Electrolyte Imbalance

Are sports drinks really the answer?

Fluids and electrolytes are both essential for our cells, organs and body systems to work properly. Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals and compounds that help your body do much of its work — producing energy and contracting your muscles, for example. Sodium, chloride, potassium and calcium are all types of electrolytes. We get them from what we eat and drink.

There are various things that can cause an electrolyte imbalance;

  • Losing fluids as a result of persistent vomiting or diarrhea, sweating or fever.
  • Not drinking or eating enough.
  • Medications such as steroids, diuretics and laxatives.
  • Certain medical conditions such as emphysema or metabolic alkalosis

There are also many ways to replenish electrolytes that have been lost. Because marketing and advertising is so good, most people innocently believe that the best thing for them to do to replenish their electrolytes is to drink a sports drink like Gatorade. It is so important for you to know that sports drinks and drinks that are labeled “electrolyte drink” are not the only way for you to replenish your depleted electrolyte stores. Not only are they full of sugar (35g per drink), drinks like Gatorade & Powerade have additives and artificial colors.

When we look at the “healthier” version of Gatorade – Gatorade Zero, it is sweetened with Sucralose (AKA Splenda) to make it a Zero-Calorie drink. Splenda is produced by replacing three chemical groups in sugar with three atoms of chlorine! Although it has been deemed “safe” by the FDA, I would recommend it be avoided or, at the very least, minimized in the diet due to the lack of research into its safety.

Depending on the flavor of Gatorade you choose it likely has Artificial Colors. It is widely known that artificial colors may cause behavior problems in children. Benjamin Feingold, MD has shown that hyperactivity in children is related to food coloring’s. Furthermore, many children with short attention spans and learning difficulties see improvement in these areas on a diet without food coloring. There are also concerns that artificial colors cause toxicity (including allergic reactions), liver stress from metabolizing these chemicals, and potential carcinogenicity. Although these findings have not yet been scientifically proven.

All in all, I believe that there are plenty of ways out there to ensure that your body has sufficient stores of electrolytes. These include drinking plenty of water (you can add a pinch of Real Salt) and ensuring we eat a diet consisting of lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of protein and essential fatty acids.

Zoe Clein

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