Essential for optimum health.
The electrolytes sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium are mineral salts that conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They are present in the blood, urine and body fluids and are involved with chemical reactions in our cells. They are all important for optimal health and to keep the body’s blood chemistry stable.
Sodium is the most abundant element in the fluid outside the cells (extracellular). Its presence helps retain water and prevent dehydration. It is essential for nerve impulse transmission and muscle contraction because it influences the levels of potassium and calcium.
Potassium is the principle element in fluid inside the cells (intracellular). Along with sodium and chloride it regulates osmotic pressure within the cell and helps maintain acid and alkaline levels. Potassium, along with calcium is essential for excitability of muscles, especially the heart. Magnesium and calcium both have a role in muscle relaxation.
Chloride is also important for this balance and stability in the fluid outside the cells. It is vital for digestive enzyme production including hydrochloric acid in our stomach. It accompanies sodium in body fluids.
All these nutrients can be obtained from our diet, fruit and vegetables are especially high in potassium. The relationship between all of these minerals is vital for our well being, because of the balance needed in our intracellular and extracellular fluids. Too much sodium and chloride in the form of table salt (100% sodium chloride) and/or processed food can cause problems by disrupting this balance. Sodium is naturally occurring in seafood, plus many other foods such as carrots, oats, asparagus, strawberries, cheese, with celery being a particularly good source.
In an ideal world a real quality salt (not artificially iodised) is best added during the cooking process. In this way the sodium is incorporated into the food and is more available to the body than adding salt to an already cooked meal. A quality salt will provide a less bound up sodium chloride, along with more minerals to support the body.
Bernard Jensen (a wonderfully gifted nutritionist) talked about sodium as a “youth maintainer”, he believes that tendon flexibility requires a high sodium diet, not a high sodium chloride diet.
There is evidence that too much sodium chloride will increase the risk of high blood pressure and could possibly increase the risk of some cancers. Other health concerns caused by excessive sodium chloride can arise, such as bronchial reactivity, mortality from asthma, or it can be a migraine trigger pathway. Diminished dietary potassium greatly stresses the kidneys ability to maintain proper fluid levels, resulting in a unbalanced cellular function.
Like anything in life, whether it's work/life balance, or intra/extracellular balance it is often linked with moderation in all things. We are all biochemically different, with different requirements.