Takeaway: Potassium assists in maintaining the right water balance in the body, regulating the expansion and contraction of body muscles including the heart and blood vessels such as veins, arteries, and capillaries, and it also assists in digestion. A majority of people are not getting the recommended dosage of potassium in their diet. The recommended daily potassium intake for a healthy adult is 4700 mg, but the body can function with at least 100mg.
What is Potassium?
Potassium is an important electrolyte and micromineral needed for crucial body functions. There are many benefits of potassium; but most importantly, your body needs a given potassium level to function normally. For those who do not get enough potassium in their diet, there is a number of potassium supplements to help you out.
Foods that are rich in potassium include:
- Fresh fruits such as bananas, apricots, avocados, grapefruit, oranges, honeydew, cantaloupe, raisins, prunes, and dates
- Vegetables such as spinach and broccoli
- Legumes such as lentils, peas, and different types of beans such as soy, pinto, kidney, and lima
- Cucumbers, eggplant, and zucchini
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Fish such as cod, rockfish, tuna, halibut, and trout
- Others include molasses, white meat, wholemeal bread and cereal, brown rice, nut, and salt substitutes
What Does Potassium Do?
Potassium combines with sodium in the body and assists in several processes. The health benefits of potassium are many and include:
- Maintaining the right water balance in the body
- Regulating the expansion and contraction of body muscles including the heart and blood vessels such as veins, arteries, and capillaries
- Assists in digestion
- Prevent pain in the muscles and loss in muscle mass
- Regulates blood pressure in the body by expelling extra sodium
- Keeps the nerves healthy
- Prevents kidney stones
- Reduces the chances of a stroke
How Much Potassium is in a Banana?
It is common knowledge that bananas are a great source of potassium. The amount of potassium in a banana can range from 290 mg in a small banana to 544 mg in an extra-large one.
Who Needs Potassium Supplements?
A majority of people are not getting the recommended dosage of potassium in their diet and question the importance of potassium in the body. As such, everybody requires a daily intake of potassium through potassium supplements to boost bodily functions and reduce the risk of diseases. People who don’t get the recommended amount of potassium may experience severe signs of potassium deficiency over time.
Lack of potassium in one’s diet can have long term dire consequences. Low potassium level or potassium deficiency is called hypokalemia, which is when potassium levels are below 3.5 mmol/L. People who are more prone to potassium deficiency include:
- Sick people on medicines like antibiotics or diuretics for cardiovascular diseases or HBP (high blood pressure)
- People with constipation taking too many laxatives
- Individuals doing strenuous jobs like construction
- People with conditions that cause excessive vomiting and diarrhea
- Athletes who exercise or are in the sun for long hours
- People with some types of kidney or adrenal gland problems
- People with digestive problems like Crohn’s disease
- People with eating disorders or excessive dieting
- Drug and alcohol abusers
Normal Potassium Levels
The normal potassium level ranges from is 3.5-5.0 millimoles per liter of blood (mmol/L).
Low Potassium Symptoms
When a person has low potassium levels in their body, they may start to experience the following symptoms:
- Low energy levels
- Muscle Pain
- General body weakness and fatigue
In extreme cases, severe potassium deficiency symptoms will begin to show. This is when the potassium levels fall below 2.5 mmol/L The symptoms include:
- Labored breathing; an indication of respiratory failure
- Gut obstruction
- Tingly sensation or numbness in the limbs
- Muscle spasms
What Causes Potassium Deficiency?
Potassium deficiency is a result of not including enough in potassium in your diet or your supplements. If your diet consists of processed foods, you can combat potassium deficiency by taking potassium pills daily.
How Much Potassium Do I Need?
The recommended daily potassium intake for a healthy adult is 4700 mg, but the body can function with at least 100mg. This quantity will change for individuals with kidney diseases. They require less than the recommended amount because their kidney cannot regulate the amount of potassium in their systems.
Potassium Supplements: Uses and Benefits
Potassium supplements are used in addition to foods to maintain the normal level of potassium in the body. Please note that both sources of potassium should be taken together, not just using potassium supplements in place of dietary sources of potassium. Choices of potassium tablets are limited when it comes to over the counter purchases because they pose a danger when taken in large doses, according to the FDA.
There are many potassium benefits, but supplements need to be taken cautiously.
Benefits of Potassium Supplements
Potassium Benefits for Keto
The Ketogenic (Keto) Diet is a diet very low in carbohydrates. Many people are turning to keto diets to lose weight and improve their performance. Keto diets are effective because it takes the fat stored in the body and converts it into ketones that are used in the absence of glucose provided by carbohydrates.
Many keto diets are embracing the healthy intake of nutritionally complete foods. Low potassium intake can lead to low energy and even fatigue.
The recommended daily intake for Keto Potassium is 3,000–4,700 mg (3–4.7 g). It is advisable to take potassium tablets after eating for maximum absorption (about 90%) when digestion is taking place.
Best Potassium supplements for Keto Diets in 2019
Insulin and Potassium
What does potassium do for the body especially for someone diagnosed with diabetes? When a doctor diagnoses a patient with diabetes, they look for low insulin levels as well as low potassium levels. Scientists approximate the amount of potassium stored in our bodies to be 50 mEq/kg.
The ability of potassium to shift from intracellular cells to extracellular cells is normal, with 98% of it inside the cells and only 2% in the bloodstream. When a doctor performs a test and finds the potassium in the blood to be way above the 2%, you are diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis.
If insulin is absent, a person with diabetes will have high levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Without insulin, the fat cells break down and lower the blood’s pH making it acidic.
A combination of acidity and elevated glucose levels draw water and potassium from the cells. Diabetes affects the kidney’s capacity to remove excess potassium from the blood into the urine.
Therefore, a patient who has diabetes is likely to suffer from hyperkalemia.
Potassium for Cramps
One of the functions of potassium in the body is in contraction and relaxation of muscles and maintaining healthy nerves in the body. Cramps occur when muscles contract suddenly and involuntarily. They tend to affect older people, pregnant women and people with medical conditions all of whom require a higher intake of potassium.
Even if they pass after a while, cramps are extremely painful and make it impossible to use your muscles until the cramp passes.
When the body has low potassium reserves, the muscle strength is diminished. Its ability to contract and relax is affected; hence, the frequency of muscle cramps. Sometimes people also experience involuntary muscle spasms caused by low potassium levels in the body.
Additionally, people using medication with diuretics are more likely to suffer from muscle cramps because it reduces the amount of potassium in the body.
Potassium Side Effects
Unfortunately, too much potassium can also be harmful to the body. It is normal to wonder, “what is potassium used for?” or if large amounts can cause adverse health problems. If your kidneys are fully functional, they can remove excess potassium through urine without harming the body.
Side effects of potassium are due to the body not being able to expel excess potassium as opposed to ingesting too much potassium in your diet or supplements.
Too much potassium in the body is called hyperkalemia. Potassium levels between 5.1-7.0 mmol/L are from low to medium hyperkalemia, but above 7.0 mmol/L is severe hyperkalemia. Sometimes, in case of sickness, the cells can release excess potassium into the body.
Examples of instances that can cause cells to release excess potassium include:
- Hemolysis which is the breaking down or RBC (red blood cells)
- Rhabdomyolysis – when muscle tissue breaks down
- Tissue injury through trauma or burns
Different Kinds of Potassium Supplements
There are many options to choose from when it comes to potassium supplements. It is important to know what each of them does because they serve different purposes in the body. They include:
Potassium Iodide is a useful salt of stable iodine that is used by the body to manufacture thyroid hormones. Common table salt contains iodine that can protect you from goiter.
Potassium Iodide Uses
Potassium Iodide is used to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive exposure from contamination in food and drinking water.
Potassium Citrate is an effective drug used to treat renal tubular acidosis (a type of kidney stone condition).
Potassium Citrate Side Effects
The following are mild side effects associated with potassium citrate:
- Mild nausea, stomach upset or diarrhea
More severe side effects include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Feeling thirsty and frequent urination
- Muscle weakness
- Tingly feeling or discomfort in the limbs or numbness
- Black stool
- Bloody stool
- Severe stomach ache or nonstop vomiting and diarrhea
Potassium Gluconate is a supplement used to treat potassium deficiency. It also prevents potassium levels from getting too low in the bloodstream.
Potassium Gluconate for Cramps
Cramps are caused by uncontrollable muscle contraction caused by poor muscle health. Potassium gluconate keeps the potassium in the blood at optimal levels, thus improving the ability of the muscle to contract and relax with ease.
Potassium Chloride is used to treat signs and symptoms of low potassium in the body. Potassium Chloride is used when a person is suffering from hypokalemia caused by:
- Medication with diuretics
- Excessive vomiting
- Alkalizing salts, e.g., Citrate, gluconate or bicarbonate
Potassium Nitrate through its component nitric oxide assists in blood flow in case of cardiovascular diseases. It is also in tuber vegetables such as beetroots, turnips, rocket, or spinach. Nitrate in these foods is converted to nitric oxide, which is useful during exercise by recusing oxygen use in the body, thus, improving stamina. It also boosts kidney health, which is vital in regulating the amount of potassium in the body.
What is Potassium Nitrate?
In foods like beetroot, it is an inorganic nitrate that converts into nitric oxide believed to regulate blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and endurance in athletes.
Potassium hydroxide is used to alkalize the body. This is important because most diseases cannot thrive in an alkaline environment. Most food is acidic, which can lead to increased acidity in the stomach. Potassium hydroxide can also lower blood acidity caused by excess potassium in the blood.
Potassium permanganate is mainly used as a disinfectant against disease-causing germs.
Potassium Iodide has many uses in the field of medicine. They include:
- Clear blocked nasal airways for people with lung problems like bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema, among others
- Used to treat some form of hyperthyroidism
- Protect the thyroid gland against radioactive exposure
- Acts together with antithyroid medication when removing thyroid glands surgically
Potassium bicarbonate is used to:
- Improve muscle function by enabling them to contact easily
- Strengthen bones
- Improve cardiovascular health
- Improve digestive health
A person may consider using potassium bicarbonate if their potassium levels are low, and they are also experiencing metabolic acidosis (effects of an acidic diet).
Potassium phosphate is very useful in the body because it aids in the repair of damaged cells and the growth of new cells. It also boosts the phosphorus levels in the blood.
Most dietary sources of potassium are phosphates. Even if you take more of potassium phosphates, you cannot treat potassium deficiency.
Potassium Sorbate is used to preserve drinks like wine, food, and hygienic products.
Potassium Sulfate is vital in the transportation of oxygen through iron in the blood. When it is absent in the body, you may experience chills, flaky skin, sores, and a yellow mucus or discharge. It helps clear colds, ear congestion, coughs, and foreign objects in the eyes. It also acts as a lubricant for joints.