How Does the Sodium-Glucose Pump Work? (And Other Questions)
Mar 13, 2018
In this blog post, we answer salt-related questions often asked by dysautonomia patients. Read to learn about the kidneys, the sodium-glucose pump and potassium intake. Many dysautonomia patients and their caretakers can remember the day of their diagnosis. Beyond the emotional impact of learning about the presence of a chronic disease, the term “dysautonomia” usually breeds curiosity because it is not well-known within the medical community. Understanding some of the science behind dysautonomia and the treatments commonly recommended can help. One of the most important treatments recommended by doctors to most (but not all) dysautonomia patients is to increase salt intake. Salt intake is can be more efficient when the salt is combined with a bit of sugar in the form of glucose, because of the sodium-glucose pump.
How does the sodium-glucose pump work?Put simply, the sodium-glucose pump describes the way cells use salt ions to absorb glucose. The process is powered in three ways:
- Electrical charges: Sodium is a positively-charged ion. Therefore, as the concentration of sodium builds up, an electric charge is created. As anyone who has played with magnets knows, electric charges can power movement, even at the microscopic cellular level.
- Concentration gradient: As we recently discussed in our blog post “Why is there salt in sweat?” if two solutions are separated by a semipermeable membrane, the concentration of ions dissolved in those solutions tends to equalize over time. In layman’s terms, this means that if the concentration of sodium inside a cell is different from the concentration of sodium outside the cell, eventually the two concentrations will equalize on their own.
- ATP: ATP (which stands for adenosine triphosphate) fuels the processes that take place inside the cells. Glucose is crucial to the production of ATP, which is why you have always heard that “the body runs on glucose.”