Electrolytes

Electrolytes

We all need electrolytes to keep our body in tip tip condition but did you know that having an ostomy specifically an ileostomy can affect the levels of electrolytes you have? In this post we will have a little look into what they are and what they do!

Electrolytes are salts and minerals that hold a type of electricity more specifically positive and negative ions once they are dissolved in liquid; in your body this is your blood, sweat and urine.

Electrolytes found in your body include:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphate
  • Bicarbonate

They help your body do a variety of things such as ensuring your nerve endings and muscles function properly and keeping you hydrated – which those of us with ileostomies or exercise a lot know can be a bit of a struggle to keep up with!

Sodium is what allows our bodies to try and maintain optimum fluid balance through osmosis – not going to lie since finishing GCSE science I didn’t think I would ever need to remember what that is BUT you live and learn! So osmosis as simply as possible is water moves through cells from a dilute solution to a concentrated solution – eg less electrolytes to more electrolytes. This is how our body fights dehydration and our cells shrivelling.

Imbalances of electrolytes due to dehydration can start to cause some not so fun symptoms if left unchecked such as:

  • fatigue
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • confusion
  • numbness and/or tingling
  • muscle weakness and cramping
  • headaches
  • convulsions

Obviously I would like to think we would notice if we started to feel a bit funny we would take a step back and think do we need to eat or drink more depending on the situation. I say eat because a lot of the sodium intake is from our food, although saying that as we need a variety of electrolytes we get a lot of them in fruit and veg.

  • chloride – table salt
  • calcium – dairy or fortified dairy alternatives, green leafy veg
  • magnesium – nuts and seeds (blend these or eat them as butters if you are worried about a blockage)
  • sodium – pickled foods, cheese and table salt
  • potassium – bananas, avocado and sweet potatoes

That list isn’t exhaustive but it shows that having a good varied diet can help prevent electrolyte imbalances from occurring. I for one tend to suffer a lot from fatigue, cramping, fast heartbeat, confusion and tingling. I went to the Dr’s when I first started getting symptoms and they have diminished somewhat now especially since looking at other deficiencies such as B12.

Do you suffer with electrolyte imbalances or worry about keeping on top of them?

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