Potassium is a mineral which plays a critical role for our bodilt functions which includes transmission of nerve signals, muscle contraction, fluid balance, and other chemical reactions. It has also been used for the treatment and prevention of low potassium levels and in treatment of hypertension and prevention of stroke. It has also been used today for the treatment of symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, Meniere's disease, Myasthenia Gravis, insulin resistance, arthritis, headaches, allergies, and some other conditions. Food sources of Potassium include milk, cereals, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
Potassium is categorized under Minerals.
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Benefits and Effectiveness
What is Potassium?
Potassium is a very important mineral in our body since it plays a role in enhancing the function of all cells, organs, and tissues. Numerous food products contain Potassium, these includes some types of fishes (like cod, salmon, and flounder), meat, legumes, many fruits, and vegetables. Dairy products can also be a good source of this mineral. Potassium is also considered to be an electrolyte, which is a substance that conducts electricity in our body, along with some other minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and chloride. It also helps the heart to function normally and plays an important role in smooth and skeletal muscle contraction, making it vital for muscular and digestive function.
Having a deficiency of potassium in the blood is known as hypokalemia; on the other hand, having excessive amounts of it is called hyperkalemia. Keeping normal Potassium levels in the body highly depends on the amount of magnesium and sodium in the blood. In Western countries, where people commonly have high sodium diets since they use a lot of salt when preparing their food, should increase their potassium intake. Conditions that are likely to cause Potassium deficiency includes vomiting, diarrhea, malnutrition, excessive sweating, and syndromes such as Crohn’s disease (a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines, especially the ileum and colon, associated with fistulae and ulcers). Loop diuretics, which are diuretics that are primarily used in medicine to treat edema and high blood pressure often due to renal insufficiency or congestive heart failure, can also cause a decrease in potassium levels.
Having a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can give most people all the potassium they need. Elderly individuals have higher risks of developing hyperkalemia because their kidneys function less effectively in eliminating potassium as they age. Medications such as ACE inhibitors and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) should be taken with caution by elderly individuals since these may affect their body’s potassium levels. Whether you are young or old, it is recommended that you should consult your physician or any qualified medical professional before deciding to take potassium supplements.
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Food Sources of Potassium
The first food that might pop out from your mind when talking about potassium is banana. This is definitely correct; however, there are about 32 different kinds of food that contains more potassium per calorie than banana. Generally speaking, the best food sources of potassium are vegetables and fruits. As mentioned earlier, some fishes, legumes, and dairy products can make good contributions to your daily potassium intake; however, these foods are known to contain high amounts of calories, therefore, they are not considered to have high rates. For example, lima beans and Swiss chard contains about 1000 mg of potassium, but since one serving of lima beans is known to contain 6 times as many calories than a serving of chard, the richness of nutrients of the chard is much higher.
The potassium content within the group of vegetables and fruits varies greatly, even between 2 foods that are very much alike. One good example is a cup of cooked Swiss chard contains potassium that is 3 times more than that of mustard greens and kale.
What benefits can we get from it?
- High Blood Pressure: Some studies show that potassium has the ability to treat high blood pressure. Some evidences show that potassium supplements could cause the blood pressure to drop. Some experts say that having a diet that is rich in potassium could reduce the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease, since potassium aids in lowering blood pressure. However, not all studies agree on this theory. Two large studies that were recently conducted observed that potassium has no effects on blood pressure. These studies concluded that potassium can help lower blood pressure only if you are suffering from hypokalemia. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult your doctor first before taking any potassium supplements.
- Hypokalemia: The symptoms of hypokalemia are muscle cramps, weakness, decrease in energy, stomach aches, abnormal ECG (the process of recording the electrical activity of the heart over a period of time using electrodes placed on the skin), and irregular heartbeat. Hypokalemia can be due to increase in potassium elimination in the intestines and urine. It is not often due to a lack of potassium in the diet. On the off chance that you are experiencing the symptoms of hypokalemia, it is imperative that you should see your physician immediately since this condition is life-threatening.
- Bone Health: According to some research, potassium can have beneficial effects on the bones, especially in elderly women who are undergoing menopause. This suggests that having a diet rich in potassium could help reduce the development of osteoporosis. However, very few studies were conducted to prove this claim, and a lot more is needed in order to justify potassium’s effectiveness in enhancing bone health.
- Stroke & Heart Disease: People who have a diet that is rich in potassium will have lower risk of stroke, specifically ischemic stroke. However, potassium supplements do not provide the same effect. The development of heart disease could also be prevented if a person has high sodium-potassium ratio. Some studies show that heart attack patients, who have potassium levels between 3.5 and 4.5 mEq/L, have lowers risk of death.
What is the proper way to take it?
It is advisable that you should first consult your physician before taking any potassium supplements, even those multivitamins containing small amounts of it. Avoid administering potassium supplements to your child without the prescription of a physician.
Appropriate doses of potassium from dietary sources are as follows:
- Adults (19 years and above): 4.7 grams or 4,700 mg per day
- Pregnant women: 4.7 grams or 4,700 mg per day
- Breast-feeding women: 5.1 grams or 5,100 mg per day
- Infants, birth to 6 months: 400 mg per day
- Infants, 7 months to 12 months: 700 mg per day
- Children, 1 to 3 years old: 3 grams or 3,000 mg per day
- Children, 4 to 8 years old: 3.8 grams or 3,800 mg per day
- Children, 9 to 13 years old: 4.5 grams or 4,500 mg per day
Reviewer: Kathleen R. RN, PT
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Wiki Last Updated: 2016-02-16
Potassium may cause nausea and vomiting, stomach upset, diarrhea, and intestinal gas. Moreover, excessive amounts of Potassium supplementation may include low blood pressure, weakness, dizziness, mental confusion, irregular heart rhythm and even death.
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