Who Needs Electrolytes and Why?

Many people talk about electrolytes but do you have any idea what electrolyte really is? Being among the smallest of chemicals important to a cell’s function, electrolytes are crucial to the manufacturing of energy, the maintenance of membrane stability, the movement of fluids in the body, and a few other jobs, such as contracting a muscle, like the heart.

No Sweat

You know that you’ll taste salt if you lick the back of your hand after jogging or cutting grass on a hot summer day. Sodium is one of sweat’s main ingredients, along with chloride and potassium. All three are carried to the surface of the skin by the water made in sweat glands and the salt stays after the liquid evaporates. The purpose of sweating is regulation of body temperature, which is achieved by the eccrine glands that cover much of the body. An adult can easily sweat two liters an hour (Godek, 2008), up to eight liters a day (Vukasinovic-Vesic, 2015). It’s the evaporation of the water that has the cooling effect. Some animals do not have efficient sweat glands, such as dogs that have to pant to cool down, or hogs that needs to wallow in mud or cool water.

After exercise — or other cause of heavy perspiration — it’s important to restore fluid balance, especially in hot weather when it is easy to get dehydrated. Rehydration occurs only if both water and electrolytes are replaced. The amount of electrolytes lost through sweat varies from person to person. Accurately matching beverage electrolyte intake with loss through sweat is practically impossible. If you are eating at the same time as drinking plain water, this may suffice for rehydration. Otherwise, inclusion of electrolytes is essential.

What Are They and What Do They Do?

In the body, the electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, chloride, and phosphate. Not all are contained — or needed — in an electrolyte replacement beverage. Sodium, the main cation outside the cell, controls total amount of water in the body, regulates blood volume and maintains muscle and nerve function. You need at least 500 mg a day. The suggested upper level is 2300 mg, but most Americans ingest more than 3000. Chloride, also from table salt, is an anion. Found in extracellular fluids, chloride, in the company of sodium, helps to maintain proper fluid balance and pressure of the various fluid compartments.

Potassium is the major cation inside the cell, where its job is to regulate heart beat and blood pressure while balancing the other electrolytes. Because it aids in transmitting nerve impulses, potassium is necessary for muscle contractions, actually the relaxation half of the contraction. Deficiency of potassium is more common than overdose, and may arise from diarrhea or vomiting, with muscle weakness and cramping being symptoms. Intake of potassium is generally much lower than the recommended 4700 mg a day, which is not surprising in light of the deficits in food caused by insulting agricultural practices. Perhaps the most under-appreciated mineral in the nutrient armamentarium is magnesium, not only a constituent of more than three hundred biochemical reactions in the body, but also a role player in the synthesis of both DNA and RNA. As an electrolyte, magnesium supports nerve and muscle function, boosts immunity, monitors heart cadence, stabilizes blood glucose, and promotes healthy bones and teeth. With half the U.S. population deficient, Mg is the orphan nutrient that is able to prevent elevated markers of inflammation (such as CRP), hypertension (It’s called nature’s calcium channel blocker), atherosclerotic vascular disease, migraines, asthma, and colon cancer (Rosanoff, 2012). Supplementation with magnesium is uncertain because absorption is inverse to intake.

Like the others, calcium is involved in muscle contraction and the transmission of nerve messages, but also in blood clotting. Calcium tells sodium to initiate a contraction so that you can pick up a pencil or scratch your nose. In opposition, magnesium tells potassium to let the pencil go or to move your arm back down. Because the heart needs calcium for a strong beat, it will pull the mineral from bone if dietary sufficiency is missing. After calcium, phosphorus — phosphate — is the most abundant mineral in the body. This anion helps to produce energy inside the cell besides being a bone strengthener. It’s a major building block of DNA and the cell membrane. Bicarbonate keeps pH in balance and is important when muscles make lactic acid from work.

Where Can I Get the Electrolytes I Need?

There are scores of electrolyte replacements on the market and entirely too many with sugar or additives. The issue with electrolytes is, in all honesty, that they taste bitter and salty. The fact that sugar is a carbohydrate hinders the processing of a hydration drink because absorption is slowed. That’s what carbohydrates do. Sugar concentrations in many sports drinks are higher than that of body fluid, so will not be readily absorbed. Plain water passes through too fast; carb-laden drinks pass too slowly. Therefore, an electrolyte balanced drink will do the job better and faster. Sodium and potassium, after all, encourage fluid retention and help to reduce urine output.

It is common knowledge that most of us gravitate to sweetness in times of dehydration; saltiness less so. But when you need rehydration, choose the real stuff, BodyBio’s E-lyte and E-lyte Sport, two electrolyte replacements that copy the mineral balance of the body. Elyte may be used as a daily addition to the diet, and is effective to restore homeostasis in times of virus-induced gastrointestinal distress for adults and children, in electrolyte deficit from uncontrolled diabetes and even for restless leg syndrome. When sodium loss is high from exercise, chose Elyte Sport.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Off-Season Fitness

group-fitnessThe off-season is the time for a well-deserved break, yet it might be viewed as a chance to get ready for next season.  As each day passes you’ll lose the fitness that you worked so hard to get if you fail to do something to keep it.  There’s no need to go to extremes, though.  Looking at the off-season as part of your overall training cycle will keep you focused on maintaining the fitness level you need to get the job done.  Nutrition is part of that plan.

For a high-school athlete, a summer with no training is a missed opportunity that guarantees a hard return to the rigors of structured sports.  Just as during the season, it’ll help to set goals, such as reducing body fat, adding muscle mass, maintaining aerobic fitness, improving speed, and developing techniques specific to your sport.  Any attempt to alter body composition must be planned over a significant time period, making it absolutely necessary to start a program weeks before the season opens.  It isn’t safe to increase or decrease a body component in a short time.  Because of this, be careful to avoid fads and misinformation from the non-credentialed sources that pop up on the internet and from friends of friends’ friends.

Since you’re on your own during the off-season, or are hangin’ with the guys at best, you’ll be separated from the atmosphere that lends itself to motivation and drive.  If you’re totally idle, you’re detraining, and that’ll reverse the training-induced physiological adaptations you need to excel at your sport.  You’ll lose strength, power, endurance, and aerobic power and capacity.  Within days or only a few weeks you’ll see these qualities diminish.  If you‘re a runner, fifteen days’ inactivity will award you with a 25% decrease in performance.  (Houston et al. 1979)  If you’re a strength-trained athlete, strength or power will decline almost immediately after the cessation of training.  (Kraemer. 2002)  Since you’re on your own, you’re also unlikely to train as you would under supervision, and the results will show it.  (Mazzetti. 2000)  It came as a surprise, however, when researchers announced that if frequency of training is reduced by two thirds, endurance capacity can be maintained for as long as three months.  (Hickson. 1982)  (Neufer. 1987)  So, now you have some slack time.

Simple things like walking, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, and even stretching contribute to your fitness plan.  And there’s nothing wrong with cross-training.  But there are some things you can’t do all at once, like lose weight and increase muscle mass.  These need to be tackled separately, mostly because the body isn’t very adept at doing both at the same time.  Lose the weight, and then build the muscle.

The off-season doesn’t mean you can eat what you want.  The high-calorie energy bars that got you through the season won’t do you any good if you don’t burn ‘em.  You still need to keep an eye on calories in and calories out, as well as on hydration.  Your nutrition goals will include maintaining the physique that is suited to your sport, so balancing energy needs is important.  This is an individual venture that requires a different carbohydrate to protein ratio from that during the active season, particularly if your off-season training sessions are of shorter duration.  Once you find your competition weight, stick to it, even if you have to monitor yourself a few times a week to find any changes you didn’t cause on purpose.  (Smith. 1984)  If you’re trying to lose weight, be watchful not to over-restrict your eating.  Sports dietitians are available to help you with this.  It might be worth your while to sit down with a pencil and paper and figure out how many calories you need to train and how many you need for normal body functions, and work from there.  If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, keep in mind that you need about 30 calories of energy per kilogram of lean body mass to keep you going.  Otherwise you risk metabolic and hormonal insult, and if you’re a girl, you need to watch for menstrual disorders.

When it comes to protein intake, the total amount is not as important as the timing.  Consuming protein before and right after a session will enhance protein synthesis and net protein balance.  1.2–1.6 grams per kilogram of body mass will serve you well in both endurance and strength.   If you lay off completely for a few weeks, you can lower those numbers to 0.8–1.0.  (Colombani. 2011)

Different activities have different fuel needs, so carbohydrate intake is not one-size-fits-all.  For light training, you need about 5 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body mass, while heavier, prolonged, or strenuous work that demands optimal synthesis of glycogen might call for 7–10 grams per kilogram.  You’ll need the higher amounts for events that last longer than one hour.  You should be able to fine tune intake according to your specific needs.  (Burke. 2011)

The off-season needn’t be a season off.  A serious athlete will take care of business so that getting back into the groove is not a monumental feat.  In light of this, it’s O.K. to have a cheat day once in a while, where you can eat pizza on a Friday night, or a bowl of ice cream, or a chocolate éclair after a meal.  But don’t do all these at the same time.  Nine to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day, even during the off-season, will supply nutrient density to help offset prandial sins.  That sounds like a lot, but really isn’t.  Besides, eating this much produce can displace the potential to eat empty calories during the off-season.

Staying properly hydrated is a matter of common sense, but that faculty is ignored too often.  Losing 2% of body weight to sweat impairs performance on the field or in the gym.  More than that risks serious after effects that may include hospitalization. On the other hand, overhydration will dilute electrolytes and backfire.  Don’t drink at rates that are greater than sweat losses.  You might actually gain weight during the competition period.  Get hydrated before an event with 8-16 ounces of fluid a couple of hours prior.  Drink ½-1 cup every fifteen to twenty minutes, if you can, during an event.  Afterwards, replace any fluids you have lost at a rate of about two cups for every pound of body weight lost.  If you’re not exercising regularly, you still need three liters—or more—of water a day, some of which comes from food.  Use it or lose it.


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Coconut Water: Is It What It’s Cracked Up To Be?

fresh-coconutWhether or not Robinson Crusoe was sustained by it, coconut water—not coconut milk—has gathered a following among those fitness fans looking for an all-natural alternative to sports drinks. However, it just might not be good enough for all athletes.  The liquid endosperm of young coconuts, coconut water is considered one of the world’s most versatile natural products. To enhance that image, science has found evidence to support the role of coconut water in health and medicinal applications. One of the traditional uses of coconut water is as a growth supplement in plant tissue propagation and culture, but a wider application can be justified by its unique chemical composition of sugars, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phytohormones. The last category holds a few welcome surprises, since soy genistein has hogged the spotlight for years.

What’s The Big Deal?
Coconut water is the liquid endosperm and is served directly as a beverage to quench thirst, while coconut milk is the product obtained by grating the solid endosperm with or without additional water to get a food ingredient useful in traditional recipes. Coconut water is more than 90% water; the milk about 50% water, but also containing fat and protein (Seow, 1997). Coconut water is a clear isotonic solution plentiful in young coconuts. (Isotonic means that the tonicity, or tension, of a solution is similar to that of a body fluid and exerts basically the same pressure on both sides of a membrane.) As the coconut matures, its chemical composition and liquid volume change. The liquid may exceed half a liter at nine month’s maturity (Jackson, 2004).

Coconut water is touted as being high in potassium, one of the electrolytes essential to muscle function as the body’s predominant intracellular cation. One cup of coconut water (240 gm) carries about 600 mg of potassium, which is a fraction of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended 4700 mg ( Of course, 8 glasses will put you over the top. The concern is that potassium needs to be balanced with sodium, the electrolyte first lost to heavy sweating. This is where coconut water falls short as a sports beverage. Sodium content of one cup of coconut water is about 250 mg, not enough to aid recovery after a hard workout that spent eighteen times that by sweating more than a day’s worth of suggested intake. There’s more sodium in a glass of vegetable juice. If you have an interest in electrolytes’ role in human health — and you should, really — check out this site for a cogent explanation:

What Good Is It, Then?
In an era of anti-aging curiosity, coconut water seems to be able to hold its own.  The vitamin content of coconut water is insignificant, although considerably better than the zero of plain water, but its phytonutrients, cytokinin and its analog kinetin, have demonstrated appreciable impact as anti-senescent agents. Isolated more than half a century ago, cytokinin has a potent biological effect on plant cells and tissues that influence gene expression, cell cycle, chloroplast development and biosynthesis, stimulation of vascular architecture, and delay of senescence. This characteristic was extrapolated to humans and cell membrane lipid peroxidation (Mik, 2011). Against placebo, in a randomized, double-blind, controlled study, a combination of topical cosmetic ingredients that featured kinetin and niacinamide was found to induce a reduction in spots, pores, and wrinkles and to re-establish evenness after eight weeks (Chiu, 2007). Additionally, age-related changes attributed to lipofuscin, an indicator of damage represented as brown pigmentations from oxidized fats, were delayed (Rattan, 1994).

Cytokinin and its analogs were found to induce cell death and to inhibit cell proliferation in diverse cancer cell lines (Vermeulen, 2002), where researchers were surprised to find anti-cancer effects that extended beyond the original discoveries (Voller, 2010). An item of interest is that these studies were conducted outside the United States, but not necessarily where coconuts are native. There is a modicum of protein in a cup of coconut water (less than 2.0 grams), but when part of a more voluminous coconut protein product, it is sufficiently influential to contribute to an increase and a strengthening of the immune cells that are born in bone marrow (Vigila, 2008). All the while, non-malignant cells are left alone, as cytokinin and kinetin are selective in their inhibition of cell proliferation (Dudzik, 2011).

To Use Or Not To Use?
Though not quite as balanced as serious electrolyte replacement beverages, coconut water has a place in health promotion and disease prevention. To some, it is the darling of India’s Ayurvedic medical practice, where the coconut palm is labeled “Kalpavriksha,” the all-giving tree that provides antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, hypoglycemic, immunostimulant and hepatoprotective properties (DebMandal, 2011) (Preetha, 2012).   To overcome coconut water’s sodium shortfall, some formulators add salt and other enhancements to their drink and then market it as a complete sports beverage. There’s a lot more to learn about what’s in the marketplace, since adulteration is common and can ramp up calories from the basic 46 per cup.

Oral rehydration using coconut water following bouts of diarrhea, especially in children, can forestall the need for intravenous therapy in those who are amply nourished prior to the onset of the infirmity. It is contraindicated in cases of dehydration for lack of electrolyte balance (Adams, 1992). The absorption of coconut water is far superior to that of soft drinks, too, which are often used as fluid replacements by those who are unaware of the options (Chavalittamrong, 1982). The problem with this application, however, is the variability of sodium and glucose content of the coconut fluid at various stages in its development (Fagundes, 1993). A legitimate coconut water purveyor will have analyzed his product before packaging, and will put that data on the label.  Coconut water costs about fifteen cents an ounce. A quality electrolyte replacement concentrate, making four gallons of sports beverage, costs about four cents an ounce…and has the right balance of potassium and sodium, the two important players in muscle contraction and relaxation.


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Jose C. Jackson, Andre Gordon, Gavin Wizzard, Kayanne McCook and Rosa Rolle
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Keeping Your Electrolytes in Balance

Gym girlWithout electrolytes, physiological stability—called homeostasis—goes haywire and nerve and muscle function are disturbed, body fluid balance is upset, and other critical body workings are interrupted. These tiny particles of metals carry electrical charges and are present in all body fluids, including urine, blood and plasma. Without the proper timing and intensity of electrical impulses, nerve, heart and muscle function suffer, and might even stop in severe instances. If electrolytes are lost, as would happen in extreme exercise or sickness, replenishment is necessary, but in appropriate amounts. Imbalances can have terrible effects, and they can be caused by a deficiency or an excess. In the chemistry jargon, the prefix hypo- means “too little,” and the prefix hyper- means “too much.”

There is a laundry list of conditions that can lead to electrolyte imbalances, including dehydration and over-hydration, diabetic ketoacidosis, cancer, and head injuries like concussions. Kidney disease, though, is at the top of the list because the kidney’s job is to control fluid, electrolyte, and acid-base balance (Claure, 2012). The surest way to deal with electrolytes is through diet or supplementation, using an electrolyte replacement if necessary, as you might when exercising in the hot weather or when participating in endurance events.

We’ll start with sodium, since it’s the most abundant cation (positive ion) in the extracellular fluid (outside the cell). We need sodium to maintain normal blood pressure in addition to sending electrical messages to initiate a muscle contraction. Water will follow salt into the body. Too much salt will increase blood osmolality, meaning, in a way, that blood has more stuff floating in it because there is too little liquid. If that happens you get thirsty, and anti-diuretic hormone tells the kidneys not to let go of water. Opposite that, low osmolality means that the blood is more watery. If too much water is lost from sweat, respiration, urination, or the weather, or if too much salt is taken in, you have hypernatremia and may suffer symptoms such as disorientation, nausea without vomiting, rapid heartbeat, sunken eyes, or trembling. Your cells are drying out and the kidneys are conserving water, so you don’t urinate.

Losing sodium—hyponatremia—can happen when you drink volumes of plain water during a bout of intense exercise, especially in hot weather. Add lethargy and confusion to the hypernatremia symptoms. If sodium falls too low, permanent neurological damage can occur.  People who have been forced to drink water to take a work-related urine drug test have fainted from hyponatremia, and have experienced hypertension and difficulty breathing.

Potassium is the primary cation inside the cell, where its major physiological role is the regulation of muscle and nerve excitability as the director of relaxation immediately following a muscular contraction initiated by sodium. Potassium imbalance is particularly monitored because of its relationship to coronary health and the heart’s ability to change electrical potential. Imbalance may cause arrhythmia. Excess (hyperkalemia) will cause cardiac arrest; deficit (hypokalemia) will irritate cardiac muscle and increase the chance of premature atrial or ventricular contractions, possibly leading to death. Potassium balance leaves little room for error (van der Meer, 1986) (Lindinger, 1995).

Magnesium, like potassium, is also found inside the cell, where it affects muscle function, energy production and carbohydrate and protein metabolism. Kidney disease is a major cause of hypermagnesemia, although taking too many magnesium-bearing antacids can contribute. Too much magnesium will cause lethargy, which is understandable because magnesium is a relaxant (Gold, 1990) (Spivey, 1990). Too little magnesium is common in the critically ill (Dacey, 2001), among whom mortality is high. Similar to hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia may induce cardiac arrhythmia, although milder signs occur before that happens. Muscle weakness, tremors, anorexia and dizziness are the more common. Can’t sleep?  Got leg cramps?  Magnesium may help (Young, 2002, 2009) (Geurrera, 2009) (Allen, 2012).

Although calcium is electrolytic, it seldom appears in electrolyte replacement drinks because most Americans, especially women, supplement at the behest of their doctors. Calcium works with phosphorus in an inverse relationship. When the value of one is high, the other is generally low. Calcium is involved in contraction of cardiac and smooth muscle, but also enhances the clotting mechanism, maintains cell membrane permeability and helps to transmit nerve impulses. You already know about the bones and teeth. Phosphorus also plays a role in bone formation, but is also needed for energy production and for macronutrient metabolism. By buffering hydrogen ions, it helps to maintain acid-base balance, as well. Like calcium, phosphorus needs are easily met without an electrolyte beverage. Deficiency is rare and occurs secondary to other conditions rather than as a result of low dietary intake. High doses of antacids may deplete phosphorus.

If your exercise regimen lasts more than an hour, especially in warm weather, you’re a candidate for electrolyte replacement. Hard games like tennis, cycling and marathon running, and assiduous resistance training call for such a beverage. During these times, you might need to drink a cup of electrolyte replacement every fifteen or twenty minutes to keep a steady pace and to avoid cramps. Thirst is not always the best barometer for gauging electrolyte needs. A beverage with sugar will compromise the bioavailability of minerals. Since sodium is the first electrolyte lost to heavy sweating, it’s a major consideration in repletion, so don’t be alarmed if you see high levels of sodium in your drink. If you’re interested in balancing electrolytes for yourself and the family, which is especially important when the kids get sick, take a look here: There’s an informative bulletin explaining the how and why of electrolytes, the balance of which is no laughing matter.


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Claure R, Bouchard J.
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Dacey MJ.
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Guerrera MP, Volpe SL, Mao JJ.
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Shibata H.
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

The Importance of Healthy Kidneys

kidney-modelBert Lance, who worked for Jimmy Carter in the Budget office, is credited with saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” as cited in the May 1977 issue of the magazine Nation’s Business. Sometimes we carry this admonition too far, as when we ignore body parts that don’t hurt. Not everything that’s out of order lets us know right away. It’s a lot easier to prevent damage than to fix it; just as changing the oil in your car prevents an exorbitant repair bill. The same applies to your body. Preventing ailments is easier and less painful than fixing them. Except for stones, the kidneys pretty much mind their own business, seldom letting us know they’re even there. A little maintenance goes a long way. Many people don’t even know where in the body they are or what they do.

These bean-shaped organs, about the size of a fist, are near the middle of the back, just below the ribs, one on each side of the spine. And, boy oh boy, are they sophisticated reprocessing machines. They handle nearly fifty gallons of blood a day to filter about a half gallon of waste and excess water, which you already know is stored in the bladder. The wastes come from food leftovers that float in the blood after the food’s energy supplies have been used. If these wastes weren’t removed, they’d make us sick. The actual removal of the impurities occurs in the nephrons, which are the functional units of the kidney. Each kidney has more than a million nephrons, which have tiny blood vessels that help to remove the junk, including urea, uric acid, creatinine from muscles, and excess electrolytes. Normal proteins and other materials are kept in the bloodstream to be recycled for use by the body. This includes potassium, phosphorus and sodium, among others. The kidneys also release three vital hormones—erythropoietin to stimulate the marrow to make red blood cells, renin to control blood pressure, and calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D) to help maintain calcium for bones.

If kidney function were to fail by as much as thirty percent, you probably wouldn’t even know it. That’s one of the reasons why it’s measured on blood tests, looking at creatinine, glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and blood urea nitrogen (BUN). The first of these comes from normal wear and tear on muscles; the second is an age-variable measure of how well the kidneys filter the wastes; and the third is a product of protein breakdown from the foods you eat. Proteins can also be monitored via urine. It is possible to survive with only one kidney, but living with two is nicer. If function drops to fifteen percent, either dialysis or a transplant may be necessary to sustain life.

There are things we can do to prevent kidney disorders. If there is a family history of diabetes or high blood pressure, tend to those right away. Glucose that stays in the blood instead of getting used for fuel can damage the nephrons. High BP distresses the tiny blood vessels of the nephrons, interfering with their function. Yes, there are medications to address these problems, but there also are a few dietary interventions that can keep the kidneys healthy.

Keeping sodium under control is necessary, especially as we age. Processed meals and meats contain large amounts of sodium, but so do restaurant foods, fast foods, soups and snacks. In some who are susceptible, sodium may spike BP.

The same oxygen that gives us life takes away molecular stability in the form of free radicals, which take turns stealing electrons from each other in a continuous cycle. Some come from the environment as pollution, and some from inside the body from burning food for energy. Supplying both the fat-soluble and water-soluble anti-oxidants from supplements is a good start, but that does not rule out the importance of the right diet, from which you can make the master anti-oxidant, glutathione.

Too much protein can tax the kidneys, particularly animal proteins. Mixing plant and animal sources is a safe bet. Whole grains and legumes can help. Depending on the condition of the body, however, protein intake in excess of protein need may or may not adversely affect the kidneys (Martin, 2005) (Knight, 2003). In the presence of a jeopardized kidney, elevated phosphorus levels can do harm. Meats and dairy are main sources, but food additives also contribute to the load. Phosphorus is an essential element in the diet, and in the form of phosphates is a major component of bone. It’s necessary for the manufacture of adenosine triphosphate to be burned for energy. Without it, metabolism of calcium, protein and glucose is upset. But an excess burdens the filtration load of the nephrons, and phosphate retention is linked to parathyroid malfunction.

Now, what do we eat?  Reducing sodium intake is simple. Just do it. More than 500 mg at a meal is pushing it, so you have to read labels. Canned soups can give you half a day’s worth in a single serving. You can swallow anti-oxidants from a bottle, but it’s helpful to get some from food. Berries are an excellent source, as are peppers, squashes and tomatoes. Cruciferous vegetables supply vitamin C, while onions offer quercetin, an anti-oxidant bioflavonoid that is also cardio-protective. Apples, with skins, are anti-inflammatory. Egg whites are a source of complete protein, having all the essential amino acids and less than a dozen milligrams of phosphorus. The omega-3 fats from cold-water fish—and from fish oil—can’t be beat for anti-inflammatory work (see and olive oil is rich in polyphenols that inhibit inflammation and oxidation. A reliable research link for the study of kidney health is DaVita Clinical Research,

Water is an essential nutrient. Though we think that more is better, the truth is that more can be toxic. Drink too much and the kidneys can’t keep up. The cells get swollen beyond their capacity, sodium levels drop precipitously, and the firing of neurotransmitters short circuits, leading to headaches, fatigue, disorientation and even death. Thinking water will reduce protein blood test values, some people will overdo water intake and find that all they have done is dilute the protein. Even endurance athletes need to balance water intake with water loss.

A little prevention costs less than a plumber.


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Knight EL, Stampfer MJ, Hankinson SE, Spiegelman D, Curhan GC.
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Martin WF, Armstrong LE, Rodriguez NR.
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Ogborn MR, Nitschmann E, Bankovic-Calic N, Weiler HA, Aukema HM.
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National Kidney Disease Education Program

Tack, Ivan MD, PhD
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.

Electrolytes and Sugar(s): Stuff You Need To Know

sports-drinkAlthough we are admonished not to mix electrolytes with sugars, we do it anyway. Most of the time it’s isn’t “we”, the consumer; it’s “we”, the marketer. The soda industry wouldn’t sell much product if it weren’t sweet. Plain carbonated lemon juice, cola syrup or turkey gravy just wouldn’t cut it. Even Ragu contains sugar, but thank goodness it isn’t fizzy. Sugar has no place in an electrolyte replacement beverage.

A few electrolyte drinks aimed at professional athletes contain some kind of sugar. The only purpose served by the sweetener is to add palatability. It does absolutely nothing—nada, zilch, zero—for bioavailability and efficacy of the electrolyte minerals. But it sure turns the coach into fly food after a win.

Tests at the University of Nebraska found that fructose increases fecal excretion of minerals, mostly iron and magnesium, but other electrolyte balances are likewise negatively affected (Ivatur, 1986). Sucrose is not without guilt. Well, now, magnesium is an electrolyte, which is supposed to be accompanied by sodium, potassium, chloride and calcium, all of them working to initiate and to inhibit a muscle contraction. In the absence of such contractions you couldn’t pick up the ten dollars your brother owes you. Even more dramatic, your heart might not run on all its cylinders.

Calling sugar a carbohydrate on a food ingredient label is misleading, so labeling guidelines now call it what it is…sugar. Itself, sugar arrests the secretion of stomach acid so that processing of nutrients, including the electrolyte minerals, is stymied. Creating acid in the intestine, however, sugar can lower pH by as much as one or two units, and being logarithmic, represent a tenfold or twentyfold difference in acidity (Rosen, 1965) (Stephan, 1943). Sugar even increases the acidity that tumors find so hospitable to their growth and development (DiPette, 1986).

Many of us are deficient in magnesium, partly because of sugar consumption. Beverage choices are paramount in this affliction (Ballew, 2000), and sports drinks containing sugar elevate insulin as part of the metabolic process, thus increasing the renal excretion of magnesium (Djurhuus, 1995, 2000) and calcium (Hodgkinson, 1965).

Mineral absorption occurs at the juncture of the duodenum and the jejunum. Sugar increases an acidic environment at that point, where it interferes with the alkalinity that minerals enjoy for absorption. The acidity might help the utilization of sugar, but does little for the electrolytes (Daniel, 1986). Major uptake of potassium and sodium occurs at pH of 8.0, with the others close behind. Electrolytes quite possibly are still absorbed at less-than-ideal pH, but why take a chance?


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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.
These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.