Potassium is an alkaline metal. It is dissolved in water and allows electricity to pass through it. Potassium is an essential nutrient for the body to function well. Since our body is not naturally producing potassium, it is necessary to take rich-potassium food to have a balanced potassium level in our body.
The importance of Potassium In The Body
Potassium is needed for body metabolism. It participates in chemical/electrical reactions in the body.
Its existence in the body at appropriate levels are essential:
Potassium & Muscle
Potassium participates in the nerve signaling the muscles to contract properly.
The heart is a muscle also, and changes in the potassium level can impact its pace. The lungs also operate by muscles, so potassium deficiency can lead to breathing difficulties.
Potassium & Nerve
Potassium helps the nerves to have a proper response to the stimulus. Lack of potassium can lead to paresthesia in the limbs.
Potassium & Brain
The brain needs potassium, as it allows the brain cells to communicate with other cells. Potassium deficiency can impact the operation of the brain and can lead to psychiatric illnesses.
What causes of Potassium Deficiency
A low level of potassium is the result of losing too much potassium from the digestive tract through diarrhea, vomiting, or too much use of laxatives.
The kidney’s function is to secrete excess potassium. Too much-excreted potassium in urine can cause potassium loss. It happens when a person takes drugs that cause the kidney to secrete excess sodium and potassium, or another kidney mulfunction. Adrenal glands produce a hormone called “aldosterone” due to adrenal abnormality. This hormone causes the kidney to secrete a larger amount of potassium that results in potassium loss.
There are other causes of potassium deficiency, including:
- Excessive sweating
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Folic acid deficiency
- Excessive Alcohol Intake
SYMPTOMS OF POTASSIUM DEFICIENCY
The low percentage of potassium loss does not cause symptoms, but it may show mild symptoms including:
- Muscle Weakness
- Muscle Paralysis
- Irregular Heartbeat
- Breathing Difficulties
- High Blood Pressure
Potassium participates in the nerve signaling muscle for contraction. A low level of potassium can greatly affect the stability of muscles, which can lead to general muscle weakness and cramps.
Excessive sweating is one of the causes of potassium loss. Having an intense workout in the middle of hot weather can lead to muscle cramps and weakness.
Hypokalemia is the result of the low level of potassium in the body. People with severe hypokalemia often experience muscle paralysis. A low level of potassium may affect the nerve signaling muscle contraction which can lead to muscle paralysis.
The role of potassium is to help to send electrical signals from the brain through the muscles, as well as help in the nerve signaling contraction of muscles.
Potassium deficiency can affect the performance of the muscles in the intestine which can slow down the passage of food in the digestive tract, which can lead to constipation.
Potassium is an essential mineral. It is an essential nutrient for the body to function well. Having a low level of potassium can greatly affect the performance of the body, including low energy that may lead to physical and mental fatigue.
Irregular Heart Rhythms
The abnormal pace of heartbeat can be an indication of hypokalemia. Potassium helps enable muscle contraction, including the heart muscle.
Not having a proper diagnosis and treatment of these conditions can lead to the risk of living.
The diaphragm is the muscle that is used for breathing. Having a low level of potassium can lead to muscle weakness. Which can result in the other muscle like the diaphragm not correctly working. It can lead to difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath.
High Blood Pressure
A low level of potassium increases blood pressure, specifically in people who have high sodium intake.
Potassium helps the blood vessels to be relaxed, which prevents the person from having a sudden increase in blood pressure.
High sodium intake is the cause of increased blood pressure. Potassium helps to limit the effect of sodium as well as balances the sodium.
- Generally, Western medicine diagnoses potassium deficiency by:
- Urine test – used to determine the amount of potassium excreted by the body. Excess potassium may indicate a kidney problem.
- Blood tests – can indicate abnormal potassium levels.
- Testing for thyroid hormone and aldosterone.
Electrocardiogram (ECG) – to check the frequency of heartbeats.
Even if your blood test does not show a potassium deficiency, but you suffer from the symptoms mentioned above, you can take a potassium supplement for two weeks and see its effect on your symptoms.
The doctor will ask first if the patient has any medical history and is taking any medication. Treatment will be based on how low their potassium level is before recommending ways of improving their potassium level.
For people with mild, low potassium level, a doctor may recommend:
- Potassium supplements to take daily
- Reducing or stopping the dosage of medicine that may cause lowering the potassium level.
- Medications that can increase the level of potassium in the body such as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers.
If a severe, low potassium level is observed, seek immediate treatment from a doctor. Taking a not prescribed treatment for the severe state can lead to more severe situations, such as excessive potassium levels in the body. Too much potassium in the body can also lead to severe muscle and heart problems.
Preventing Potassium Deficiency
Eating nutritious food that is rich in potassium can help your body to have a balanced potassium level. Consuming 4,700 milligrams (mg) of potassium a day is a required potassium intake for adults.
These food include:
- Baked Potato
- Dried Prunes
- Wheat Germ