“Horses sweat, men perspire, ladies glow” Whatever you call it, perspiration is made up of more than just water. If you lick your lips when your face has been sweating you’ll have tasted the minerals in there; it’s a bit salty. And some people notice stains on clothing when they have been sweating a lot. Of course, it is absolutely necessary to replenish your water, but many people forget to replenish the electrolytes that were also lost in sweat. What are Electrolytes? Electrolytes are minerals that carry a tiny electric charge, hence the name! That charge enables them to perform many essential functions in our biochemistry: without them, nothing could flow in or out of our cells. The minerals that function as electrolytes in our bodies are Sodium Potassium Calcium Magnesium Chloride These names are so common you know them all, but may not have known that they are electrolytes. So What Do Electrolytes Do For You? Sodium, the mineral in salt, is an essential electrolyte in the fluid that bathes all our cells and tissues. It is responsible for maintaining this critical fluid volume. Potassium, found in almost all fruits and vegetables, works together with sodium to drive the sodium-potassium pump. This creates the electrical potential across our cell membranes that is literally a spark of life. Magnesium is known to be anti-inflammatory, and it is also a major electrolyte within our cells. It is essential for helping your muscles, nerves and heart work properly. That’s why people take it for muscle cramps. Magnesium is also critical in controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Calcium, of course, is the main mineral in bones (but needs magnesium to get in there!). The balance between calcium, mainly outside the cell, and magnesium, mainly inside the cell, controls contraction of muscles, blood clotting, and even secretion of some hormones. “Taking the Waters” Throughout history people have realised the value of minerals and mineral water. In Europe there is a tradition of “taking the waters” of natural springs at traditional spas, for energy, vitality, and to alleviate ailments. In modern days there are many electrolyte drinks on the market. These do contain a good supply of electrolytes, but they also contain huge amounts of sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial colours, flavours, and a lot of chemicals too difficult to pronounce! Some of those colours are remarkably unnatural! So seek a natural electrolyte replenisher: here are some suggestions:
Herbal teas with a little honey are generally helpful
Nettle tea is particularly high in minerals, and can be mixed with some fruit juice
Salt sprinkled on watermelon: refreshing and delicious!
Coconut water, often called nature’s electrolyte drink
Health food stores offer a variety of powders, drops or capsules to put in your water bottle to take on a walk or to the gym.
HEAT STROKE With this summer’s record-breaking high temperatures, it is important for all of us to recognize the signs of heatstroke, which can be life-threatening if untreated. Heat emergencies have three stages: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and finally heat stroke. In all of these, the loss of both body water and electrolytes through sweating are the cause of heat distress. Symptoms of a heat emergency may include
profuse sweating, followed by hot dry skin
nausea and vomiting
racing heart rate
confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
high body temperature: over 40 degrees C or 104 degrees F
loss of consciousness
It is critical to get a person suffering a heat emergency cooled off in any way possible. Find shade or move into a cool room, remove their clothing, spray them with a hose, put them in a tub of cool water, or put ice packs on their head, neck, underarms and groin. The elderly and the very young are more susceptible to heat stroke. And don’t forget our pets, who don’t sweat and are covered with fur!