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Wednesday 28 October 2015


Potassium is a very significant body mineral, important to both cellular and electrical function. It  is one of the main blood minerals called  “electrolytes” (the others are sodium and chloride), which means it carries a tiny electrical charge  (potential). Potassium is the primary positive ion (cation) found within the cells, where 98 percent of  the 120 grams of potassium contained in the body is found. The blood serum contains about 4-5 mg. (per100 ml.) of the total potassium; the red blood cells contain 420 mg., which is why a red-blood-cell level is a better indication of an individual’s potassium status than the commonly used serum level. Magnesium helps maintain the potassium in the  cells, but the sodium and potassium balance is as finely tuned as those of calcium and phosphorus or calcium and magnesium.
Research has found that a  high-sodium diet with potassium intake influences vascular volume and tends to elevate the blood pressure. Then doctors may prescribe diuretics
that can cause even more potassium loss, aggravating the underlying problems. The appropriate course is to shift to natural, potassium  foods and away from high-salt foods, lose weight if   needed, and follow an exercise program to improve cardiovascular tone and physical stamina. The natural diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is rich in potassium and low in sodium, helping to maintain normal blood pressure and sometimes lowering elevated blood pressure. The  body contains more potassium than sodium, about nine ounces to four. Potassium is well absorbed from the small intestine, with about 90 percent absorption, but is one of the most soluble minerals, so it is easily lost in cooking and processing foods. Most excess potassium is eliminated in the urine; some is eliminated in the sweat. When we perspire a great deal, we should replace our fluids with orange juice or vegetable juice containing potassium rather than just taking
salt tablets.

The kidneys are the chief regulators of our body potassium, keeping the blood levels steady even with wide variation in intake. The adrenal hormone aldosterone stimulates elimination of potassium by the kidneys. Alcohol, coffee (and caffeine drinks), sugar, and diuretic drugs, however, cause potassium losses and can contribute to lowering the blood potassium. This mineral is also lost with vomiting and diarrhea.
Natural food sources of Potassium:
Potassium is found in a wide range of foods. Many fruits and vegetables are high in potassium and low in sodium and, as discussed, help prevent hypertension. Most of the potassium is lost when processing or canning foods, while less is lost from frozen fruits or vegetables.
Leafy green vegetables,  spinach, parsley, and lettuce, as well as broccoli, peas, lima beans, tomatoes, and potatoes, especially the skins, all have significant levels of potassium.
Fruits that contain this mineral include:
oranges,  citrus fruits, bananas, apples, avocados, raisins, and apricots, particularly dried. Whole grains, wheat germ, seeds, and nuts are high-potassium foods. Fish such as
flounder, salmon, sardines, and cod are rich in potassium, and many meat foods contain even more potassium than sodium, although they often have additional sodium added as salt.
Herbs Containing Potasssium:
herbs: red clover, sage, catnip, hops, horsetail, nettle, plantain and skullcap.
Caffeine and tobacco reduce the absorption of potassium. People at risk for insufficient
potassium intake include alcoholics, drug addicts and crash dieters. Functions: Potassium is very important in the human body. Along with sodium, it regulates the water balance
and the acid-base balance in the blood and tissues. Potassium enters the cell more readily than does sodium and instigates the brief sodium-potassium exchange across the cell embranes. In the nerve cells, this sodium-potassium flux generates the electrical potential that aids the conduction of nerve impulses. When potassium leaves the cell, it changes the membrane potential and allows the nerve impulse to progress. This electrical potential gradient, created by the “sodium-potassium pump,” helps generate muscle contractions and regulates the heartbeat. Another of the pump’s most important functions is preventing the swelling of cells. If sodium is not pumped out, water accumulates within the cell causing it to swell and ultimately burst.
Potassium is very important in cellular biochemical reactions and energy metabolism; it participates in the synthesis of protein from amino acids in the cell. Potassium also functions in carbohydrate metabolism; it is active in glycogen and glucose metabolism, converting glucose to glycogen that can be stored in the liver for future energy. Potassium is important for normal growth and for building muscle.
Though sodium is readily conserved by the body, there is no effective method for potassium conservation. Even when a potassium shortage  exists, the kidneys continue to excrete it. Because the human body relies on potassium balance for a regularly contracting heart and a healthy nervous system, it is essential to strive for this electrolyte’s balance.
When Potassium replacement may be needed:
headaches. During and after diarrhea, potassium replacement may be necessary, and many people feel better taking potassium during weight-loss programs. Fatigue or weakness, especially in the elderly, is often alleviated with supplemental potassium, along with magnesium. Additional potassium may also be required for dehydration states after fluid losses and may be used to prevent or reduce hangover symptoms after alcohol
consumption. Deficiency and Toxicity: Elevations or depletions of this important mineral
can cause problems and, in the extreme, even death.
Even with high intakes of potassium, the kidneys will clear any excess, and blood levels will not be increased. For elevated potassium levels, called hyperkalemia, to occur, there must usually be other factors involved; decrease in renal function is the most likely cause. Major infection, gastrointestinal bleeding, and rapid protein breakdown also may cause elevated potassium levels,
Conditions that may use up Potassium in the body:
Many factors reduce body levels of potassium. Diarrhea, vomiting, and other  gastrointestinal problems may rapidly reduce potassium. Infants with diarrhea must
be watched closely for low blood potassium, termed hypokalemia. Diabetes and renal disease may cause low as well as high potassium levels. Several drugs can cause hypokalemia-diuretic therapy is of most concern; long-term use of laxatives, aspirin, digitalis, and cortisone may also deplete potassium. Heat waves and profuse sweating can cause potassium loss and lead to dehydration, with potassium leaving the cells along with sodium and being lost in the urine. This can generate some of the symptoms associated with low potassium; most people are helped rapidly with potassium
supplements or potassium-rich foods. People who consume excess sodium can lose extra urinary potassium, and people who eat lots of sugar also may become low in potassium.
Fatigue is the most common symptom of chronic potassium deficiency.
Some common signs of Potassium deficiency include:
Muscle weakness, slow reflexes, and dry skin or acne; these initial problems may progress to nervous disorders, insomnia, slow or irregular heartbeat, and loss of gastrointestinal tone. A sudden loss of potassium may lead to cardiac problems. Low
potassium may impair glucose metabolism and lead to elevated blood sugar. In more severe potassium deficiency, there can be serious muscle weakness, bone fragility, central nervous system changes, decreased heart rate, and even death.
source: Article by Eson M. Haas, M.D


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