Electrolytes and your heart
We have seen how lowering cholesterol is not a good idea and how the supposedly “bad” cholesterol is not bad at all, but it is used by the body to transport cholesterol, fats and fat soluble vitamins that are essential for health. One of these fat soluble vitamins is vitamin K. Without LDL carrying it our heart will suffer. But what is vitamin K?, how are electrolytes and vitamin K related? How is it that such an important mineral like calcium can cause dangerous calcification of our blood vessels? Let’s start our discussion talking about what electrolytes are and what they do in the body.
Electrolytes, the spark of life.
Electrolytes, according to Dr. Bernard Jensen in his book “Come Alive!”, make up 70-80% of all minerals in the body and are so vital to health that life couldn’t be possible without them. The electrolytes are: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, phosphate and sulfate.
If we look up the definition in the dictionary, electricity is defined as ‘a fundamental form of energy observable in positive and negative forms that occurs naturally (as in lightning) or is produced (as in a generator) that is expressed in terms of the movement and interaction of electrons’ This is exactly how electrolytes work in the body and in the heart. More specifically, an electrolyte can split into two electrically-charged particles (ions) when dissolved in a fluid like water or blood plasma where they can conduct electricity. It is this ability to conduct electricity that makes electrolytes essential for heart health. When electricity doesn’t flow correctly we can experience a ‘shortcircuit’, a problem with heart rhythm.
Electrolytes are always active and changing, they enter the body in a specific combination, like calcium aspartate, but as soon as they are dissolved in the blood or lymph, they split up into two charged ions. In the case of calcium aspartate, we get calcium + aspartate. Then they can move from one electrical level to another, recombining with other ions as they continue changing, working and influencing one another and the cells around them.
The body is an electrical generator
Dr. Bernard Jensen explained that the electricity carried by charged particles in our body is the same we find in lightning, although smaller. “Life is movement and movement is caused by electrical impulses…as well as by changes in blood pressure, fluid volume and the physical pumping of the heart”. When electrolytes split into two oppositely charged minerals, these minerals come alive. In their electrically charged form, minerals can attach themselves to proteins to become parts of enzymes, coenzymes, hormones, vitamins, nucleic factors and other very important substances in the body. Sodium and potassium even play an active part in the transmission of electrical impulses from one nerve cell to another.
In addition, there is an energy field around every internal organ that changes depending on the health of the organ. If you ever heard of ‘auras’ you know auras are the electric energy around our body that can be photographed with Kirlian photography. A sick person will emanate a ‘dimmer’ aura than a healthy person. Each organ, he said, has its own electrical charge. Calcium for example has a positive charge and is found in the hard tissues like bones, teeth, cartilage, while the soft tissues are negatively charged.
Functions of electrolytes in the body.
Electrolytes provide the electrically charged ions that take part in:
- Helping sustain balance in the body and helping the body use nutrients. Dr. Bernard Jensen quotes Dr. Quigley saying ” people with a sufficient intake of calcium, iron and iodine plus vitamins will have a resistance against ordinary disease…fatigue, will be able to retain all physical faculties to a greater age and will have a better mind than the person who suffers from some single or multiple vitamin or mineral deficiency. The various vitamins and minerals are all necessary”. When all the systems are in balance the body’s internal chemistry can work properly. This is why a balanced nutrition is so important because all and each of the nutrients work together and they must all be present in adequate amounts.
- Keeping the acid-alkaline balance in the body. The normal state of the blood is slightly alkaline, limited to a range between 7.3 pH to 7.45. Neutral is 7, acidic is below 7, and above 7 is alkaline. This is important to mention because most of the mineral processes in the body can only happen in the narrow pH between 7.35 and 7.45 and a temperature close to 98.6 F. This is the temperature at which the body’s enzymes are designed to trigger mineral processes. Certain electrolytes constantly neutralize acids to keep the pH of the blood at the right range. The acid-alkaline balance is kept in check by the electrolytes. This makes them very important for health. What is more, calcium is alkaline, when our blood is too acidic our body will make calcium leak from our bones to try to alkalinize the blood again. This is not a desirable situation. The major cause of acidity in the blood is a diet high in refined sugars , which can cause calcium loss from our bones , and many other problems. Another major cause of calcium loss is drinking carbonated drinks. It is more prevalent nowadays to find young teens, specially girls, having bone fractures.
- Nerve transmission. Nerves are like living wires that conduct electricity. As nerve cells are next to each other, the ‘head’ of one touches the ‘foot’ of the next one. Potassium is found inside the cells, sodium outside. As nerve impulses pass from cell to cell, the sodium ions move inside the cell and potassium leaves the cell. The nerve impulse jumps the space found between cells (called synapse) and enters the head of the next nerve cell till it reaches its destination. As it passes, the potassium ions re-enter the cell and sodium leaves the cell. The key for this transport of electricity is electrolytes.
- Muscle contraction. What makes muscle contraction possible is electrically charged calcium ions, which are released when a nerve signal reaches a muscle cell. The energy for the contraction is provided by two phosphate-containing substances, which are transformed into energy with magnesium and enzymes working together. Muscle contraction then depends on the electrically charged ions of calcium, magnesium and phosphate, initiated by a nerve impulse that requires potassium and sodium at every nerve synapse that travels through the nerve impulse from the brain to the muscle. From this we can infer how all these electrolytes help the heart muscle contract, making them essential for heart health.
- Osmotic pressure. This refers to the movement of water through the cell’s membrane into a more concentrated solution in order to equalize the concentrations of both on the two sides of the membrane. This is facilitated by electrolytes.
- Maintaining the proper mineral and water balance of the body. Body fluid volume depends on sodium. While sodium and potassium are found together in the body, potassium is usually conserved in the body, while sodium is usually excreted through urine or sweat . Up to 8 grams can be lost in one day of hard work. Salt depletion is marked by fatigue, dizziness, cramps, nausea and vomiting and it goes together with water loss. The best way to turn this is to drink water and/or eat fresh vegetables. This is specially important for the elderly and children in very hot summer days, and people on a low salt diet. Not replenishing the electrolytes can be deadly!
Sodium protects the gastrointestinal walls, the joints and synovial membranes. It also helps keep calcium in solution. Potassium protects the heart and muscles. Potassium is twice as abundant in the body as sodium.
A note about salt.
Table salt (sodium and chloride) overdoses the body with sodium the body cannot use. Table salt sodium is not food sodium, it behaves more like a drug than a food. It causes water to be held in the tissues. Food sodium , however, disperses little by little in the blood as the food is broken down, digested and assimilated. Food sodium is assimilated and stored in the walls of the stomach and the bowel, where it neutralizes excess acids and protects the stomach and the bowel from acids. Sodium is also stored in the joints where it keeps them flexible and prevents calcium from coming out of solution to deposit in the joints as spurs.
A good move for your heart health is to replace table salt with sea salt. Sea salt is evaporated sea water electrically charged with solar energy. It contains all the minerals in a balanced way so it is a great way to replenish your electrolytes. Dissolving 1/2 to 1 tsp of sea salt in water is a better option to replenish lost electrolytes than many ‘energy’ drinks which are loaded with sugar and other things the body doesn’t need. This is a must in very hot days or when you are exercising and sweating a lot.
To learn more about the importance of electrolytes in the diet , please tune in next week. Thanks for reading.
Dangers of electrolyte deficiency
Electrolyte deficiency can cause the following health problems: Aging, chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, skin problems, clogged arteries, digestive problems, allergies, arthritis, eye problems, hyperactivity, ADD, infertility, heart disease, cancer, constipation and sinus infections.
Electrolytes can be lost by vomiting, diarrhea, high fevers, sweating or overexercising in hot weather, even drinking too much water can flush them out of the body and cause an imbalance. Babies are specially vulnerable to electrolyte loss. If electrolytes are not replenished fast enough it can cause death. Physical and mental stress deplete them. In a study it was shown how five days of intense stress can deplete from 9 to 44% of the body’s electrolytes. Another study showed how the mortality rate in a group of 35-74 year old white males was higher in a geographical area where certain minerals were depleted from the soil and water.
The most common cause of mineral deficiency is soil depletion, which makes it depleted in the foods we eat. Unless soil depletion is something we can change, supplementation is the best alternative.
Calcium and magnesium
Calcium is found in the body in:
- Teeth enamel, which is almost 100% calcium phosphate. 99% of the body’s calcium is in the bones and teeth. The enamel of teeth has more mineral content than any other tissue, gland or organ in the body including bones.
- Bone. Bones are made up of calcium, a protein framework (35% of the total skeleton weight) and the other electrolytes.
Calcium is one of the minerals that is unsufficient in large amounts of the population. Specially premenopausal women don’t have enough calcium in their diets to serve as a reserve for the calcium needed for the postmenopausal loss when hormone levels change. Because of this, osteoporosis, (a calcium deficiency disease), is almost an epidemic in postmenopausal women. When there is not enough calcium in the diet, the body will ‘borrow’ it from bones to compensate for the deficiency.
Calcium is used in the clotting of blood. Also, it works with magnesium to prevent the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Both calcium and magnesium combine with certain enzymes that break down food, produce energy, form proteins and help make DNA. Together with sodium and potassium, calcium and magnesium are among the most important of electrolytes. Phosphates work together with calcium in major energy production cycles.
A very important factor regarding calcium is assimilation, people with low stomach acid cannot absorb it. If calcium is not dissolved when it reaches the small intestine it is excreted. According to pharmacist Ben Fuchs, calcium also needs vitamin K to be absorbed. This is a very important aspect in calcium metabolism and it’s one that often gets overlooked, accounting for the dangerous calcification of soft tissue: arteries, heart, brain and kidneys. According to him, “In the absence of Vitamin K,… calcium can begin to accumulate in the blood and in various tissues. This accumulation is referred to as “calcification”… It means a hardening of soft tissues and fluids. Vessels are especially prone to calcification. This can result in poor blood flow and further impaired health”.
He explains vitamin K helps some proteins in the body make ‘hooks’ that ‘catch’ calcium and thereby do their work of clotting and clearing the blood, contract muscles, keep your heart healthy, and help nerve cells fire. Almost everything a cell does is somehow related to these proteins, their chemical hooks and their ability to “catch” calcium. Without these hooks no matter what else you’re doing for your health, e.g. supplementing, working out, eating correctly you will still be at higher risk for all kinds of degenerative, breakdown diseases. One of the most important roles for these hooked proteins is to help regulate calcium levels. Essentially, these hooked proteins can help mop up excess calcium. Without hooks these proteins can’t do their calcium mopping work and calcium can begin to accumulate in the blood.”
How can we take vitamin K? one way is through food: fermented soy product called natto, organ meats (especially liver), cottage cheese, hard cheese and butter. Another way is supplements, vitamin K is available in two main forms K1 and K2. Vitamin K2 which is more potent and has better anti-calcification properties than Vitamin K1. 1000-5000 mcg a day is a good dose. Since vitamin K is a fatty vitamin, it depends on cholesterol to be transported through the blood.
Sources of calcium in the diet are leafy green vegetables, raw goat milk, nuts, seeds, ripe olives, dried fruits, white beans, lima beans, lentils , broccoli, hard cheeses, green snap beans , etc. Best sources of magnesium are leafy green vegetables, dulse, poultry, fish etc. However, because of soil depletion and farming techniques it is hard to know how much we are getting from the diet. The best way to get them is supplementing. The products I highly recommend are:
- Sea salt which has all the minerals, instead of table salt which only has two. If you use sea salt regularly in your cooking, it will allow your body to be flooded with minerals so when you take your other nutrients, they will be absorbed better.
- Calcium Extract from Healthy Hearts Club which will give you calcium in liquid form so it’s easier for the body to absorb.
- High doses of vitamin K2, Carlson Labs has a product with 5 grams per pill, you can find it online.
- Then, it would be a good idea to use some ocean ‘mineral’ like seaweed. Dr. Bernard Jensen has a product called ” Nova Scotia Dulse” that is very high in minerals, which he personally recommended for his patients.
- Vitamin A+D. They both work together so it’s best to take them together. Carlson Labs has a vitamin good quality A+D product without soy. Around 20,000 IU per day is a good dose.
- Taurine. This amazing amino acid will not only help you assimilate your electrolytes, it will also help you absorb fats. According to Ben Fuchs, it “Helps lower blood pressure and improves the excretion of excess fluid which takes pressure off of blood vessels. Strengthens heart muscle and helps maintain calcium balance in heart cells. Critical in maintaining heart muscle contraction.” It is very unexpensive, you can buy 8 oz. for $4 , and it goes to work right away. The best form is in powder rather than pills. If you feel your heart is racing and you need to slow your heartbeat, taurine has a calming effect on the heart’s electrical energy. It is a must for heart health! We will be talking more extensively about taurine in our next blogs. Please stay tuned!
In conclusion, the body needs a balance of all the nutrients. Since calcium needs other nutrients to be absorbed, it is a good idea to have them all present in the diet.