09 Jul 2015

Electrolyte Replacement: Who Needs It, And How Is it Done?

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Gatorade, anyone? We tend to think of Gatorade, like other energy drinks, as a healthy boost, kind of like the flip-side of caffeine.  In particular, we associate sports participation with the need for energy drinks.   Meaning anyone sweating profusely.  But the term “energy drink” is only partially about replacing energy – its main goal is to replace electrolytes, namely some of the biggies – calcium and sodium to name just two. And it’s not just for heavy sports players.

Electrolytes are minerals found in our bodily fluids – blood, urine, and perspiration. They are crucial to our daily function, and extreme electrolyte loss can even be fatal, and quick. Electrolytes are chemicals that form electrically-charged particles (ions) which carry the electrical energy necessary for muscle contractions and nerve impulse transfer. Hello? Where would we be without muscle and nerve function? Considering the heart is a muscle, and the brain is nerve-central, it’s no wonder things can spiral out of hand if electrolytes are low.

Who needs electrolyte replacement?

At Rockaway Care Center, we handle recovery for high-level sports injuries, but it is not these patients who usually need electrolyte replacement.  Rather, it is the severely unhealthy who are electrolyte-depleted.  Diabetes, cancer, severe head injuries  or serious dehydration are some examples of causes for electrolyte loss, but its main culprit is renal disease. It’s the kidneys who are charged with controlling fluid, and with it, electrolyte balance. If the kidneys are low-functioning, electrolyte replacement becomes necessary.

Examples of Electrolytes

You’ve heard of them all, but did you know their actual function? Here is a brief run-down of the main electrolyte minerals functions.

1. Calcium: In addition to its well-known functions as bone and teeth builder, calcium also transmits nerve impulses (including cardiac), maintains cell wall permeability, and activates the clotting mechanism. 

2. Phosphorus: Also plays a major role in bone formation. In addition, phosphorus affects cell energy production and metabolism for protein, fat and carbohydrates, and also maintains Ph balance.

3. Sodium:  Participates in transmitting nerve impulses, and maintains blood concentration.

4. Potassium: Nerve impulse conduction; muscle contractions; intracellular and extracellular fluid and nutrient flow regulation; and helps lower your blood pressure to healthy levels—partly by countering the effects of sodium.

5. Chloride: In addition to potassium and sodium, assists in the conduction of electrical impulses.

6. Magnesium: Energy production, muscle function, and protein and carbohydrate metabolism.

Needless to say, electrolytes are a fabric without which our bodies would not survive. For the healthy, maintaining proper water and food intake does the trick (those “energy drinks” are full of sugar, by the way). But for the unhealthy, electrolytes might need to be administered. At Rockaway Care Center, we administer electrolyte replacement via our infusion therapy program, used both in our rehabilitation unit, as well as our elder-care unit. By providing electrolyte replacement via infusion therapy, we are pleased to assist in our residents’ care recovery and health maintenance.


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