By Gianne Rayandayan
It is so easy to slip into a state of chronic dehydration. Sometimes (and I am guilty of this!) we forget to drink water simply because we are too absorbed in our work, our schedules, or the fun things going on when we aren’t working! With summer at our doorstep, it’s a good idea to refresh ourselves on the topic of electrolytes, and why they are so important for hydration and our health!
What are Electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that possess an electric charge. They are also known as ionic minerals. Electrolytes were easy to come by in drinking water when people sourced it directly from lakes, springs, and wells. This water would be imbued with trace mineral deposits from the surrounding rock and aquifers. Nowadays, tap water is typically either too mineral-rich or stripped of its mineral content altogether. Neither of which are helpful for staying healthy or hydrated!
What Electrolytes Do for Our Bodies
Electrolytes help our bodies maintain proper fluid levels, but also regulate pH levels, digestive secretions, and nervous system function. What’s more, our skin, brain, heart, liver, and other organs can’t do their job without adequate hydration. The six most important electrolytes your body needs are sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, calcium, and phosphate.
We lose electrolytes through excessive sweating, urination, diarrhea, and vomiting, which is why it is so important to replenish after workouts or any illness where you are losing fluids rapidly.
What might seem like a complex health issue can often be resolved by intentionally adding electrolytes content to our water. Many chronic migraine sufferers will tell you how transformative it was when they learned to add electrolytes to their water. Even folks who struggle with digestive issues like GERD can benefit from proper hydration.
Symptoms of dehydration can include inflammation, fatigue, moodiness, dizziness, cramps, constipation, headaches, migraines, sugar and salt cravings, and more. Our most common complaint though is muscle aches and cramps!
Best Ways to Incorporate Electrolytes
It’s actually very easy to incorporate electrolytes into your daily routine.
Electrolytes through Diet
The first and easiest way is to work with unrefined salt. The less processed (or ‘refined’) the better, so avoid table salt if you are trying to get electrolytes this way. Pink Himalayan Salt and Sea Salt are the most widely available forms. Cook with unrefined salt as normal, or add a small pinch to your filtered water!
If grocery stores near you carry it, an excellent natural source of electrolytes is coconut water! Coconut water is easy for the body to work with because it is very minimally processed to begin with. Be sure to shop for organic and unpasteurized coconut water, as processed and boxed coconut waters generally do not contain these vital minerals.
Seaweed and leafy greens such as kale, dandelion, and chard are also highly potent sources of electrolytes. But note that even if you purchase organic and follow a raw foods diet, it can be difficult to guarantee that you are getting the minerals you need. This is because modern agriculture heavily depletes soil mineral content. The most straightforward way to add minerals back into your food is to use a concentrated solution like Trace Minerals’ ConcenTrace. It is a patented formula derived from water from the Great Salt Lake with 99% of its sodium removed. It is an excellent way to make sure you are getting the broadest spectrum of trace minerals that otherwise would come from food. Just a few drops on your meal and you are good to go!
Electrolytes through Supplementation
If you would rather take the guesswork out of how much salt to add to your water bottle or otherwise want to add some flavor, we highly recommend using a pre-measured electrolyte packet. These are way more convenient to take on the go than a bunch of sports drinks (and also have less sugar). We love the brand Trace Minerals because they derive their electrolytes from naturally occurring saltwater– a really bioavailable option for electrolytes! They also offer a sugar-free electrolyte pack for folks who are conscious about their sugar intake.
If you are traveling this summer, electrolyte packets are easily TSA-approved! If you are going to an area with questionable drinking water and anticipate GI illness in any form, you really want to have electrolytes specifically geared towards rapid rehydration (probiotics and digestive enzymes also wouldn’t hurt!) For this particular case, we recommend bringing along some Liquid I.V. packets. Their unique combination of vitamins and minerals are designed specifically for instant hydration therapy after physical activity or massive fluid loss. And if you plan on drinking, you can trust that the standard Banana Bags will replenish electrolytes and B-vitamins to help with those nasty hangovers.
We believe the importance of electrolytes can’t be emphasized enough. As we discussed, other aspects of modern life such as ultra-filtered water and refined salt added to all our foods are major reasons why many people are lacking in essential trace minerals.
Make sure you are stocked and ready for whatever summer has in store! We’re happy to speak with you and break down all your options here at the pharmacy. Once you experience proper hydration - many people truly have no idea what this feels like - we promise you won’t ever go back!