The Importance of Electrolytes in Pregnancy - By Gabriella Stewart

The Importance of Electrolytes in Pregnancy - By Gabriella Stewart

In pre-conception, pregnancy and post-partum, electrolytes take on just as an important role in the diet as macronutrients, protein, fats, carbohydrates.

Electrolytes are essential minerals that carry an electric charge and are in all bodily fluids— blood, sweat, urine, cervical and amniotic fluid—where they are involved in plethora functions.

In pregnancy, as the maternal blood volume is expanding and amniotic fluid is increasing as baby grows, overall fluid volume increases by 50%. Electrolyte requirements increase in tandem with this rise in bodily fluids and deficiencies carry risk of improper fetal growth and pregnancy complications.

Both within and outside the season of pregnancy, the hydrating fluids of electrolytes maintain optimal circulation in the body, provide shape and structure to every cell in your body, regulate body temperature, support digestion and absorption of nutrients; all particularly critical to a healthy pregnancy, optimal fetal development, positive birth outcomes and an easeful transition into post-partum.

Drinking plain water can actually be dehydrating since we need minerals to get the water into our cells. Look to making these electrolytes apart of your daily non-negotiables:

Sodium Chloride (NaCl)

Salt contains both sodium and chloride which are key for cells talking to one another), helping to maintain the correct plasma volume in your electrolyte balance (keeping your bloodstream and facilitating neural signalling (so you can think straight and move your muscles on command).

Symptoms of insufficient sodium intake include swelling, headaches, leg cramps, fatigue and high blood pressure.

The chloride in salt also supports normal stomach acid levels (hydrochloric acid) which is necessary for the absorption of minerals and vitamin B12, for facilitating protein digestion, and for killing off pathogenic bacteria before food leaves your stomach.

Best food sources: natural & unrefined salt, organic miso, traditional cured meats, parmesan cheese, feta cheese, olives, pickles & other lacto-fermented vegetables.

Potassium (K+)

Potassium works with other minerals to maintain normal fluid electrolyte balance and is important for fetal growth, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure regulation which can relate to complications of preeclampsia and gestational hypertension.

Consume natural salt or derive from wholefood sources to get the complementary nutrients and trace minerals.

Potassium is one of the minerals that balances the effects of sodium in our cells. As sodium increases, potassium intake should also increase. Research shows that women with a more balanced ratio of potassium to sodium have lower blood pressure, lower predisposition to preeclampsia and better perinatal outcomes (preterm birth and low birth weight) than those with an imbalance ratio of the two minerals.

Best food sources: bananas, avocados, salmon, coconut water, citrus, potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, parmesan cheese, milk, beans, cream of tartar, dandelion, alfalfa, nettle.

Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium is involved in over 600 reactions in the body and is key to regulating blood sugar, blood pressure, starving away nausea and preventing pre-term labour and pre- eclampsia. Magnesium deficiency is often found in women with gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. It is the hardest mineral to derive from food today given poor soil quality, so supplementation is wise in addition to intentionally sourced, organic-where possible, wholefood options listed below. Magnesium glycinate and malate well-absorbed forms while magnesium citrate can result in loose stools. It is advisable to avoid magnesium oxide or sulfate orally as they can be strong laxatives. Epsom salts and magnesium chloride sprays can be very effective transdermal options too.

Best food sources: raw cacao, avocados, dark leafy greens, anchovies, black beans, quinoa.

Calcium (Ca)

 

Whilst calcium needs do not increase during pregnancy, our body’s ability to absorb calcium doubles. Calcium is essential to development of baby’s bones and teeth, helps with nerve signalling and muscle function and regulates muscle contractions including those involved in labour and delivery. Inadequate calcium consumption in pregnancy can lead to bone density loss in mother.

Best food sources: dairy (yoghurt, cheese, milk), tinned salmon and sardines (bones in) figs, dates, beetroot, dark leafy greens, fenugreek, dandelion.

In conclusion and at the very least, in any season of life, electrolytes keep your heart beating normally, regulate internal water pressure, support adrenal health and alleviate headaches, muscle cramps and swelling. In pregnancy, the increase in bodily fluids elicits greater care in electrolyte consumption to maintain optimal fluid balance to the benefit of mother and baby. Looking to wholefoods is always advisable, especially where sourcing is considered and soil integrity can be ascertained. A food is only as nutrient-dense or rich in a particular electrolyte as the soil is.

 

Gabriella x 

 

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