You Beastie Boys fans out there will recall Mike D declaring “so don’t touch me, ‘cause I’m electric, and if you touch me, you’ll get shocked!” It should not be shocking to learn we’re all electric; Mike’s not special in that way. It’s because of that well-known fact that the minerals that are essential for maintaining the body’s nerve function are called electrolytes. We use electrolytes to maintain electrical neutrality in cells and for conducting the electricity that makes our nerves and muscles move the way our brain wants them to. Sodium, potassium, and chloride are the significant electrolytes along with magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonates. We get our electrolytes from foods and drinks.
Electrolytes that are out of proper balance disrupt normal bodily functions and can even lead to life-threatening complications. The most common signals that your electrolytes have gone haywire are feelings of dehydration like thirst, fatigue, dizziness, or confusion. Muscle cramps or twitches are also a sign that you’re in need of some electrolyte replenishment.
When you think of electrolytes, think of salt! Salt has been much maligned, but that’s because Americans have largely been using table salt, which contains only sodium chloride. That’s also what’s found in fast and heavily processed foods. The Standard American Diet (aptly shortened to SAD) has been so heavy in these types of foods, that Americans’ electrolytes are often way out of balance. Sea salt, like the pink Himalayan or Celtic salts contain as many as 75 additional minerals in proper balance with sodium. Switching to one of those salts at home, and generally avoiding the fast and processed foods will go a long way toward correcting this imbalance.
Meanwhile, if you’ve been doing your best to follow our advice on water intake and you’re drinking half your body weight in ounces (ex: a 120lb person should get 60oz of water), plus another 12oz of water per 30 minutes of exercise or high activity – you may find you need just a little extra sea or Celtic salt to keep that water to electrolyte ratio in balance. Just a little pinch in your glass of water will help! You can also try adding cell salts or one of the non-sugar-containing electrolyte powders that are available.