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What Are Electrolytes?

Barron's Dictionary of Medical Terms defines Electrolytes as:

"n. chemical (element or compound) in the body that when dissolved produces ions, conducts an electric current, and is itself changed in the process. The proper amount and equilibrium of certain electrolytes (e.g. calcium, sodium, potassium) in the body is essential in the body for normal functioning, with a deficiency or excess of a particular electrolyte usually producing characteristic symptoms. The normal electrolyte balance may be disturbed by many disorders, including prolonged diarrhea or vomiting, kidney malfunction, or malnutrition, or by disturbed activity of the adrenal cortex, pancreas, pituitary, or other gland."

Electrolytes furnish the potential to nourish and repair cells, provide the materials to replace damaged tissue, and carry away waste. Your body needs the essential electrolyte minerals for optimal circulation - Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Chloride, Bicarbonate, Phosphorous, and Sulfur. Unlike other drinks, Life Balances Electrolyte Replacement Fluid contains the essential electrolytes formulated in an isotonic solution with a strong electrical potential to enhance cellular circulation. When added to non-fat milk, the Electrolyte Replacement Fluid provides a fully balanced electrolyte drink.

We lose electrolytes through the intestinal tract, sweat, urination, and dilute them by drinking too much plain water. Although individual electrolytes are replaced by certain foods such as fruit, it is difficult to find a balanced source of these essential minerals. Historically, people replaced electrolytes with bone broth and soups, which are a more balanced and concentrated source of these nutrients. Although many people fall within the normal ranges for individual electrolytes, the Life Balances database of blood tests reveal the ratios between the electrolytes are out of balance for a large number of people.

How to Tell If You Need Electrolytes

Fluid Level

One way to tell if you need electrolytes is to test your fluid level. In order for your heart to pump blood to all parts of your body, there must be enough fluid in your system.

While seated, place your right hand, palm down, on your right leg. The veins in the back of your hand should stand up above the surface and feel moderately firm and puffy. If your veins are full, slowly raise your hand and watch the veins. When you reach the point where your veins disappear, stop and look at the height of your hand. This height is your `fluid level.' Ideally, your veins should remain full until your hand reaches the level of your eyes. If your veins are still full above the top of your head, your diastolic blood pressure is too high and your electrolytes are out of balance.

If your veins are not full when your hand is on your leg, your fluid level is very low and your electrolytes are not in balance.

Blood Pressure

Another method of checking your electrolytes is by your blood pressure. Normal blood pressure should be approximately 120/80; but will vary according to the size of the individual. A tall man who weighs 200 pounds will need more blood pressure to pump the blood throughout his body than a woman who is five feet tall and weighs 100 pounds.

If your blood pressure is low, your heart is at rest too much which means your do not have enough stroke volume (amount of blood pumped by your heart). You probably have a lower than normal sodium level and higher than normal potassium level. Your electrolyte (sodium/potassium) ratio is out of balance.

If your blood pressure is high, your heart is pumping too hard and not resting enough. Your sodium level is probably higher than normal, and your potassium lower than normal, which means your electrolyte (sodium/potassium) ratio is out of balance.

Checking Your Electrolyte Balance With A Blood Test

A complete blood test will show the levels of sodium, potassium, chloride, CO2, and calcium. If your blood test shows these levels out of balance, you need electrolytes. Contact your physician to order a blood test.

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