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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.

References

Coyle EF.
Fluid and fuel intake during exercise.
J Sports Sci. 2004 Jan;22(1):39-55.

Robert W. Kenefick, PhD and Michael N. Sawka, PhD
Hydration at the Work Site
J Am Coll Nutr. October 2007; vol. 26 no. suppl 5: 597S-603S

Meurman JH, Härkönen M, Näveri H, Koskinen J, Torkko H, Rytömaa I, Järvinen V, Turunen R.
Experimental sports drinks with minimal dental erosion effect.
Scand J Dent Res. 1990 Apr;98(2):120-8.

Noble WH, Donovan TE, Geissberger M.
Sports drinks and dental erosion.
J Calif Dent Assoc. 2011 Apr;39(4):233-8.

Sports Med. 2002;32(15):959-71.
Hydration testing of athletes.
Oppliger RA, Bartok C.

Sawka MN, Montain SJ, Latzka WA.
Hydration effects on thermoregulation and performance in the heat.
Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2001 Apr;128(4):679-90.

Convertino VA, Armstrong LE, Coyle EF, Mack GW, Sawka MN, Senay LC Jr, Sherman WM.
American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement.
Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Jan;28(1):i-vii.

Rehrer NJ.
Fluid and electrolyte balance in ultra-endurance sport.
Sports Med. 2001;31(10):701-15.

Maughan RJ, Shirreffs SM.
Dehydration and rehydration in competative sport.
Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Oct;20 Suppl 3:40-7

Gal Dubnov-Raza, Yair Lahavb, and Naama W. Constantinic
Non-nutrients in sports nutrition: Fluids, electrolytes, and ergogenic aids
e-SPEN, the European e-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism. 6(4); Aug 2011: pp. e217-e222

*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.

References

Chubak J, McTiernan A, Sorensen B, Wener MH, Yasui Y, Velasquez M, Wood B, Rajan KB, Wetmore CM, Potter JD, Ulrich CM.
Moderate-intensity exercise reduces the incidence of colds among postmenopausal women.
Am J Med. 2006 Nov;119(11):937-42.

Douglas RM, Hemilä H, Chalker E, Treacy B.
Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18;(3):CD000980.

Eccles R.
Understanding the symptoms of the common cold and influenza.
Lancet Infect Dis. 2005 Nov;5(11):718-25.

Friman G, Wesslén L.
Special feature for the Olympics: effects of exercise on the immune system: infections and exercise in high-performance athletes.
Immunol Cell Biol. 2000 Oct;78(5):510-22.

Kostka T, Praczko K.
Interrelationship between physical activity, symptomatology of upper respiratory tract infections, and depression in elderly people.
Gerontology. 2007;53(4):187-93. Epub 2007 Feb 21.

Lowder T, Padgett DA, Woods JA.
Moderate exercise early after influenza virus infection reduces the Th1 inflammatory response in lungs of mice.
Exerc Immunol Rev. 2006;12:97-111.

Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA.
Exercise and respiratory tract viral infections.
Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2009 Oct;37(4):157-64.

Murphy EA, Davis JM, Carmichael MD, Gangemi JD, Ghaffar A, Mayer EP.
Exercise stress increases susceptibility to influenza infection.
Brain Behav Immun. 2008 Nov;22(8):1152-5. Epub 2008 Jun 21.

Nieman DC.
Immunonutrition support for athletes.
Nutr Rev. 2008 Jun;66(6):310-20.

D C Nieman, S J Stear, L M Castell, L M Burke
Nutritional supplement series
A–Z of nutritional supplements: dietary supplements, sports nutrition foods and ergogenic aids for health and performance: part 15
Br J Sports Med 2010;44:1202-1205

David C Nieman, Dru A Henson, Melanie D Austin, Wei Sha
Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults
Br J Sports Med. 2011 Sep;45(12):987-92. Epub 2010 Nov 1.

Woods JA, Keylock KT, Lowder T, Vieira VJ, Zelkovich W, Dumich S, Colantuano K, Lyons K, Leifheit K, Cook M, Chapman-Novakofski K, McAuley E.
Cardiovascular exercise training extends influenza vaccine seroprotection in sedentary older adults: the immune function intervention trial.
J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Dec;57(12):2183-91.

Wright PA, Innes KE, Alton J, Bovbjerg VE, Owens JE.
A pilot study of qigong practice and upper respiratory illness in elite swimmers.
Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(3):461-75.

*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.

References

Blask DE.
Melatonin, sleep disturbance and cancer risk.
Sleep Med Rev. 2009 Aug;13(4):257-64. Epub 2008 Dec 17.

Costa G.
Shift work and breast cancer. 
G Ital Med Lav Ergon. 2010 Oct-Dec;32(4):454-7.

Esquirol Y, Bongard V, Mabile L, Jonnier B, Soulat JM, Perret B.
Shift work and metabolic syndrome: respective impacts of job strain, physical activity, and dietary rhythms.
Chronobiol Int. 2009 Apr;26(3):544-59.

Ferrie JE, Shipley MJ, Cappuccio FP, Brunner E, Miller MA, Kumari M, Marmot MG.
A prospective study of change in sleep duration: associations with mortality in the Whitehall II cohort.
Sleep. 2007 Dec;30(12):1659-66.

Ha M, Park J.
Shiftwork and metabolic risk factors of cardiovascular disease.
J Occup Health. 2005 Mar;47(2):89-95.

Hansen J.
Light at night, shiftwork, and breast cancer risk.
J Natl Cancer Inst. 2001 Oct 17;93(20):1513-5.

Institute for Work and Health (IWH)
Scientific Symposium, Toronto, 12 April, 2010
Scientific Symposium on the Health Effects of Shift Work
http://www.iwh.on.ca/shift-work-symposium

Karlsson B, Knutsson A, Lindahl B.
Is there an association between shift work and having a metabolic syndrome? Results from a population based study of 27,485 people.
Occup Environ Med. 2001 Nov;58(11):747-52.

Knower KC, To SQ, Takagi K, Miki Y, Sasano H, Simpson ER, Clyne CD.
Melatonin suppresses aromatase expression and activity in breast cancer associated fibroblasts.
Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Jan 12.

Kroenke CH, Spiegelman D, Manson J, Schernhammer ES, Colditz GA, Kawachi I.
Work characteristics and incidence of type 2 diabetes in women.
Am J Epidemiol. 2007 Jan 15;165(2):175-83.

Morikawa Y, Nakagawa H, Miura K, Soyama Y, Ishizaki M, Kido T, Naruse Y, Suwazono Y, Nogawa K
Shift work and the risk of diabetes mellitus among Japanese male factory workers.
Scand J Work Environ Health. 2005 Jun;31(3):179-83.

Paul A. Schulte, PhD, Gregory R. Wagner, MD, Aleck Ostry, PhD, et al
Work, Obesity, and Occupational Safety and Health
American Journal of Public Health. Mar 2007; 97:3, 428-436

Pietroiusti A, Forlini A, Magrini A, Galante A, Coppeta L, Gemma G, Romeo E, Bergamaschi A.
Shift work increases the frequency of duodenal ulcer in H pylori infected workers.
Occup Environ Med. 2006 Nov;63(11):773-5.

Prasai MJ, George JT, Scott EM.
Molecular clocks, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Diab Vasc Dis Res. 2008 Jun;5(2):89-95.

Schernhammer ES, Laden F, Speizer FE, Willett WC, Hunter DJ, Kawachi I, Colditz GA.
Rotating night shifts and risk of breast cancer in women participating in the nurses’ health study.
J Natl Cancer Inst. 2001 Oct 17;93(20):1563-8.

Scott AJ.
Shift work and health.
Prim Care. 2000 Dec;27(4):1057-79.

Segawa K, Nakazawa S, Tsukamoto Y, Kurita Y, Goto H, Fukui A, Takano K.
Peptic ulcer is prevalent among shift workers.
Dig Dis Sci. 1987 May;32(5):449-53.

Shao T, Klein P, Grossbard ML.
Vitamin D and Breast Cancer.
Oncologist. 2012 Jan 10.

Suwazono Y, Sakata K, Okubo Y, Harada H, Oishi M, Kobayashi E, Uetani M, Kido T, Nogawa K.
Long-term longitudinal study on the relationship between alternating shift work and the onset of diabetes mellitus in male Japanese workers.
J Occup Environ Med. 2006 May;48(5):455-61.

Suwazono Y, Dochi M, Oishi M, Tanaka K, Kobayashi E, Sakata K.
Shiftwork and impaired glucose metabolism: a 14-year cohort study on 7104 male workers.
Chronobiol Int. 2009 Jul;26(5):926-41.

Trukova KP, Grutsch J, Lammersfeld C, Liepa G.
Prevalence of Vitamin D Insufficiency Among Breast Cancer Survivors.
Nutr Clin Pract. 2012 Jan 6.

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