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  • Salt and Potassium - Electrolyte Issues

    Hey guys,

    I was doing well on the Primal Diet for three weeks (I was also on a good sleeping schedule unlike this week, obviously). I was finally bursting with enough energy to start a regular exercise routine, a big move for my 220-pound butt. I started with the hardest part - the sprint on a Sunday. I felt good. I felt like I honestly did what I was supposed to do without killing myself.

    Then the heart palpitations started that night. I thought, well, I guess I overestimated what I can do. I'll hold off on the sprints for a while. But then the palpitations continued for two days after and I was like, what the hell?! Now I'm more worried about my health than before I went Primal! So I did some research. I found that people who start paleo-like diets lose a lot of water and a lot of their potassium with it. So I started eating a lot of bananas. But the palpitations still hung out. So I did more research and this time I realized I probably had a sodium deficiency, (or a potassium/salt ratio imbalance). That problem is almost unheard of in American society, but as I thought of what I was eating -- all the whole foods and home-cooked meals -- I realized it made total sense that was my problem. I started adding salt to everything and within a day all the palpitations stopped. So that was totally the problem.

    Now it's two weeks later and I want to start the exercise part again, minus heart palpitations. How can I make sure I'm getting enough potassium and salt? I've added more salt to my diet, but I think I'd like to add a sport drink element just to make sure my heart doesn't freak out again. Do you guys use any home-made sports drinks? I feel funny because all the entries about electrolyte replacement are reserved for the endurance athletes and I'm just a fatty going out for a couple sprints. But it was definitely a problem that almost made me throw away the Primal thing completely. Any advice?

  • #2
    I would suggest that you consult a doctor because heart palpitations are too serious to deal with by self-diagnosis.

    In my own situation, I was having episodes of low BP that were debilitating. I check with my endo about possible hormonal problems, and when that was negative, I consulted my cardiologist, who diagnoses dehydration because everything I drink goes 'right through' me--for some reason. He advised having a sports drink first thing in the morning because I needed the electrolytes to help me retain fluids to maintain my blood volume.

    That resolved the issue. So sports drinks (electrolyte support) are not only for endurance athletes.

    Again, I only do this because of medical advice, and I strongly urge you to NOT self-diagnose.

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    • #3
      But I basically did self diagnose and think I got it right. I don't have heart palpitations anymore after consuming enough salt. What kind of sports drink do you consume? I don't want something sugary. I've heard you can just add lemon juice and a little salt to water for a sports drink - but if there are better ideas out there, I'd like to hear them.

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      • #4
        I am continually amazed at the number of people that come to this forum with potentially serious symptoms and ask for advice. You may have self diagnosed correctly, if the next sprint puts you into tachycardia let's hope it's not deadly.

        That said, I would walk. Daily. I would build up distance, duration and speed over the next few months and when you've got that weight/body comp to within shouting distance of where you should be I would think about sprinting.

        And water should be sufficient. If you are dropping pounds that fast or exercising to that extreme where electrolyte replacement is an issue I think you are overdoing it. (Actually, the palpitations tell me you are overdoing it) If you must, try coconut water.
        Wheat is the new tobacco. Spread the word.

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        • #5
          There are a few of us who seem to have trouble hanging onto our minerals when we start a diet like this. It happened to me severely when I went on the Fat Flush (nothing like drinking 64 oz of cranberry water a day to lose a bunch of minerals) and it also happened to a lesser extent with PB. I think some of us also have a lower tolerance for a low sodium diet. While CW extols the virtues of low sodium, I just can't handle it. I can't even get a bp reading on a machine when I'm low sodium; that's how low my bp drops and I was borderline high before.

          I had an episode almost exactly like you described one time when I started dieting and exercising. I went to the ER because of my irregular heart beats (the Internet basically said that it could be harmless or fatal and that scared me since I had an infant at the time and wasn't taking chances.) After a full, high dollar workup, the only thing that was found was a low magnesium level. I think magnesium tends to be more of an issue than potassium because we get so much potassium on a primal diet but just about everyone is deficient, to some extent, in magnesium.

          I have started supplementing with magnesium taurate by Cardiovascular Research. Not only does my heart seem to be in great working order, but I feel the taurine is helping my digestion. I had gall bladder like symptoms at first. I think my gall bladder was in total shock from all the fat.

          Also, you might read up on adrenal fatigue. i think that can be the mechanism behind the symptoms we have when starting this WOE. People with adrenal fatigue do not tolerate low sodium well at all nor do we handle extremely low carbs.
          True healthcare reform starts in your kitchen, not in Washington. ~Anonymous
          The worst carrot is better than the best candybar.--TornadoGirl

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          • #6
            Re: not going immediately to a doctor -- I've given up on doctors actually diagnosing anything. I get a physical and a blood test every year, tell them what my concerns are and they never say anything's wrong. I've gotten an ekg for heart palpitations before, but I was told nothing was wrong and I should just get more sleep. It seems like I get closer to figuring out my own health problems through my own research.

            The adrenal fatigue and low sodium thing is worth noting. I've suspected on my own some hormonal or adrenal problem because I get cold easily and have always had low blood pressure. And it seems like there aren't a lot of people who have this in common here because everyone else seems to be so proud of never consuming salt.

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            • #7
              My faith in doctors is also pretty low. They're mostly good if you are in an emergency or need testing.

              I have read that kelp has a sodium/potassium ratio that is conducive to our needs.

              I wouldn't recommend commercial electrolyte drinks because of the sugar and that ratio might not be right.

              You could try taking liquid trace minerals. Concentrace has a solid product.

              www.nutritionut.wordpress.com

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              • #8
                I had the same thing when first starting a paleo/primal diet, and the solution to my problem was the same as yours, SODIUM!!!! I was in the ER for 2 hours with a saline solution being injected into my veins. Shortly after I had an echo and EKG and everything checked out fine. Also never drink that much water if your going to be exercising and sweating a lot unless you could keep your electrolytes up.

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                • #9
                  This may explain why my restless leg syndrome has gotten worse. I am drinking plenty of water and taking vitamins, magnesium, and potassium at night.

                  I would not drink sports drinks... coconut water (plain) is way more effective and way more healthy. Sports drinks have HFCS and coconut water has way more electrolytes.

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                  • #10
                    There are commecially available electrolyte supplements you could try, most people are able to take them with no problems. Be careful if you have high blood pressure. I have been taking them for years as an endurance athlete. I know (not primal) but I'm doing it smart with lots of primal training. Look into Thermolyte meta-salts and lava salts. These two brands have the most effective dosages of sodium, magnesium and potassium. For a little flavor, a company called Nuun makes a maturally sweetened (stevia) flavor tablet you drop in a water bottle that contains some electroluytes and tastes really yummy. The ginger/tangerine flavor is super tasty.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by healthy11 View Post
                      This may explain why my restless leg syndrome has gotten worse. I am drinking plenty of water and taking vitamins, magnesium, and potassium at night.

                      I would not drink sports drinks... coconut water (plain) is way more effective and way more healthy. Sports drinks have HFCS and coconut water has way more electrolytes.
                      VERY few sports drinks have any HFCS anymore. Mostly maltodextrin and glucose nowadays. Good quality products are made by Hammer Nutrition. Its still sugar though, so see my post above for a solution to that problem.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by nutritionut View Post
                        My faith in doctors is also pretty low. They're mostly good if you are in an emergency or need testing.

                        I have read that kelp has a sodium/potassium ratio that is conducive to our needs.

                        I wouldn't recommend commercial electrolyte drinks because of the sugar and that ratio might not be right.

                        You could try taking liquid trace minerals. Concentrace has a solid product.

                        www.nutritionut.wordpress.com
                        i use that in my water, only once a day the stuff is powerful. makes the water taste good too, softer or something
                        Get on my Level
                        http://malpaz.wordpress.com/

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                        • #13
                          Thanks guys! Someone on another thread said that all you need is some lemon juice, salt and water for a home-made sports drink.

                          I think I'm going to experiment with that by infusing it with some mint and vanilla. I had some mint-vanilla-lime infused water the other day and it was really good! Don't know yet how salt mixed in will taste, but whatever.

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                          • #14
                            That's interesting, as I have had salt cravings on and off since going paleo. I just keep some seasalt on hand. I thought it was butter I was craving but when I added salt that went away, I think it was because it was salted butter.

                            I only get palpitations when I eat sugar. I made some caramel sauce a while ago and ate the whole bowl, that was seriously freaky, never again!
                            Gluten intolerance and hypermobility syndrome http://www.cfids.org/pdf/joint-hypermobility-guide.pdf

                            Eat food. Mostly real. Enjoy life.

                            Health, energy, wellbeing, vitality, joy, LIFE! Health At Every Size

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                            • #15
                              magnesium stopped my heart palpitations.
                              if i consume caffeine or have too many cigarettes (i rarely smoke though) i will still get them though.
                              lack of potassium for me results in my hands/feet getting numb.
                              journal

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