ELECTROLYTES include sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, chloride, sulphate and bicarbonate.
AN ELECTROLYTE is any substance that contains free ions that behave as an electrically conductive medium (conducts electricity). All higher forms of life, including humans, cannot exist without electrolytes.
ELECTROLYTES are important because they are what body cells (especially nerve, heart and muscle) use to maintain voltages across their cell membranes and to carry electrical impulses (nerve impulses, muscle contractions) across themselves and to other cells.
FOR A muscle contraction, calcium, sodium and potassium must be present. If levels of vital electrolytes are incorrect, the muscles either become too weak or their contractions too severe (cramp).
ELECTROLYTES also regulate the body’s hydration, blood PH, blood pressure and the rebuilding of damaged tissue.
THE KIDNEYS work continually to keep electrolyte concentrations in blood constant, despite constant body changes. During heavy or sustained exercise, electrolytes, particularly sodium and potassium are lost through sweating. These electrolytes must be replaced to keep body fluid electrolyte concentrations constant.
MANY SPORTS DRINKS have added sodium and potassium. Sugar is also added to provide extra energy. This may not be the end result as sugar is primarily fructose and glucose. Only glucose is energizing, fructose mostly ends up as body fat. The subject of sugar in relation to energy and body fat is complex and beyond the scope of this article.
APART FROM the replacement of fluids and essential electrolytes for sportspersons or high energy users, electrolyte replacement is very important for infants or children with chronic vomiting or diarrhoea as they risk dehydration. Coconut Groove young green coconut water is beneficial for this purpose as it contains the electrolytes without the high concentration of sugar found in sports drinks, which is not recommended for children.
OLDER PEOPLE are more susceptible to dehydration and over hydration and abnormal electrolyte levels. When we age our kidney function is impaired. Some elderly people with mobility problems, with minimum access to daily help may have fluctuating levels of food and fluid intake. Both factors can have an effect on their electrolyte levels.
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