Potassium is a mineral that is required in significant amounts for human health. Potassium balances sodium in the body to regulate hydration.
Functions of Potassium
- Regulation of pressure between the inside and outside of cells. With inadequate potassium, cellular wastes are not efficiently transported into the extracellular spaces and carried away. Toxic material is left to accumulate in the cell can cause premature cell death.
- Conversion of blood sugar into glycogen for storage in the liver and muscles. Inadequate glycogen storage leads to physical and mental fatigue.
- Maintaining proper pH balance of blood.
- Maintaining proper body water balance
- Stimulating insulin production
- Maintaining digestive enzyme function and efficiency
- Maintaining optimal nerve and muscle function
- Relaxing muscle contraction in balance to calcium, which induces contraction.
Causes and Development; Contributing Risk Factors
The average American diet contains from 3 to 7gm per day of sodium
but only 2gm of potassium
. This is almost the exact opposite of that which may be optimal. A desirable potassium intake per day is 6 to 9gm from food sources.
Maintaining a dietary sodium-to-potassium ratio of at least 1:4 can protect against hypertension
, crippling strokes and premature death. Eating foods high in potassium and low in sodium can also help prevent kidney
disease and heart problems caused by hypertension. Furthermore, a high potassium diet reduces risk of stroke
and premature death – even if blood pressure doesn't fall.
Potassium works synergisticly with sodium in the body. However, our typical intake of potassium versus sodium is all wrong. Researchers recomend at least 5 times more potassium than sodium. Unfortunantely, most Americans eat so much salt that they reverse the ratio with two times as much sodium as potassium. Added salt is 95% of our dietary sodium.
The body expects abundant potassium and less sodium. Healthy kidneys
regulate the potassium/sodium balance by excreting potassium.
Potassium loss is increased by excessive fluid loss from sweating, urination (diuretics
) or the use of aspirin and some other drugs.
Licorice root used in in large quantities will increase the excretion of potassium. If licorice needs to be used for a long time, consider deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) or potassium supplements.
Elderly individuals are more likely to be deficient in potassium
. So are those taking certain cardiac
, those with Cushing's disease, and those who use too much caffeine
or have liver
Diagnosis and TestsTesting Potassium Levels.
The body stores potassium in the cells and uses the blood serum mostly for potassium transport. By the time the blood level of potassium starts to drop you are in serious trouble. Serum levels are a fair indicator of potassium status, but the best indicator of intracellular potassium is RBC
(red blood cell
Deficiency can lead to
- Lactic acid (and other waste metabolites) buildup in body, which leads to
- Muscular weakness
- Irregular heartbeat
- Problems in nerve conduction, which leads to
- Mental confusion
- Heart disturbances
- Problems with muscle contraction