The ins and outs of electrolytes

Most of us can internally maintain sufficient electrolytes to keep our bodies healthy, Dr. Keith Roach explains. However, there are some who need special liquids fortified with such electrolytes. Here's why.



May 19, 2022 - 4:00 PM

A bottle of pediatric electrolytes. Photo by kiliweb per Open Food Facts

Dear Dr. Roach: Can you explain electrolytes? How can we make sure we keep our electrolytes in the normal range within our body? Are we wasting our money purchasing bottled water that says, “includes electrolytes”? I came across an electrolyte powder that can be added to water. Is this the best way to keep electrolytes in the normal range? How can we tell if we are taking too much electrolytes? — A.R.

Answer: Chemicals that dissolve in water are called electrolytes when they break into charged particles called ions — they conduct electricity, hence the name. The most important electrolytes in the body are sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate (the ionized form of carbon dioxide, dissolved in the water), magnesium, calcium and phosphate. 

These are regulated by the body very carefully through wonderfully complex systems, and are kept in perfect balance most of the time. We get the overwhelming majority of our electrolytes from food. Most people need never worry about their electrolytes, nor do anything special to keep them regulated.

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