Our best health is attained or maintained when water and electrolyte balance is at its optimum. A number of research papers suggest that as much as 75% of our population is chronically and unintentionally dehydrated. When our cells do not have the needed electrolytes or water, they cannot function at their best. When enough cells are depleted of water or sodium, we enter a state of dis-ease.
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As part of the functioning of the electrolytes, the fluids in the body are maintained in balance.
There are two oceans of water in the human body. One ocean is outside the cell and one is within the cell. This is the same with the blood in our body. While the blood has fluid within and around the cells, it is also considered one of our fluid compartments.
Our optimal health requires the levels of electrolytes and fluids from varying too much.
This makes for three oceans in our body.
One, the oceans in the cells
One, the oceans outside the cells
One the blood
Electrolytes help maintain the balance of water in the body compartments. Inside our cells is potassium and outside the cells is the sodium. The two work together to maintain the balance.
While the water or fluids are moved in and out depending on need or activity, the body can also move the electrolytes.
Sodium helps manage the fluid balance.
The kidneys help manage the electrolyte balance. The kidneys do this by dumping excess sodium into the urine so it can be eliminated from the body. I the body is not getting enough, the kidneys slow down the elimination of the sodium.
An imbalance in the sodium or potassium can occur when ever there is...
* Dehydration (can result from not taking in enough water or salt)
* Over-hydration (when we drink too much water and not enough salt)
* Certain kidney, heart or liver diseases or disorders
* Getting to much or too little intravenous fluids
Maintaining the right balance of electrolytes helps your body's blood chemistry, muscle action and other processes. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink.
Levels of electrolytes in your body can become too low or too high. That can happen when the amount of water in your body changes, causing dehydration or over-hydration. Causes include some medicines, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating or kidney problems. Problems most often occur with levels of sodium, potassium or calcium.
The most critical concept to understand is how water and sodium work together to defend the body against the ups and downs in the volume and osmolarity of bodily fluids. Examples of disturbances include dehydration, blood loss, excess salt ingestion, and excess plain water ingestion.
Most science and medical books look at water balance as making sure the amount in is the same as the amount going out. There are a few problems with this view point. What if the baseline is starting from a state of drought in the body. While balance will be maintained, it will be in a state of drought. It could be below the actual needs of the body.
Some have health challenges that require extra water in order to resolve the condition, such as lymph edema.
Additionally, there are 16 genotypes that do not do well with salt. Some need more salt because their bodies get rid of too much and some cannot handle any more salt as their bodies are very poor at getting rid of salt. These are rare but they do exist. In the over 10,000 patients I cared for in my early years as a nurse, I only had one patient who could not tolerate more salt. Likewise, none of my colleagues ever heard of or experienced such when asked.
If the kidneys are healthy, the salt will be safely managed. You will not eat too much so long as you are in the 3,000 to 6,000 grams range. Over seven grams and you could be headed for trouble.
But it is possible to not eat enough salt. If you do not get enough, you can have serious health consequences.
The body controls water with the kidneys. Vasopressin or anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) is the gate keeper. ADH is a peptide hormone that comes from the hypothalamus. It is the means that water is reabsorbed. When ADH is produced and released, thirst is also stimulated.
ADH production is the result of numerous factors.
Receptors sensitive to increasing plasma osmolarity in the hypothalamus. When plasma becomes too concentrated, ADH secretion is stimulated.
The atria of the heart has stretch receptors. When an increased blood volume returns from the veins, ADH is inhibited. This will allow the body to rid of excess fluid volume.
The aorta and carotid arteries also have receptors that measure stretch. When blood pressure falls, ADH secretion is stimulated. This is the means by which the body works to maintain the blood pressure.
The osmolarity of the fluids in the body (ratio of solute per measure of water) is tightly regulated.
Regulation is the result of balancing the intake and output of sodium with the water intake and water conservation inside the body. Sodium is the primary solute in the fluid outside the cells. It determines the osmolarity of the extracellular fluids. (Potassium is the solute inside the cells).
The body manages the osmolarity by regulating the volume of the water depending on how much water and salt is entering the body and how much is being lost and by allowing salt to be washed out when enough or too much is present. In healthy kidneys, when the salt exceeds the need or water levels drop, the excess salt is released and either leaves with the urine or sweat through the skin.
The ADH helps lower osmolarity thus reducing sodium concentration when it increases water through reabsorption in the kidneys. This results in dilution of the body fluids to maintain osmolarity at proper levels.ADH Simplified: AntiDiuretic Hormone slows or stops diuresis or the elimination of water (pee). More water kept in the body results in a dilution of the salt in the fluid. Likewise, drinking more water dilutes the salt in the water inside us (called osmolarity). Why do doctors say eat less salt rather than say drink more water. Even better question...why do they say eat less salt yet when you are admitted to the hospital, you are given a saline IV....salt water IV, directly into your veins?
In order to prevent the dissolved solutes (osmolarity) from going too low below normal, the kidneys have a mechanism to reabsorb the sodium. This process is controlled by aldosterone, a steroid hormone that is produced in the adrenal cortex. The adrenal cortex secretes aldosterone based on two values:
When the adrenal cortex senses plasma osmolarity increases above normal, the secretion of aldosterone is slowed down. With the decrease in aldosterone, less sodium is reabsorbed in the distal tubule of the kidneys. At this same time, the ADH secretion will increase so that the body will conserve water. This works synergistically with the low aldosterone reduce the osmolarity of the body fluids. This will result in less outgoing urine and an increase in the solutes (osmolarity) in the urine.
The kidneys also monitor for when the blood pressure is low which lowers the the flow through the kidneys and thus lowers the filtration rate. The response is to raise the blood pressure while conserving the volume (slowing down how much goes out in the pee).
The juxtaglomerular cells in the arterioles produce a peptide hormone called renin. The renin initiates a cascade of hormonal responses that results in the production of angiotensin II. Angiotensin II stimulates the adrenal cortex which produces aldosterone. The aldosterone preserves the sodium by increasing the reabsorption of the sodium.
Some minerals—especially the macrominerals (minerals the body needs in relatively large amounts)—are important as electrolytes. The body uses electrolytes to help regulate nerve and muscle function and to maintain acid-base balance and water balance.
This is the reason we recommend unprocessed sea salt. The unprocessed salt has up to 80 minerals. This is the very trace minerals not available in table salt.