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What You Need To Know About Potassium
Beth Ley Knotts, Ph.D.
Potassium is one of the electrolyte minerals we all require to maintain health. It is needed for growth, building muscles, transmission of nerve impulses, heart activity, etc.

Potassium deficiency may result in: Fatigue, muscle weakness, slow reflexes, acne, dry skin, mood changes, irregular heart beat, high blood pressure, foot or leg cramps, random muscle pains or twitches, dizziness, anxiety, headaches, and pounding heartbeat.

Low potassium is associated with a risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, digestive disorders and infertility.

Potassium Helps Regulate Seratonin
Potassium acts as a facilitator in ensuring the brain’s ability to properly utilize serotonin, one of our “happy, sleep and relax” hormones. Potassium is required to activate neurons involved in positive thoughts and feelings. Without the electrical charge sparked by potassium, neurotransmitters like serotonin cannot be utilized to make us feel better. This explains why a slight decrease in potassium levels can result in significant anxiety.

Athletes may need to increase potassium intake, since potassium is needed to maintain muscles in good form, control muscle actions, and since potassium is lost in sweat and urine.

Individuals with Adrenal Fatigue should increase potassium intake due to frequent urination and electrolyte loss.

Also certain medications such as diuretics and asthma inhalors deplete potassium.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is the minimum that you require per day to ward off serious deficiency of potassium. For therapeutic use of this nutrient, the dosage is usually increased considerably, but the toxicity level must be kept in mind.

A daily intake of 3,500 to 4,700 mgs is needed.
Potassium is well absorbed, but is not stored in large quantities in the body.

Blood Tests may not provide the full picture.
Potassium and magnesium are predominantly intracellular elements. Only a small fraction of these elements is present in extracellular fluids including blood (∼1%). Measurement of the concentration of such small fractions in blood is commonly used to assess and reflect their body content levels. However, these measurements can be flawed or misleading. (Ismail, et al.) This may because the body will steal minerals from the body to keep blood levels perfect. Meaning...Blood work that shows levels are within normal range may not actually mean you do not have deficient levels. If you have a number of the symptoms on the left, you should concider diet changes or supplementing to increase your potassium intake and assess if your symptoms improve

Toxicity/Symptoms of high intake
Excess potassium can be toxic and will affect your heart, but is mainly a problem if you suffer kidney failure, because the excess cannot be excreted.

You need twice as much potassium as sodium.
Potassium is easily lost in the urine, and if large amount of salt (sodium chloride) is ingested, it may be wise to take a potassium supplement. If you are suffering from vomiting, diarrhea or extreme sweating you may require more potassium or if your diet is high in processed foods, large amounts of caffeine, alcohol, if you take diuretics or laxatives.

If you suffer from kidney problems talk to your doctor before taking potassium supplements. However, if you suffer from kidney stones, you might benefit from increasing high potassium foods as higher potassium levels are helpful to prevent kidney stones.

Good natural food sources of potassium include:
approx. mg given for 1 average serving.
  • Bananas -approx. 400 mg
  • Avocados -approx. 600 mg
  • Nuts, like almonds and peanuts -approx. 400 mg
  • Citrus fruits, orange/grapefruit juice -approx. 400 mg
  • Tomatoes -approx. 400 mg
  • Leafy, green vegetables -approx. 400 mg
  • Milk and yogurt -approx. 300 mg
  • Sweet potatoes -approx. 500 mg
  • White and red potatoes -approx. 400 mg

Canning and some types of cooking, such as boiling, can destroy the potassium.

The FDA allows foods that contain at least 350 mgs of potassium to bear the following label: "Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke."