organ in the body.
Another reason for having 1000mg of Magnesium is to maintain a 1:1 ratio relationship to support calcium. Calcium and Magnesium are similar to sodium and potassium working together. Calcium absorption depends on Magnesium. When there is not enough Magnesium, calcium is not absorbed. High levels of calcium floating around in the body cause bones to calcify, a plaque to build in arteries (atherosclerosis), and kidney stones. Although calcium is excellent and essential for the body like sodium, the imbalance damages the body. Anything good in excess is bad for you.
Magnesium deficiency, known as hypomagnesemia, has been linked to Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart issues like irregular heartbeat and arrhythmia.
If you are taking calcium supplements, balance them with Magnesium. The body absorbs calcium best using 300-500mg doses every 4 hours because of how much can be absorbed at one time. It is best to get potassium, Magnesium, calcium, and sodium from natural foods and not supplements.
Tips for Balancing Electrolytes
Changing your diet in the symptomatic phase can reverse being unhealthy. However, over time as the cells, organs, and systems become impaired, it is less reversible. Getting potassium, Magnesium, and calcium from whole foods like vegetables and fruits do not have adverse effects like supplements do. There have been no incidences of too high potassium, Magnesium, or calcium levels recorded from consuming natural foods.
When you eat natural foods, the foods' electrolytes are more balanced with other minerals that cause the body to assimilate them appropriately compared to a one-shot pill that spikes their levels. Spiking the levels quickly is also hard on your kidneys.
Water is still the best source of hydration. During high-activity practices and games, you should work in some water and a sports drink. For an alternative to sports drinks, fruits and vegetables are rich in electrolytes and have much less sugar. However, as a rule of thumb, Gatorade or Powerade is in order when doing physical endurance activities like long-distance running. But, if your kids are playing a one-hour game or activity, vegetables and water do the job and eliminate any concern of vitamin toxicity.
Eating in balance will make a difference for your energy, and you will feel better. That is why I made this simple chart to help you plan and prevent heart and health issues. Consuming Magnesium one day and not the next has no benefits. Consistency and preparation are the keys to survival, longevity, and progression. These charts offer various foods with the highest content of potassium, Magnesium, and calcium.
*The chart is the USDA- United States Department of Agriculture Research Service (USDA Food Composition Databases (https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list)