Monday, August 23, 2010

Electrolytes and hydration

This post is about electrolytes, roughly how they work, and why they are important. This is dedicated to my good friend who asked me if I could explain to her about how electrolytes relate to hydration. I bowed my head and told her I could not explain it and it has been bugging me ever since.

The body loses salt through sweat. Foods we eat contain mineral salts, which form electrolytes. These electrolytes dissolve in the bodies fluids and become present in urine, blood, and the fluid inside and around our bodies cells. They are essential for the bodies nerve, muscle, and heart functions (which is why muscle cramps are associated with loss of electrolytes).

Electrolytes are actually electrically charged and cause electrical pulses that make the bodies cells contract. Kidneys filter electrolytes from the blood and keep the levels at a constant. Hormones also keep electrolytes in balance. The electrical charges go through compounds such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and chloride and these charges support your heart and blood vessels. The sodium controls the amount of water in our bodies, potassium controls nerve and muscular systems, and calcium builds bone frame and teeth.

The most common electrolyte imbalances are in sodium and potassium. Both conditions can result in an array of serious health conditions such as; kidney disease and dangerous changes in heart function. In a nut shell, to minimize stress on your body it is wise to replace your electrolytes when you are in situations that cause you to sweat a lot. Symptoms of electrolyte loss include muscle and/or abdominal cramps, light headedness, nausea, and confusion.

What are the best ways to replace your sodium and potassium? Two of my favorites are coconut water and mineral broth. Coconut water is nature's Gatorade. 10 ounces of coconut water contains 650 mg of potassium (15 times more than a banana), 25 mg of magnesium, and 35 mg of sodium. Read more about the history and benefits of coconut water here.

Looking for a boost of energy? Try this amazing mineral broth recipe from Recipes & Remedies for Rejuvenation Cookbook by Dr. Edward Bauman.

Wash and scrub and cut into 1" chunks (leave skin on):

2 cups yams
1 medium potato
1 cup zucchini
1 cup cabbage
1 cup green beans
2 cups celery

Slice into strips:

1 cup collard greens
1 cup onion

Coarsely chop:

1/2 tsp fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dill weed
1 clove garlic

Add whole:

1/2 cup flax seed

Place ingredients in a large pot with a lid. Cover with filtered water, just to the level of the vegetables and add:

6 slices fresh ginger root
1/4 cup or more of seaweed (dulse, nori, wakame, hiziki, kombu)

Bring the water to a boil, then turn down and let simmer for 3-5 hours.

You will be amazed at the energy boost you get from a mug of this delicious broth, enjoy!

Sources:; Discovery Health; Bauman College Forum; Running Times Magazine, November 2009.


  1. I've heard that in war time, they used coconut water as iv drip saline solution in military hospitals.

  2. mmmm coconut water. my fav! i love that recipe above....wierd broths are right up my alley! thanks for the post.