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Importance of Potassium

Potassium is an essential mineral for our body. It carries a small electric charge. This charge acts as an electrolyte that activates cell and nerve functions. It is available in many foods as a supplement. But you don’t get enough of it from food. Its primary role is to maintain normal fluid levels outside of cells. It supports normal blood pressure and also helps muscles contract. Life is impossible without potassium. It is very crucial that we eat enough amount of it every day to feel the best. It helps in preventing certain chronic conditions. Low potassium in your body may jeopardize your long-term health in many ways. Let’s see, how to get enough amount of it for our body? What are the health issues if you have low or high potassium?

Potassium supplements in daily food:

Potassium is available in the daily food you take. Some of the primary sources of potassium in our daily diet are:
Fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in potassium supplements are:
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Prunes, raisins, and dates
  • Avacado
  • Spinach, Broccoli
  • White beans
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Pumpkins
  • Leafy vegetables
Juices rich in potassium are:
  • Tomato juice
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Prune juice
Other foods that are rich in potassium are:
  • Meat and poultry
  • Fish
  • Cod Fish
  • Molasses
  • Nuts
  • Brown rice
  • Brans
  • Wheat bread

How much potassium is needed per day?

An average adult requires 4,700 mg of potassium per day in his diet. A toddler requires 2,000 mg; teen girls need 2,300 mg and teen boys need about 3,000 mg per day. A pregnant woman needs the same as an adult, and a breastfeeding woman needs 5,100 mg.
Consumption of restaurant foods, non-fresh foods, and not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Fresh foods, light foods, and meat have more amount of it.
The daily potassium supplements you must take daily are:
  • Baked potato with skin: 930 milligrams
  • Cooked spinach: 840 milligrams
  • ½ cup raisins: 618 milligrams
  • Broccoli: 460 milligrams
  • Cantaloupe: 430 milligrams
  • Chopped tomatoes: 430 milligrams
  • Banana: 420 milligrams
  • Carrot slices: 390 milligrams
  • Milk: 350 to 380 milligrams
  • ½ cup cooked lentils: 365 milligrams
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa: 320 milligrams

Effect of high or low potassium intake:

Potassium intake is good for health, but at the same time, it has many disadvantages if the limit exceeds. Several factors like kidney functions, hormones, and medicines may affect mineral levels. People who take thiazide diuretics for high blood pressure need more daily intake. The condition with low potassium levels is known as hypokalemia. If the mineral level in your body is more than the normal level, the situation is known as hyperkalemia. Some common side effects, warnings, overdose issues, and other side effects are:
  • Side effects: At normal doses, potassium is fairly safe. A high amount of potassium intake is dangerous. It may cause an upset stomach. Always, consult a doctor before taking the supplements. Please be aware that some people may be allergic to
  • Warnings: People with stomach ulcers, kidney, heart, and Addison’s diseases should avoid supplements. They must consult their doctor first before having the supplements.
  • Overdose: Muscle weakness, paralysis, irregular heartbeat, low BP, and coma are overdose signs. You can use ibuprofen for muscle weakness, for the safe side consult a doctor before using. Get emergency medical help immediately if you witness these conditions.
  • Other possible side effects: Sinus bradycardia, sinus arrest, ventricular tachycardia, and asystole.

Hypokalemia:

General daily usage in the body is 4,700 milligrams for adults and 2,000 milligrams for toddlers. For teens, 2,300 milligrams for girls and 3,000 for boys. For a pregnant, it is 4,700 mg and 5,100 mg for breastfeeding women. If the level is below the normal level then it is called Hypokalemia. Fatigue, muscle cramps, and abnormal heart rhythms are a few problems.
Causes of Hypokalemia:
  • Medicines like diuretics, insulin, corticosteroids, and antimicrobials.
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia nervosa, purging, or laxative abuse
  • Hyperaldosteronism
  • Laxative overuse
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Sweating
  • Hypokalemic periodic paralysis, Bartter syndrome are some genetic disorders
  • Low magnesium level
Related read: Magnesium-The Vital Mineral
Symptoms of Hypokalemia:
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Muscle weakness and cramps
  • Digestive problems
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Polyuria (frequent urination)
  • High blood pressure
Treatment for Hypokalemia:
Potassium supplements are usually the course of action for too low levels. Supplements are most effective if your kidneys are in good condition. Hypokalemia is treated with IV treatment for a person with an abnormal heartbeat. You can get rid of excess sodium with potassium-sparing diuretics. These will help normalize electrolyte levels. But, some diuretics and supplements can be severe on the digestive tract. Consult your doctor for wax-coated pills to help prevent digestive issues. People with normal kidney function can only use potassium-sparing diuretics.

Hyperkalemia:

General daily usage in the body is 4,700 milligrams for adults and 2,000 milligrams for toddlers. For teens, 2,300 milligrams for girls and 3,000 for boys. For a pregnant, it is 4,700 mg and 5,100 mg for breastfeeding women. If the level is above the normal level then it is called Hyperkalemia.
Causes for Hyperkalemia:
  • Dehydration
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Addison’s disease
  • Overuse of potassium supplements
  • Internal bleeding
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Trauma
  • Kidney failure
  • Medicines like chemotherapy drugs, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers
Related read: Diet in Kidney Failure
Symptoms of Hyperkalemia:
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Tingling and numbness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations or irregular heartbeats

When to see a doctor?

If you have any symptoms of either hypokalemia or hyperkalemia, consult a doctor immediately. Because they more often lead to severe problems. You may need medication changes in your daily diet to normalize the levels.

Written by Jagannadh Ch