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Electrolyte Replacement

An adult body contains about 60% of water of which again a 60% is intra cellular and 40% extra cellular. Apart from these, the consumption of food and other fluids also adds up to the water to body which is around 1500 to 3000 mL per day. For a normal person the water intake usually equals to water output unless there is some illness which tends to change the water balance of the body.

The intra cellular and extra cellular fluid content has specific chemical compositions of electrolyte mainly of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, chlorides bicarbonates and phosphorus which maintains the normal electrolyte level of a body.

The moment any change in the level of these vital electrolyte is observed, the physiological functions also gets altered which affects the body’s water distributions along with cell functions, acid base balance and neuro muscular activity.

The electrolyte replacement topic will discuss more on this aspect.

Electrolyte imbalance:
The electrolyte imbalance might result from any disorder or disease that tends to alter electrolyte levels in the fluid sections of the body. These imbalances could occur from anorexia or drug administration, excess vomiting, specific surgery and diagnostic tests as well.


What is Electrolyte in Chemistry?

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An electrolyte is a compound or element which helps in carrying electrical charge when dissolved in water. These compounds are either organic or inorganic salts in origin which increase the depleted or deficient electrolyte levels and help maintaining homeostasis along with body fluid composition and fluid volume.

The electrolyte solutions are quite different from ideal and real solutions of neutral solutes due to the reason that solutes in electrolyte solutions exist as solvated positive and negative ions.

Another aspect which makes these electrolytes so different from non-electrolytes? Basically the coulomb interactions between ions in an electrolyte solutions have much longer range than the interactions between neutral solutes. Due to this specific reason electrolyte solutions deviate from ideal behaviour even at lower concentrations than the solutions of neutral solutes.

Electrolyte Definition Chemistry

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Except a few exceptions every electrochemical experiment is carried out in a medium consisting of solvent and supporting electrolyte. The electrolyte can be of any organic or inorganic nature and could have the combinations of any of the available anions and cations available in our body. The combinations could range from sodium salts of chlorides, bicarbonates, or potassium salts of bicarbonates or calcium and magnesium salts of chlorides and bicarbonates.

The electrolyte replacement is nothing but to restore the normal fluid volume and electrolyte balance when the body loses too much of body fluids due to some unnatural physiological conditions or trauma.

The electrolyte replacement is never generalised but specific and is administered according to the need that arises when vital fluids are lost. These are done mainly to bring up the normal fluid electrolyte balance and choosing the right kind of electrolyte to negate the electrolyte disorder.

The replacement also helps in promoting renal function and hence the choice and volume of electrolyte along with the concentration is of utmost importance.

Best Electrolyte Replacement

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Replacement of electrolyte is very vital as fluid loss is required for three different circumstances, such as diarrhoea, excessive sweating due to heat and moisture loss by breathing and skin respiration.

The ideal or best fluid replacement for each of these cases differ in the type of electrolyte or sugar content. For diarrhoea patient the replacement fluids need not have sugar content more than 2.5% as higher concentration of this could lead to even more diarrhoea conditions.

Excessive sweating needs replacement solutions with no more than 8.5% of sugar concentration as this might slow down the process of stomach emptying which leads to lower water uptake of water by the body as these occurs in intestine and not the stomach.

In case there is a severe diarrhoea then it might lead to severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. If the patient is not vomiting then he need to receive more fluid replacement. As there is substantial quantities of electrolyte like sodium, chloride and potassium lost during sweating there is an urgent need of replacing these in order to maintain the appropriate distribution of electrolytes in various fluid sections of the body.

The electrolyte concentrations in plasma usually arise during exercise without fluid replacement indicating that electrolyte supplements are not very much needed. The ingestion of electrolyte beverages could be effective in obliterating the severity of hyponatremia and small amounts of NaCl actually helps or enhances palatability.

The palatability determines in large measure how much fluid a person will voluntarily ingest and hence as far fluid replacement is concerned the sodium is important for maintaining the osmotic drive. The fluid replacement during strenuous prolonged exertion is beneficial in minimising the adverse effects of dehydration on cardiovascular function and temperature regulation.

Significant improvement in cardiovascular function and temperature regulations is not observed but there is definitely evidence that fluid replacement lowers the strain factor of cardiovascular activity and also helps in improving thermoregulation as compared to non-replacement of fluid.

How to Get Electrolytes?

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The electrolyte value added to fluids consumed during prolonged exertion could be found in beverages and beverage palatability. The electrolyte is replaced by either drug administered intra venous or drinks which contain these vital salts and also in powder sachet.
The normal sources of fluid intake are as follows.
  • Healthy adult ingests fluids as a part of normal dietary intake
  • The fluids ingested along with water in food contents account for 90% of the daily intake or around 2500 mL
  • The 10% of daily fluid intake result from by-products of cellular metabolism
  • Other methods / sources of fluid intake are as follows:
  • Intravenous solutions containing fluids and electrolytes are used to replace volume and correct abnormalities
  • The whole blood, packaged red blood cells or plasma are utilized to replace blood volume which are usually lost through disease, trauma or even surgery
  • Colloids are utilised for replacement or to manipulate fluid shifts among the cellular segments
  • TPN providing glucose, protein, electrolyte trace elements and lipids mainly for patients who are unable to ingest whole food through digestive tract.

 Type of beverage   Sodium (mM)   Potassium (mM)   Sucrose (%)   Glucose (%) 
 Cola drinks  4  0.1  3.7  6.8
 Apple Juice
 2  31.0  2.9  9.0
 Gatorade  20  3.0  4.0  2.0
 Lemonade  1  5.0  2.6  7.0
 23  5.0  6.8  0.1
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