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.

Exercise And The Common Cold

winter-runningSome things never come our way, no matter how hard we try. Wouldn’t it be really cool if you could win the trillion dollar lottery at least once? Or maybe twice? On the other hand, some things do come to us without trying, like the in-laws at holiday time, the IRS in April, and the common cold, also known as coryza. If you’re an adult—and if you’re reading this you probably are—you’ll get about two to four such viral infections a year. Your kids will get more than a half dozen. Then, again, you might be one of the fortunate few who get none. Collectively, colds, the flu and other upper respiratory infections are classed as influenza-like illnesses.

Some science people hold that viruses are not actually living things because they cannot reproduce on their own. They can’t go through cell division because they are acellular, not made of cells. That means they have to use your cellular material to make copies of themselves, and that means they have to get inside one of your cells, where they disguise themselves as part of the gang.  That’s when they start to sneak around, fooling other cells to accept them as friends, and then cloning themselves repeatedly. If your immune system is awake and on the job, it’ll recognize this fraud and take steps to halt it.  If it isn’t, you’ll get sick for as long a time as it takes to recoup your resources.

The rhinovirus is the most studied of the pathogens that cause upper respiratory infections (URI).  There are more than a hundred, and are most infectious in the first three days after the onset of symptoms. One of the things that separate a cold from the flu is that cold symptoms show up a couple of days after infection; with the flu, it’ll be sudden onset with extreme fatigue.  (Eccles. 2005)  Exposure to the cold weather has little to do with catching a cold, although it might compromise the immune system. Staying indoors and being in close proximity to other people is a more likely cause. All you have to do is to touch a doorknob turned by a sneeze-covered hand, or to breathe in the particles that already erupted from somebody’s nose or throat, and bingo, you’ve got it. Makes you want to stay home, doesn’t it?

There is not one thing on the market that can get rid of a cold. Nada. Nothing. Zip. You might be able to control symptoms, though, and for most of us, that’s enough. Vapor rubs for the chest, antihistamines for the runny nose, analgesics for physical discomfort, and chicken soup for the soul, which, by the way, might just be the last word in cold medicine. It’s kind of frustrating to find out that medical books don’t really address colds (at more than a few hundred dollars each), but that granny does. (Ibid.)

Whatever you do, don’t ask for an antibiotic. You can’t kill things that aren’t alive in the first place, but you can disrupt the whole immune system machinery and get the nasty side effects.  If you really and truly want to do something about your cold, exercise it away. Sounds goofy, especially because you don’t feel like it.

People who exercise seem to have fewer and milder colds, says a report from the Appalachian State University in North Carolina. Dr. David Nieman and colleagues collected data from more than a thousand subjects, ages 18 to 85, and tracked the number of URI’s they suffered.  Among the data were reports of the kinds and frequency of exercise, personal fitness evaluations, and dietary habits and lifestyle. It was found that those who exercised five or more days a week experienced 41% fewer days’ worth of cold symptoms. Also, colds were milder for those in better shape than for those who were sedentary. Dr. Nieman explained that exercise mobilizes the immune system at a higher rate than normal and causes immune cells to attack viruses. (Nieman. 2011)

As opposed to intense, strenuous workouts, moderate exercise reduces the number and severity of colds. Prolonged strenuous exercise opens a window for viral attack by exhausting the first responders of the immune system. Investigators at the Department of Exercise Science of the University of South Carolina learned of increased susceptibility to respiratory viral attack following exercise stress in lab animals that ran a treadmill to the point of fatigue. The animals subjected to such rigors were more likely to succumb to administered viruses than those that rested or were less taxed.  (Murphy. 2008)

When a geriatric populace was examined under the hypothesis that moderate exercise could promote resistance to upper respiratory tract infections, Polish researchers found that, not only was susceptibility to infection reduced, but also that symptoms of depression were ameliorated. In this cohort, there was a distinct negative association between physical activity and sickness.  (Kostka. 2007)

T-cells are a major source of messenger cytokines responsible for the biological effects of the immune system. They have antigen-specific receptors on their cell surfaces to allow them to identify invaders. Th1 cytokines produce the pro-inflammatory response that kills intracellular parasites and perpetuates autoimmune responses. Interferon gamma is the star player. If this gets out of hand, there can be excessive tissue damage, so there is a balancing mechanism in Th2 cytokines, which include interleukins 4, 5, and 13. These promote the IgE responses that are common to skin and mucus membranes. Interleukin 10, also a Th2, is seriously anti-inflammatory.  In the best case scenario, Th1 and Th2 will be balanced at the exact ratio needed to face an immune challenge. It was discovered at the University of Illinois that moderate exercise (pay attention to the word “moderate”) would shift immune response from the pro-inflammatory Th1 to the anti-inflammatory Th2 cytokines, thereby reducing lung pathology and influenza protein expression, thus improving survival after virus infection. (Lowder. 2006)

Current study is examining nutritional supplements as countermeasures to exercise-induced immune changes and infection risk.  Quercetin, beta-glucan, and curcumin are cited as being able to reduce the magnitude of such immune system insult and resultant risk of URI.  (Nieman.  2008)

Now we have another reason to get up from the couch and leave the remote behind.


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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.

Shift Work and Your Health

overworked-workerRotating shifts causes difficulties because it works in opposition to the body’s normal circadian rhythms, the most influential being the sleep/wake cycle.  There is also the matter of social isolation that comes from working when everybody else is asleep, and vice-versa.  One of the complications of changing shifts is the incidence of gastrointestinal upset.  Shift workers have a notoriously high occurrence of ulcers, based partly on disruption of sleep patterns and partly on the activation of H. pylori infection if it is at all present and waiting for the opportunity to strike.  (Pietroiusti, 2006)  (Segawa, 1987)  Chronic fatigue, untimely sleepiness, and even failure to fall asleep are some other physical interruptions caused by shift work.  Among the worst social perturbations is divorce, an element that hits some jobs more than others, law enforcement being a prime example.

Canada’s Institute for Work and Health delved into this topic and found that night work is associated with an increase in breast cancer among women who work rotating shifts for long durations.  (IWH, 2010)  The etiology of breast cancer is mostly uncertain, but about one fourth its incidences can be attributed to genetic factors.  At least a little blame has been put on light at night and its effect on melatonin, the hormone produced by the pineal gland that communicates information about light to different parts of the body in order to regulate biologic rhythms.  When the eye’s pupil detects changes in brightness—night—it sends the sleep message to the brain by way of melatonin.  When this activity gets stymied, melatonin is not able to exert its anti-cancer character, and the risk of breast cancer is elevated after a prolonged time. (Schernhammer, 2001)   (Hansen, 2001)   Melatonin is a popular sleep aid, especially for those experiencing jet lag, but few have associated it with anti-cancer function.  (Knower, 2012)  An interesting realization in this circumstance is the body’s inability to manufacture vitamin D from exposure to natural light, raising the question of the appropriateness of supplementation.  (Shao, 2012)  Among researchers’ quests is the determination of the actual concentrations of vitamin D in women who have survived breast cancer and whether or not insufficiency is prevalent among sufferers, survivors, and healthy controls.  (Trukova, 2012)  (Blask, 2009)

Little is known about sleep taken at night, and even less about sleep taken during the day, when years of natural law dictate otherwise.  Nobody really knows how much sleep is necessary for optimal health.  But there is evidence that long sleepers and very short sleepers have increased mortality.  (Ferrie, 2007)  The first part of sleep lasts about fifteen minutes, and is labeled as Stage 1.  If you are awakened from this stage, you may even deny having been asleep.  Stage 2 occupies about half of sleep time, yet is the least understood part.  Being deprived of this stage results in almost total sleep loss because this is the part from which other stages develop.  This, by the way, is the stage affected by medications and sleep aids.  Stages 3 and 4 are combined into the slow-wave-sleep stage, differing only by the number of delta waves measureable by an EEG.  Contrasted to Stage 2, this is the one common to most persons, and is the one compensated after long periods of sleep deprivation.  This is the one needed for body repair and the activity of growth hormone(s).  Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the best known stage and throughout its duration the body is virtually paralyzed and loses its ability to regulate heat.  Dreams, which are deemed necessary to psychological well-being, occur here.  REM, dominating the late stages of sleep episodes, is strongly influenced by circadian rhythm.   Daytime sleep is normally one or two hours shorter than night time sleep.  REM, therefore, is shortened.  This adds to the alertness problems of the night shift.

A modern concern about shift work is increased risk of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, compounded by the possible elevation of cardiovascular jeopardy.  This affects women more than men, but the combination of obesity, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol is common to both.  (Karlsson, 2001)  Years of rotating night shift work are associated with weight gain that comes from failed attempts to eat right and from limited time for exercise.  And to think that all this is precipitated by disturbed circadian periodicity.  Eating on the run and mindless snacking are more common among night workers than their daytime counterparts.  Even if day and night workers had the same major CVD factors, the night workers admit to increased job strain and greater at-work physical exertion, both of which contribute to the altered parameters that incite metabolic syndrome.  (Esquirol, 2009)  In Japan, where the work ethic is ubiquitously strong, different work schedules have been associated with a rise in the incidence of diabetes.  (Morikawa, 2005)  (Suwazono, 2006)  Over the long term, changes are evident not only in daily glucose levels, but also in glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), which measures glucose over an extended time.  (Suwazono, 2009)

Workplace cafeterias commonly close at night.  Workers are then left to their own culinary devices, and that often translates to unhealthy eating habits by virtue of convenience and time constraints.  A healthy work force is a boon to productivity and accident prevention, areas in which companies can demonstrate an interest that supersedes complaining about the opposite.  If a company is reactive, it can get you to the First-Aid station or to the HR person for failure to perform.  By being proactive, it can prevent both while saving money on bandages and the expense of training a replacement.

If there is a best-case scenario for shift work, scheduling a rotation that lasts at least six weeks seems to work by affording enough time to adapt one’s circadian dance to the situation.  There are those who prefer steady nights, but that breed is rare.  If we think adapting to factory work schedules is tough, we should look at those who work in the emergency room.  At least some of us have a scapegoat for tight trousers.


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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.