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June 10, 2019

Why do we need Potassium?

Potassium is considered as one of the most important macrominerals that your body needs. It is one of your body's electrolytes that helps keep regulate bodily fluids in their normal levels that promote brain and heart health as well as other systems in your body, reducing the risk of heart disease and dementia. 

This macromineral is the principal positively charged ion also called cation that is a significant component of your intracellular fluid or the fluid within the cells of your body. It also plays an important role in energy metabolism, normal fluid balance and many cellular processes.  

By reading this article, you will know the health benefits, dietary sources of potassium and the health risks of being deficient with the mineral as well as the dosage and precautions of consuming it. Know why it is essential for your daily nutrition and why it should be part of your diet. 

 

Origin and History

In the year 1807, Cornish inventor and chemist Sir Humphry Davy have isolated potassium through the process of electrolysis of very dry molten caustic potash that he had slightly moistened by exposing it to the moist air in his laboratory. The process of electrolysis has been powered by three large batteries that he had built. It was then the first metal that was successfully isolated through the process of electrolysis. 

The term potassium has been derived from the salt potash where it was first isolated. It's chemical symbol K also comes from the Latin word "kalium" that means potash. The English word potash originally means an alkali extracted with water in a pot of ash of burned tree leaves or wood. 

 

Fast Facts 

  • All plants need potassium to survive, hence the greatest utilization of potassium compounds goes to the production of plant fertilizers.
  • Potassium is a metallic element of the alkali group that has an atomic weight of 39 and an element symbol of K. 
  • It is the seventh most abundant element in the planet, where 2.4% of the Earth's crust is potassium. 
  • Fruits and vegetables are great sources of potassium since plant cells get potassium from the soil. 
  • 98% of your total body potassium is found in the intracellular fluid. 

 

Hypokalemia and Hyperkalemia

Potassium deficiency or hypokalemia occurs when your blood serum potassium levels are below normal. Low potassium can also lead to cognitive decline where confusion might occur. However, too much potassium or hyperkalemia can also be dangerous for your health.

Hypokalemia might lead to weakness, fatigue and constipation which can escalate to organ system failure and paralysis. Hyperkalemia or too much potassium in the blood can also impact health. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of hypokalemia and hyperkalemia:

  • Hypokalemia

-Digestive problems such as constipation and bloating
-Muscle aches and spasms
-Weakness and fatigue
-Breathing difficulties
-Low blood pressure
-Mood swings

  • Hyperkalemia

-Palpitations and chest pain
-Kidney disease or failure
-Vomiting and nausea
-Internal bleeding
-dehydration
-Irritability

 

Potassium Health Benefits 

1. Lowers Blood Pressure.  It works alongside sodium in maintaining your normal blood pressure levels and balancing out the negative effects of salt which can effectively lower your blood pressure levels. Also, it controls the fluid in your body since fluid increase will make your blood pressure levels rise. 

2. Heart Health. It helps promote good heart health and reduces your risk of acquiring cardiovascular disease and stroke. Deficiency in anaemia might lead to arrhythmia or chronic irregular heartbeat. It plays a significant role in regulating your heartbeat as it causes your heart to pump blood throughout your body. 

3. Bone Health. Regulates calcium and phosphorus which are important minerals for optimal bone health, making your bones strong and healthy. Potassium also plays an important role in keeping your calcium levels balanced where it prevents too much calcium from being excreted in the urine.

4. Strengthen Muscles. The essential mineral help promotes muscle strength. Hypokalemia or severe potassium deficiency can be life threatening because it can severely affect your muscle contractions including the proper functioning of your cardiac muscles. 

5. Reduces Stress. It is effective in reducing your anxiety and may help treat depression since it is considered as a powerful stress buster. It also helps in regulating hormones in your body that include the stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. 

6. Nervous System. It is significant for a healthy nervous system since it is responsible for transmitting nerve impulses or reflexes that relays messages in your brain and body. It also regulates your heartbeat, muscle contractions and other bodily functions. 

7. Regulates Glucose Level. The macromineral help regulate blood sugar levels among individuals and patients with type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that individuals who have high glucose levels or diabetics should maintain and regulate their potassium levels for it improves your glucose tolerance. 

8. Supports Memory. Recent evidence suggests that increasing dietary intake of minerals like potassium can reduce your risk of having dementia. It helps boost your focus, support the basic function of your brain neurons and reduces the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. 

9. Healthy Digestion. When it comes to digestion, potassium can cure stomach problems such as indigestion, nausea and motion sickness. It can also improve and increase your appetite. The macromineral also assists the kidneys and stomach in removing toxic wastes through excretion. 

10. Longevity. Research shows that balanced potassium intake may help increase your life expectancy and reduce the risk of overall mortality by about 20 per cent. It also reduces your risk of having a stroke and heart attack since it helps your organ systems to function properly. 

 

Dietary Sources

Many of the foods that are available in the market today are rich in potassium. However, potassium-rich foods can also raise blood potassium levels that may cause serious health problems.

We suggest consulting your healthcare practitioner or dietitian to know what will be your daily recommended potassium intake. The following food sources listed below are high in potassium if you want to take potassium the natural way, include the following items in your daily diet:

- Vegetables (spinach, broccoli, swiss chard, squash, kale, beets, tomatoes, potatoes)
- Fruits (bananas, avocado, pomegranate, kiwi, orange, peaches, honeydew)
- Meat and Poultry (roast beef, ground chicken, pork tenderloin, veal, turkey)
- Legumes (lima beans, white beans, pistachios, lentils)
- Fish (salmon, sardines, halibut, cod, trout, rockfish)
- Others (yoghurt, mushrooms, coconut water, molasses, cocoa)

 

Potassium Supplements

It is very much important to consult your healthcare provider when it comes to supplements and medications since they know what is right and best for your health. When it comes to dietary supplements, potassium is commonly present as potassium chloride. Potassium supplements are usually available in the form of potassium salts or potassium bound to mineral chelates. It is also sometimes included in multivitamin preparations. Here are the different forms of potassium supplements:

  • Potassium acetate
  • Potassium bicarbonate
  • Potassium chloride
  • Potassium citrate
  • Potassium gluconate

 

Dosage and Duration 

*Important Note: We highly suggest consulting your healthcare professional for medical advice about the right dosage and duration of potassium since supplemental potassium should only be provided under medical supervision. When it comes to infants, the intake of potassium should be limited in breast milk, formula and complementary foods. 

The recommended dietary allowance guidelines for potassium also varies depending on age and needs. But, individuals are required to consume at least 100 milligrams of potassium each day. Here is the recommended adequate intake of potassium which will ensure nutritional adequacy of the essential macromineral:

Age

Male

Female

Pregnancy

Lactation

Birth to 6 months

400 mg

400 mg

 

 

7 to 12 months

860 mg

860 mg

 

 

1 to 3 years

2,000 mg

2,000 mg

 

 

4 to 8 years

2, 300 mg

2, 300 mg

 

 

9 to 13 years

2, 500 mg

2, 300 mg

 

 

14 to 18 years

3,000 mg

2, 300 mg

2, 600 mg

2, 500 mg

19 to 50 years

3, 400 mg

2, 600 mg

2, 900 mg

2, 800 mg

51+ years

3, 400 mg

2, 600 mg

 

 

Precautions and Side Effects

  • Children and Pregnant Women

Keep out of reach of children. If not properly administered, it can lead to adverse side effects. Make sure to consult first your healthcare provider before taking any supplements or medications, this would help prevent any overdose and adverse effects. 

  • High Blood Pressure Medications

Potassium-rich diet and supplements can interact with high blood pressure medications like water pills or diuretics. Studies suggest that these kinds of medications can increase urinary potassium excretion and can lead to hypokalemia or potassium deficiency. 

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs can affect renal function and decrease potassium excretion. Hyperkalemia can occur in patients with mild renal insufficiency or normal renal function. Therefore, individuals who are taking NSAIDs should avoid taking potassium supplements. 

  • Overdose

Excessive intake of potassium can lead to very serious side effects that can be life-threatening. Overdose of the mineral has been linked to the formation of kidney stones and might affect other organs in your body. Too much potassium is called hyperkalemia that includes signs of abdominal cramps, heart problems and muscle weakness. 

Disclaimer: The vitamin health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. VitaminsOnly strongly recommends to consult health care professionals for any questions concerning your health.

References:

Harvard Health Publishing
Natural Food Series
Medical News Today
Organic Facts
SelfHacked
Healthline
Mercola
Dr. Axe

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