Are Electrolytes Right for Me?
Updated: Feb 5
"I drink a lot of water but I'm still having muscle cramps!"
"My muscles are sore no matter how much I stretch."
Can you relate to either of these statements? I hear them from my patients all of the time. Yes, drinking enough water is important, but ensuring you have enough electrolytes is also a huge factor in your health. According to Healthline, "...electrolytes are required for various bodily processes, including proper nerve and muscle function, maintaining acid-base balance and keeping you hydrated."
Electroyltes include sodium (yes, you need salt!), potassium, magnesium, calcium, chloride, phosphate and bicarbonate (here's a much more in depth article on the roles of each mineral). You don't need just ONE of these, you need ALL of them. Nature typically supplies the best ratio of nutrients we need so I highly recommend eating a real, whole food based diet, ideally cooked (to help release some of the nutrients and better absorb them) and with herbs, spices and good quality salt.
Although an electrolyte imbalance will look different in everyone, the more frequent symptoms I see are headaches, muscle cramps, twitching or aches, fatigue, numbness and tingling, depression and mood swings. You might notice these symptoms more after working out, being in the heat (and sweating) or during chronic stress (when your body requires more nutrients). I also see these symptoms in pregnancy quite a bit and often recommend magnesium or electrolytes. My absolute fave is LMNT (this is my referral link). I mix the raw with the citrus since I don't love the taste of stevia. We have also tried Re-Lyte by Redmond Salt. They don't mix as well, but the taste is great and they're about the same price. I keep in stock Klean Electrolytes by Douglas Labs. They are very affordable and easy to take with no added flavors. Metagenics also has a lemonade flavored electrolyte.
[SIDE NOTE] STEVIA AND PREGNANCY
We are always wondering if something is deemed safe during pregnancy and we should! You are literally growing a human being and you want it to have the best possible chance of a happy and healthy future. Mom and dad's health pre pregnancy and mom's health during pregnancy make a HUGE difference in the health of baby. The problem with deeming something "safe" during pregnancy is that we aren't going to subject a bunch of pregnant women to a questionable intervention, so much of the research is anecdotal, animal or self reporting type studies and much less reliable than randomized controlled studies.
So, what about stevia? Stevia is a plant and is naturally sweet. In and of itself, it is generally deemed safe and a good alternative to cane sugar, as it doesn't have much else for nutrients or calories in it. However, it is often found highly processed with added chemicals so you have to be diligent about the source you use.
On a personal note, I don't love any added sweeteners and think stevia tastes gross and artificial, which is one reason I wasn't sure I would like LMNT and is also why I mix it with the raw (unsweetened). It dilutes the sweetness.
I have searched and searched and searched for some concrete evidence on stevia and pregnancy and while the FDA deems it "generally regarded as safe", they also say the same for aspartame and and sucralose. American Pregnancy also has it on their list of "safe sweeteners". At the end of the day, you need to do what you think is best for you and baby.
When we think of getting more electrolytes, they're often in the form of sugary drinks. Don't fall for it! Most of us don't need more sugar in our diet, especially in the form of a drink. Health food stores will often have better options for electrolytes. Another population that I think can really benefit from electrolytes is anyone who is changing their diet, especially reducing sugar or carbohydrates. Often our bodies will start flushing out excess water when we clean up our diet and with that we'll lose electrolytes. This is often referred to as "keto flu". You literally feel like you're under the weather and it typically lasts a few days to a few weeks. You start thinking, "Why am I even doing this?!" and you might have more sugar cravings. Electrolytes can help!
There are many scenarios where electrolytes would be helpful. If you do decide to try them out, let me know how it goes! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out.