Electrolytes are the smallest of chemicals that are important for the cells in the body to function and allow the body to work. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and others are critical in allowing cells to generate energy, maintain the stability of their walls, and to function in general. They generate electricity, contract muscles, move water and fluids within the body, and participate in myriad other activities.
The concentration of electrolytes in the body is controlled by a variety of hormones, most of which are manufactured in the kidney and the adrenal glands. Sensors in specialized kidney cells monitor the amount of sodium, potassium, and water in the bloodstream. The body functions in a very narrow range of normal, and it is hormones like renin (made in the kidney), angiotensin (from the lung, brain and heart), aldosterone (from the adrenal gland), and antidiuretic hormone (from the pituitary) that keep the electrolyte balance within those normal limits.
Sodium: Sodium is a component of salt. 2.5 grams of salt provides 1 gram of sodium. Although salt is the major source of sodium in our food, sodium is also a component of other ingredients, such as sodium bicarbonate used in baking and monosodium glutamate used as a flavour enhancer. It helps regulate the fluid balance in your body. Processed food also has high amount of sodium, this includes, smoked meats, processed cheese, ham, bacon, sausage, corn chips, pickles, pretzels, potato chips, salted nuts etc. Some items may not taste salty but are very high in sodium e.g. canned soups, ketchup, mustard, relishes and other canned food.
When it is recommended to limit your salt intake, there are other ways to add flavour to your food. Herbs and spices can be used in meal plans. Try to find pure spices and avoid the one that are mixed with salt.
You may use garlic, pepper, onion, paprika, vinegar and wine.
Potassium: It regulates nerve and muscle function. In renal failure patients it is very important to understand this element. Increased level may cause itchiness, heart trouble and restlessness.
Main source of Potassium are bananas, avocadoes, dried beans, dried fruits, milk, nuts, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, peas etc. If you report shows high level of potassium, we recommend dipping the vegetables in hot water for at least 15 – 20 mins, spills the water and then cook them.
Calcium and Phosphorus: These minerals work hand in hand to keep your bones strong and healthy. In renal failure patients kidneys are not able to filter out the phosphorus completely. Imbalance in these two may cause bone disease, calcification of arteries and organs including the heart.Phosphate binders are recommended to address the excessive phosphorus in blood.
Main source of Phosphorus are cheese, milk, yogurt, dried beans, nuts, chocolate and soda drinks.
Magnesium: Magnesium is an often forgotten electrolyte that is involved with a variety of metabolic activities in the body, including relaxation of the smooth muscles that surround the bronchial tubes in the lung, skeletal muscle contraction, and excitation of neurons in the brain. Magnesium acts as a cofactor in many of the body’s enzyme activities.
Magnesium levels in the body are closely linked with sodium, potassium, and calcium metabolism; and are regulated by the kidney.
Symptoms of magnesium imbalance involve the heart with rhythm abnormalities, muscles with weakness and cramps, and the nervous system, potentially causing confusion, hallucinations, and seizures.
Bicarbonate (HCO3): This electrolyte is an important component of the equation that keeps the acid-base status of the body in balance.
Water + Carbon Dioxide = Bicarbonate + Hydrogen
The lungs regulate the amount of carbon dioxide, and the kidneys regulate bicarbonate (HCO3). This electrolyte helps buffer the acids that build up in the body as normal byproducts of metabolism. For example, when muscles are working, they produce lactic acid as a byproduct of energy formation. HCO3 is required to be available to bind the hydrogen released from the acid to form carbon dioxide and water. When the body malfunctions, too much acid may also be produced (for example, diabetic ketoacidosis, renal tubular acidosis) and HCO3 is needed to try to compensate for the extra acid production.
Measuring the amount of bicarbonate in the blood stream can help the health care practitioner decide how severe the acid-base balance of the body has become.