Heat exhaustion is exactly what it sounds like. When your body temperature stays too high for too long, your body becomes exhausted, both in terms of fatigue and of essential nutrients. Dehydration also occurs and compounds the problem of heat exhaustion, but dehydration is about more than just water.

In order for the cells of your body to function, in order for your muscles, your nerves, your organs, and all of the other major body systems, water is a critical component. It allows nutrients to move smoothly from one place to another, and to where they are needed most. But there are other important needs of the body, and some of them are not so apparent. One of those needs is electrical conductivity.

We tend to assume that our bodies conduct electricity because so much of our body is water. From a technical standpoint, this is actually not true. Perfectly distilled water is not an electrical conductor. When certain minerals are present in water, then it becomes a conductive solution because it is actually the minerals that conduct the electricity. 

Where this is most obvious is in the nervous system. Have you ever fallen asleep in an odd position, and woken up to find a limb has gone completely numb? You can’t control it, and you can’t feel anything through it, almost like a dead piece of meat hanging off your body. It’s a bit unsettling, but if you reposition it and get the blood back into, you get those pins and needles and eventually everything goes back to normal. What happened?

If you prevent the blood from circulating in a digit or a limb, the minerals and nutrients within the limb are not able to circulate as well and they lose their ability to conduct impulses. Only when these nutrients are resupplied and can circulate can nervous system impulses be transmitted. When it is your foot or your arm, restoring it to function is not difficult and unless it has been denied nutrients for an extremely long time, there is not likely to be any permanent damage. However, what if you were to lose conductivity in, say, your vital organs? Or your brain? Or your heart? This would be a serious problem, but how could anyone lose conductivity in your vital organs? If you lose enough electrolytes, you eventually lose conductivity.


Most people have heard of electrolytes. If you have ever seen a Gatorade commercial, they market their products heavily on the fact that their beverages contain electrolytes, but what exactly are these magical substances that make athletes into superheroes? Electrolytes are the minerals that conduct electricity inside of living organisms and allow them to use electrical impulses to control their higher functions. In order for your body to function properly it needs to have a certain balance of electrolytes. It needs them in proper ratios, it needs them to be in proper concentrations in your body’s blood, and obviously, it needs them available throughout the body.

While many people on a normal day, with a somewhat healthy diet may get just enough electrolytes to get by, but there are conditions that we all experience that can throw off the electrolyte balance in our bodies.

  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Prolonged physical exertion (2hrs plus)
  • Physical activity in elevated temperatures
  • Poor diet
  • Dehydration

  • When people engage in physical activity and lose a lot of fluid through sweat, the natural inclination is to drink water to replace it. This is very necessary, but it is not only water that is lost through sweat, it is electrolytes. The electrolytes are what give sweat its salty taste.

    The two, most fundamental, and most important electrolytes in the body are sodium and potassium. These two minerals must be present in sufficient quantities and in the proper ratios in the blood stream otherwise our bodies can become impaired, dysfunctional, and can even die if the depletion is severe enough.

    Sodium is not difficult to replace. In fact, Americans in particular are grossly over consuming sodium to the degree that it is contributing to blood pressure problems and other maladies. The often neglected mineral of the two is potassium. Most informed health professionals recommend that you consume five times more potassium than sodium, but the average American is consuming roughly three times more sodium than potassium.

    If you take a look at what the body does with these two minerals, you can get a sense of how our bodies evolved and how they were designed to function. The body hoards sodium like a precious commodity that it may not see again for a very long time. The body burns through potassium as if it will always see an endless supply of it.

    leafy greensThe primary natural dietary source of sodium is from animal meats, and the primary source of potassium is from green leafy vegetables. What do you suppose is the ratio of meat to vegetables at the average American dinner table?

    Potassium is terribly important for athletes not only because of its electrolytic properties that aid muscle function and nervous system efficiency, but it also increases that carbohydrate storage of muscles so that there is more available fuel for the muscles to burn during prolonged exercise like cycling and marathons.

    This is why marathon runners who do long runs for several hours require more than just water replenishment in order to prevent harm to their bodies. In fact drinking water only actually has the potential to exacerbate electrolytedepletion because it will dilute the remaining electrolytes in the blood stream creating an even greater reduction in electrolyte availability to the body. This is actually not as uncommon as you might think. There is a word for overhydration that results in volume depletion of electrolytes, it’s called hyponatremia.

    Hyponatremia can occur after prolonged strenuous exercise when too many electrolytes have been lost and too much water consumed. Symptoms of hyponatremia include nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, lethargy, fatigue, appetite loss, restlessness and irritability, muscle weakness, spasms, or cramps, seizures, and decreased consciousness, or coma. Researchers found that roughly 13% of those who finished the 2002 Boston Marathon were clinically hyponatremic.

    If engaged in an activity, or in an environment where you are likely to sweat excessively, it is not enough to only drink water. In fact, drinking just water alone is not even the most efficient way to rehydrate the body. Researchers have found that drinking water alone before, during, and after exercise was actually more likely to stimulate urine production and water excretion, compared to high-quality electrolyte enhanced water solution. Drinking water with the enhancementactually prompted the body to retain and utilize the water rather than just flush the system.

    Supplementing your diet with more potassium rich foods and high quality potassium supplements also a good idea, but it is important to know that sodium and potassium are not the only electrolytes. In fact, there are over a dozen important electrolytes that cells throughout the body use for their functions. Many forms of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sulfur compounds form unique electrolytes thatthat many cells in the body produce and use exclusively for their health functions.These kinds of electrolytes are more commonly referred to as “cell salts”.

    We at the Nutrikon Wellness Center have utilized electrolytes and cell salts for decades in our tailor made programs for people living in very hot environments or who engage in regular aerobic exercise. In fact, we very much encourage people to exercise and sweat, because even though electrolytes and water are lost in sweat, many toxins are also excreted the sweat glands as well and is an excellent detoxification pathway for many harmful substances.

    Regardless of whether you are a professional athlete, avid outdoorsman, gym cyclist, or you just live in the heat, consuming electrolytes along with replenishing your body’s water supply are vitally important actions in order to prevent health problems and cellular impairment. However, eating a healthy balanced diet is the bedrock on which better health rests upon, you should strongly consider adding more green leafy vegetables to your diet to improve the amount of potassium intake.

    You should be able to go out and enjoy being active and being out in the sun, instead of being concerned about burning out. Electrolytes are the key.balance