Do you feel tired all the time? Do you get muscle cramps out of the blue? Are you suffering from indigestion? You may be suffering from potassium deficiency. If you want to know more about this essential nutrient, read on.
Potassium is an important nutrient that your body requires for staying in optimal health. From keeping your bones and muscles in good shape to ensuring that your brain receives the necessary signals, potassium does it all. A dip in the levels of potassium can create havoc in the way your body functions. It can cause kidney stones, increase heart palpitations, and cause a breakdown of your muscles.
Being such an important mineral, it is only right that you know everything about it, right from the role it plays in a few key processes, to the side effects of too much potassium in your body. This article tells you everything you need to know about potassium.
Potassium is an extremely important macromineral that plays a critical role in the way the body functions. On a daily basis, the human body requires at least 100 milligrams of potassium, for it to function adequately and to support various crucial processes. (1)
Transmitting signals from nerves, enabling muscle contractions, ensuring fluid balance, and processing various chemical reactions, are a few key processes that potassium is responsible for. In fact, one of the primary duties of potassium is to regulate the balance of fluids in your body and control the electrical activity of the muscles. (2)
Research suggests that incorporating potassium into your diet can lower the risk of your overall mortality by around 20 per cent.
Additionally, a good amount of potassium can protect you from the risk of strokes. It can also protect you from the loss of muscle mass. It can also lower blood pressure, help preserve the mineral density in your bones, and lower your risk of forming kidney stones. (3)
Potassium meaning in Hindi
पोटेशियम एक अत्यंत महत्वपूर्ण macromineral है जो शरीर के काम करने के तरीके में महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका निभाता है। दैनिक आधार पर, मानव शरीर को कम से कम 100 मिलीग्राम पोटेशियम की आवश्यकता होती है, इसके लिए पर्याप्त रूप से कार्य करना और विभिन्न महत्वपूर्ण प्रक्रियाओं का समर्थन करना है।
नसों से संकेतों को प्रसारित करना, मांसपेशियों के संकुचन को सक्षम करना, द्रव संतुलन सुनिश्चित करना और विभिन्न रासायनिक प्रतिक्रियाओं को संसाधित करना, कुछ प्रमुख प्रक्रियाएं हैं जिनके लिए पोटेशियम जिम्मेदार है। वास्तव में, पोटेशियम के प्राथमिक कर्तव्यों में से एक आपके शरीर में तरल पदार्थों के संतुलन को विनियमित करना और मांसपेशियों की विद्युत गतिविधि को नियंत्रित करना है।
शोध बताते हैं कि पोटेशियम को अपने आहार में शामिल करने से आपकी समग्र मृत्यु दर में लगभग 20 प्रतिशत की कमी आ सकती है। इसके अतिरिक्त, पोटेशियम की एक अच्छी मात्रा आपको स्ट्रोक के जोखिम और मांसपेशियों के नुकसान से बचा सकती है। यह रक्तचाप को कम कर सकता है, आपकी हड्डियों में खनिज घनत्व को संरक्षित करने में मदद कर सकता है, और गुर्दे की पथरी के गठन के आपके जोखिम को कम कर सकता है।
Foods high in potassium
Potassium is extremely important for the body. However, the human body is incapable of producing potassium on its own. Due to this reason, it is imperative to consume foods that are rich in potassium. A few potassium-rich foods are mentioned below…
Fruits that are rich in potassium include bananas, apricots, grapefruit, orange, cantaloupe, honeydew
Dry fruits such as prunes, dates, and raisins.
Vegetables such as Sweet potatoes, Mushrooms, Broccoli, Spinach, Eggplant, Pumpkin, Cucumbers, zucchini, and great leafy vegetables.
You can make juice from certain potassium-rich fruits such as orange juice, tomato juice, apricot juice, grapefruit juice
Dairy products like yoghurt and milk are high in potassium as well.
Include fish like halibut, tuna, trout, cod, and rockfish in your diet, as these are rich in potassium as well.
Legumes and beans such as pinto beans, Lima beans, kidney beans, lentils, soybeans.
Nuts, meat and poultry, brown rice, wild rice, molasses, salt substitutes, whole wheat bread, potassium supplements, and bran, are all rich sources of potassium.
It is extremely important to add foods that are rich in potassium into your diet. (4)
Normal potassium levels
On average, the human body requires close to 4,700 milligrams of potassium on a daily basis.
However, this value changes if you have kidney ailments or chronic kidney diseases. Most people who have a kidney disorder are advised to consume a lower level of potassium as it can interfere with kidney function. This is to ensure that too much potassium does not get accumulated in your body. In case you are suffering from any particular kidney disease, consult your doctor to find out what the adequate potassium limit for you would be. (5)
Consuming foods that are rich in potassium is often linked to several health benefits. Let’s look into a few important health benefits associated with potassium…
Potassium and blood pressure
One of the qualities of potassium is that it can lower the levels of sodium in the body. Excess sodium in the body is often associated with high blood pressure.
It has been observed that by lowering the levels of salt in the body, potassium can reduce high blood pressure as well. (8)
Close to 33 studies were conducted, and it has been concluded that on increasing the intake of potassium in people with high blood pressure, a notable difference was observed. There was a decrease of 3.49 mmHg in their systolic blood pressure and a decrease of 1.96 mmHg in their diastolic blood pressure levels. (6)
Additionally, in another study, it was observed that people who consumed more potassium experienced a dip in their high blood pressure levels as opposed to those who consumed only a little potassium. This study was conducted on close to 1,285 participate, all of who were within the age group 25 to 64. (7)
Potassium and osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a medical condition of the bones. In people suffering from osteoporosis, their bones tend to become porous, hollow, and weak. In most cases, osteoporosis is caused due to the deficiency of calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is important for bone health, while vitamin D ensures that the body is able to absorb calcium.
Now potassium to plays a significant role in the good health of your bones. It does this by influencing the amount of calcium that is lost through urine. In consuming a potassium-rich diet, you reduce the amount of calcium that is eliminated through urine. (9)
A study was conducted on a group of 62 women, who were well within the age of 45 to 55. They were given food that was rich in potassium. It was observed that these women had a great total bone mass. (10)
Additionally, another study was conducted on premenopausal women. Over 900 healthy women were given potassium-rich foods. By the end of the study, it was observed that these women had more bone mass in their hip bones and lower backbones, as opposed to women who didn’t consume as much potassium. (11)
Potassium and strokes
There have been several reports that claim that potassium can help prevent strokes as well. A stroke is a medical condition that is characterized by the lack of sufficient blood flow to the brain. It can prove to be extremely fatal. A stroke is also a risk factor for heart disease. (12)
An analysis was conducted on 33 studies. This also included the analysis of close to 128,644 participants. The analysis concluded that people who consumed a potassium-rich diet were at a lower risk of getting a stroke. (13)
Potassium and kidney stones
One of the qualities of potassium citrate is that it can lower the levels of calcium in the urine. Kidney stones are a result of excess clumps of certain material in the urine. One of the most common minerals that is found in kidney stones, is calcium. Consuming a potassium-rich diet can lower the levels of calcium, thereby reducing the risk of you getting kidney stones.
I’m fact, a four-year study was conducted in close to 45,619 men. It was observed that their risk of getting kidney stones was lowered by close to 51%, after the consumption of potassium on a daily basis. (14)
A similar study was conducted one a group of 91,731 women. This was a twelve-year study. These women enjoyed a 35% lower risk of kidney stones after consuming a good amount of potassium on a daily basis. (15)
Potassium and water retention
When there is a build-up of fluids in your body, you experience water retention. To treat this, potassium has been used, as it is effective in reducing water retention in your body.
There are a few studies which prove that a good intake of potassium on a regular basis can lower water retention in your body, by reducing the levels of sodium and increasing the production of urine. (16)
To reduce water retention, doctors prescribe diuretics. But with urine, patients often lose potassium, which may lead to complications later. In some cases, doctors can prescribe potassium-sparing diuretics to patients suffering from excess water retention. These are medicines that stop the body from passing excess potassium via urine. (27)
Potassium deficiency symptoms
As we’ve mentioned above, potassium is extremely crucial for the overall functioning of your body. When your body does not get it’s the daily required dosage of potassium, you will end up with a potassium deficiency, also known as hypokalemia. (17)
Essentially, hypokalemia is a medical condition in which your body suffers from a deficiency of potassium. This, in turn, leads to health complications. Let’s look at the symptoms associated with potassium deficiency or hypokalemia…
Unexplained tiredness or fatigue
One of the first signs of a deficiency of potassium or hypokalemia is a sense of fatigue or unexplained tiredness. It is normal to feel tired throughout the day, however, if you experience constant fatigue, chances are that your potassium levels are low.
One of the key processes that potassium is responsible for, is the regulation of muscle contractions. When your body has a low level of potassium in the blood, the muscles tend to produce much weaker contractions. This could be one of the causal factors of tiredness and fatigue on the regular.
Additionally, a deficiency of potassium can inhibit the way in which the body makes use of other essential nutrients as well. This, in turn, can cause fatigue. Low potassium levels can affect the production of insulin as well. This, in turn, can affect your blood sugar levels. (18)
Problems with digestion
It has been observed that a low level of potassium in your body or potassium deficiency can cause digestive problems.
Potassium is responsible for transmitting signals from the brain to the various muscles that are responsible for digestion. With the help of these signals, your digestive system kick starts contractions that help with the entire digestive process.
So, when there is a dip in the levels of potassium, your digestive system takes a hit. The digestive tract tends to get weaker, and food gets digested slowly. This, in turn, will lead to you experiencing digestive problems like constipation and bloating. (19)
In extreme cases, your gut can also get completely paralyzed.
However, more human studies will have to be conducted to prove effectively the link between potassium and digestive issues.
Muscle spasms and cramps
One of the symptoms of potassium deficiency is muscle cramps and spasms.
Muscle cramps are characterized by sudden, painful, and uncontrollable contractions. These contractions can take place of the levels of potassium in your blood are low. Normally, potassium can transmit signals from the brain to your muscles, to stimulate contractions. But that is not all. It can also help stop these contractions when need required, by moving away from the muscle cells. If blood potassium levels are low, it hinders the transmission of these signals, from your brain to the muscles and vice versa. This ultimately leads to muscle cramps and spasms. (20)
Constant stiffness and aches
As mentioned above, potassium is extremely crucial for the normal functioning of your muscles. Stiffness in your muscles can be an indication that the blood levels of potassium in your body are low. The potassium in your blood is also responsible for the regulation of blood flow to your muscles. When potassium levels in your body goes down, it hinders this process. Sometimes, the blood vessels can contract, which in turn can stop or restrict the flow of blood to your muscles.
When your muscles don’t get enough blood, it ends up with a lack of oxygen as well. All of this contributes to a medical condition known as rhabdomyolysis. This is basically the breakdown of your muscles. (21)
An increase in heart palpitations
Heart palpitations are characterized by an increase or a sudden rise in your heartbeats.
Anxiety or stress or vigorous physical activity, may lead to this conditions, but low potassium levels in the blood can also cause palpitations.
Potassium is important for the regulation of heartbeat. It can also lower heart palpitations. (22)
Changes in your mood
Deficiency of potassium may cause mental fatigue and mood swings. As mentioned above, potassium is responsible for the transmission of signals to your brain. A low level of potassium can hinder optimal brain function.
In one study, scientists found that close to 20% of the candidates who suffered from a mental disorder, also suffered from a deficiency in potassium.
However, medical science needs more evidence and human studies to strongly confirm the link between potassium levels in your blood and the change in your mood. (23)
Another symptom of deficiency is difficulty with breathing or breathlessness.
Potassium is responsible for the transmission of signals from your lungs to your brain and vice versa. With the help of these signals, your lungs will expand and contract accordingly.
When potassium levels go down in your blood, it may affect your lung function. This may lead to difficulty in breathing.
As mentioned above, a reduced level of potassium can also affect the way your heart beats. Low potassium levels may disrupt the way your heart pumps blood. Blood, as we know, carries oxygen to the body. Low oxygen, in turn, means shortness of breath.
Extremely low potassium levels in your body can prove to be fatal as it can completely stop the functioning of your lungs. (24)
High potassium levels
We’ve told you about the benefits of potassium and what happens if you do not get enough potassium. However, it is worth noting that an excessive amount of potassium can do as much harm as low levels of potassium.
When your body has high levels of potassium, it results in a medical condition known as hyperkalemia. One of the most common effects of a high level of potassium in your body is kidney failure. High levels of potassium can be linked to other health complications like dehydration, type 1 diabetes, internal bleeding and Addison’s disease. Sometimes, you might end up with high levels of potassium if you take potassium supplements. (25)
Please note that you should not start taking potassium supplements unless a health care professional prescribes it. In fact, if your diet is one that is healthy, with ample fruits and vegetables, chances are that you are getting all the potassium you need. Even easily available fruits like bananas as an excellent source of potassium.
Doctors often prescribe potassium supplements if you are suffering from a deficiency of potassium or hypokalemia. Excessive consumption of potassium, especially through the intake of potassium supplements, can cause various health complications like kidney failure, heart ailments, type 1 diabetes, and dehydration. (26)
Potassium is a mineral that is extremely important for the overall functioning of your body. From sending signals to your brain to keeping your muscles and bones in optimal health, potassium does it all. Your heart, kidney, liver, and all other organs require potassium. The body does not produce potassium on its own, so it is important that you consume dietary supplements and foods that are high in potassium. On a daily basis, ensure that you get at least 4,700 mg of potassium.
If your diet is a healthy one, chances are that you are already getting a good amount of potassium.
In case you suspect that you have a potassium deficiency, consult your health care provider. Doctors may ask you to take a blood test, to check for potassium deficiency.