Electrolytes and Minerals – why they are so important
(Important note: STTM is an information-only site based on what many patients have reported in their treatment. Please work with your doctor. This is not meant to replace that relationship or guidance, and you agree to that by reading this website. See the Disclaimer.)
MINERALS/ELECTROLYTES–they aren’t just for your rock collection!
Thyroid patients have come to understand over the years how important it is to test their dietary electrolyte minerals and to keep them optimal.
“Electrolyte” is another name for your body’s ions, i.e. those molecules which are electrically-charged. They are used by your cells to create and carry voltages across cell membranes, i.e they are part of the communications between your cells.
Electrolytes are primarily composed of the minerals sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, plus chloride, phosphates and sulfates. They are essential for the functioning of your cells and organs! Electrolytes can affect the water levels in your body, how acidic vs alkaline your blood and urine should be, how your muscles function, and more. Your kidneys help keep your electrolytes in balance.
Why would you get low in minerals?
Poor absorption due to the lowered levels of stomach acid is a huge cause for hypothyroid patients, especially if you’ve remained undiagnosed due to the TSH lab test, or undertreated thanks to being on T4-only meds. You can also go low from not drinking enough fluids, having kidney disease, taking diuretics, bulimia, excessive vomiting and diarrhea from illness, and congestive heart failure. Low aldosterone can cause loss of sodium, just as the medication for low aldosterone, Florinef, can lower your potassium.
What tests do I need?
A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP or CPT) is helpful. See the Recommended Labwork page for facilities where you can order your own testing. Even more detailed is getting the RBC testing done for your minerals, which shows cellular levels.
What about other minerals?
Our bodies are made up of the same minerals that are in the earth. We need those minerals, whether they are part of electrolytes or not. Minerals provide balance in our bodies, plus they help make things “go” in our bodies. They keep our bones strong and our immune system healthy. They support our nervous system, produce energy, and create cells. They work with the vitamins we take and can be potent antioxidants i.e that which destroys free radicals.
It is all too common for thyroid patients to become low in the important mineral iron. Low iron means you won’t be able to raise your natural desiccated thyroid or T3 without having hyper-like symptoms. You’ll also want to be optimal in your levels of the trace minerals selenium, iodine, copper, zinc and more. Calcium is a bulk mineral like sodium, potassium and magnesium and is also important, though many easily get enough via their diet.
Shouldn’t I test my minerals before supplementing?
Definitely, we’ve learned. We could be high in any and not even know it.
SODIUM: Sodium is one of the positively-charged ions in the fluid outside of your cells. Along with potassium and calcium, you need this mineral for proper muscle contraction. Without enough sodium, your muscles can feel weak or over-contract. Your heartrate can also go up due to low sodium levels. One way to test if your sodium levels are too low is by consuming sea salt in your favorite liquid, then retest your heartrate about 30-60 minutes later. If it goes down, you may have been low in sodium.
Sodium levels can go low due to low aldosterone levels, and many patients with sluggish adrenal function find themselves with low aldosterone, first revealed by low sodium lab testing (i.e. below 140). One solution is to explore the use of the T3 Circadian Method for bringing back better adrenal function.
POTASSIUM: Potassium works on the inside of the cells. It’s needed for optimal function heart, muscles (skeletal and smooth muscle contraction), kidneys, tissue, digestive system and your nerves.
It’s proposed that low potassium can reduce the cellular response to thyroid hormones, so this is a critical mineral for hypothyroid patients. Plus, if you have been using the steroid aldosterone (Florinef) to raise your low levels of aldosterone, your potassium can tank.
Low potassium, like low sodium, can cause muscle weakness and overall weakness. Your heart, which is a muscle, needs the right amount of potassium to beat properly. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure, so without enough, your BP can go high. To see a video on the Sodium-Potassium pump, go here. We generally like to see our potassium around 4.2.
MAGNESIUM: Magnesium is an alkaline metal which gives you good muscle and nerve function, including your heart’s rhythm and your blood pressure. It plays a role in strong immune function. And with 50% of it in your bones, you can see it’s about good bone health. For those with blood sugar concerns, magnesium helps regulate your blood sugar. It works in your metabolism of energy. Magnesium helps soften your stools and can calm a higher heartrate.
Low magnesium levels can cause cramps in your legs, tics in the muscles around your eyes, or palps or irregularities in your heart. It can affect your memory or brain function. When low enough, it can cause anxiety and seizures. You can feel lethargic or depressed. Experts feel that a large percentage of folks are low in this important mineral! You can read about Janie’s issue with low magnesium here.
*Need to understand adrenal problems? Go here.
*Learn about the importance of selenium.
*All about aldosterone, the other adrenal steroid hormone that can go low and cause low sodium.
*There a lot more about supplements we take in Chapter 15 of the updated revision STTM book..
*Why too much of the mineral fluoride can be a BAD thing.