I'm sure we've all been in situations that called for the consumption of extra electrolytes- I certainly have (food poisoning induced dehydration- not a recommended condition to be in!) One of the problems I experienced during this bout of sickness was the inability to keep anything down, not even water. Why was that?
Basically, my body knew that its electrolytes were out of balance, and it also knew that the continuous consumption of plain water was going to dilute them further, hence the continued need to vomit despite the fact that I hadn't eaten anything else. So, that begs the question:
What are electrolytes anyway?
As usual, Google is my friend, so I hit it up for a fast definition:
Electrolytes are minerals in your blood and other body fluids that carry an electric charge. Electrolytes affect the amount of water in your body, the acidity of your blood (pH), your muscle function, and other important processes. You lose electrolytes when you sweat.As you may already know, our bodies run courtesy of electrical signals. Simply put, when you suffer an electrolyte imbalance (such as during a sickness that causes dehydration, or heavy sweating during hot days, especially if you are already drinking lots of plain water) health problems can arise. Signs of an imbalance can include nausea, lethargy, and fluid retention (fun!), but if left untreated, can rapidly get very serious, and even life threatening, including symptoms such as:
- Confusion or sudden change in behavior
- Severe muscle weakness
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
A variety of minerals in your body are responsible for keeping you in good working order, and they include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. They are necessary for proper muscle and nerve function, for balancing the body's pH, for maintaining a proper heart rhythm, and even serve a role in the production of your DNA.
Most of these minerals can be found in your every day environment, mostly from foods in your diet, but also can come in the form of supplements, or electrolyte drinks, and enterprise which has become a large commercial market thanks to endorsements from famous athletes and sporting events.
Before you hit the drink aisle for the Gatorade, though, I'd like to point out that there are tons of recipes out there for healthy, home made "sports drinks". Don't go for the neon colored, sugar heavy drinks if you can make better ones at home- your body will thank you!
I myself have a simple, plain recipe for an electrolyte drink. The cool part is that I can also use this for my chickens on very hot days where they risk dehydration and heat sickness. It's plain for human tastes, but you can add some fruit juice to it for a little flavor. It's simple to whip up:
1/2 teaspoon salt substitute (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 liters of water
Dissolve the ingredients in a small amount of hot water, then add to the remainder of the (cold) water and stir to mix. For people, mix in some fruit juice and drink through the day as needed, especially if you are working hard. For your chickens on extremely hot days, leave it out (unflavored) in lieu of their normal drinking water for a day, and then switch back to regular plain water when the weather cools off.
So for all you folks getting more active for the spring and summer months ahead, keep this in mind, and keep your electrolytes balanced and replenished when you are working hard! I'll see you again on the next blog. You'll be spared my usual puns, as I can't think of any for "F"!