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Potassium For Super, Human Health

Potassium For Super, Human Health

As a physician specializing in human flourishing for all of my adult life, I am ashamed that I’ve neglected potassium.

I’ve written close to a dozen or so articles on magnesium…

But I have never singled out potassium and written about it.

This is crazy as it is essential for super health, much like magnesium (or calcium, or selenium, etc).

Today, I will discuss potassium and human health. Once you read this, you’ll understand why getting the right amounts of it in your diet is so important.

Potassium deficiency is not nearly as common as magnesium deficiency, but millions, if not billions, of people still don’t consume it in adequate quantities.

I’ll show you what potassium deficiency can do and how it helps to enhance human health.

How Potassium Intake Affects Your Health

Believe it or not, potassium is a vital electrolyte and the third most abundant mineral in the human body. But you rarely hear it discussed.

It primarily interacts with sodium to help balance body fluids and mineral levels, which is crucial for almost all of the body’s critical functions.

When I think of potassium and why it’s so important to eat foods rich in this mineral, I think of how it keeps various cellular functions performing in the body.

Potassium is essential for regulating heart rhythms and helping nerves signal one another. Like magnesium, heart health is highly dependent on potassium intake.

It’s also critical for muscle contractions and plays a role in alleviating muscle soreness, so athletes need to get plenty of it in their diet.

And when it comes to digestive health, which we all know is essential for total health, it’s incredibly important your potassium levels don’t fall below normal.

Now that you see all that potassium is involved with at a high level, you can see how the risk of low potassium is pretty serious.

Low potassium is a widespread issue among children and adults in the U.S. and other developed countries, representing one of the most common nutrient deficiencies across genders.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), most Americans consume less potassium than the daily recommended amount.

Fortunately, increasing potassium intake naturally through a diet rich in potassium isn’t difficult, and I’ll tell you how to do that in a bit. 

Another thing to note is sometimes, even if you have a healthy diet, you might be deficient.

How?

Well, if you take diuretics for blood pressure or heart conditions…use laxatives a lot, have specific kidney or adrenal disorders, are an alcoholic, have uncontrolled diabetes, or are engaged in extensive daily exercise, you may not get enough of this vital mineral.

I’ll discuss symptoms associated with low potassium shortly, but first, I want to examine how potassium helps you maintain a healthy life.

1. It Regulates Cell Function

Potassium is integral to cellular function. It helps maintain the cell's electrical conductivity, which is important for your cell membrane to work properly.  As mentioned above, this includes the transmission of nerve signals, muscle contractions, and heart function. These critical processes can be severely compromised without adequate potassium, leading to various health issues.

2. Enhancement of Muscle and Nerve Communication

Potassium enables muscle contractions and nerve signal transmissions by affecting the voltage of nerve cells. This is particularly important for smooth muscle operation in the digestive system and voluntary muscle movements throughout the body. On top of that, if you want to move freely about the world we live in, you need potassium as it assists in reflexes and reactions, making it indispensable for coordinated movement and overall neuromuscular functionality.

3. Need for Top-Tier Cardiovascular Health

If your heart begins to falter, the likelihood that your life will be challenging is almost guaranteed. Potassium plays a vital role in cardiovascular health by helping to regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

Studies have shown that a diet rich in potassium can help lower blood pressure in people with hypertension and may reduce the risk of stroke. This is partly due to potassium’s ability to balance out the negative effects of sodium — high sodium levels can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

4. It aids in Osmotic Balance

Osmotic balance isn’t something doctors talk about often. It refers to maintaining the balance of salt and water within the body’s fluids, composed of water, electrolytes, and non-electrolytes. This balance is crucial for maintaining the proper functioning of various bodily systems and preventing dehydration or overhydration.

Within the body, potassium is key to maintaining the osmotic balance between cells and the interstitial fluid. This balance is crucial for cell hydration and the proper functioning of the kidneys and other organs. Proper osmotic balance also aids in the efficient elimination of waste products.

5. Contributes to Bone and Kidney Health

Potassium may help improve bone health by neutralizing metabolic acids. This helps preserve calcium, reducing the risk of osteoporosis. Furthermore, adequate potassium intake is linked to healthy kidney function, as it assists in eliminating wastes and supports blood flow in the kidneys.

6. Helps Knock Out Cramps

Something I’ve talked about regarding magnesium is how good it is for relaxing muscles.  As it turns out, potassium is also exceptionally helpful in helping keep muscles healthy. 

Specifically, it helps reduce muscle cramps, a common issue for athletes or those engaged in rigorous physical activities.

These kinds of cramps often result from electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, or muscle fatigue, and ensuring a sufficient potassium intake can help mitigate these symptoms.

How to Tell if You're Deficient and How to Fix a Deficiency

There are a number of ways to find out if you’re deficient in potassium.

One of the easiest is to ask yourself: Do you get enough calories in the day, and do your meals consist of whole foods?

If you answered “no” to either, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough potassium, around 4,700 milligrams per day.

Other common low potassium symptoms include elevated blood pressure, heightened salt sensitivity, frequent kidney stones, fatigue, sleep disturbances, poor concentration and memory, insulin resistance, muscle weakness and spasms, and joint pain.

If you can check off several of those things you deal with, there’s a good chance you’re low in potassium.

As I said, it’s easy to eat your way into a state of healthy potassium intake (athletes may just need to supplement or increase their consumption of potassium-rich foods.

 Regarding foods you can eat, consider the following as the “go-tos.”

  • Pork of various kinds
  • Clams
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Anchovy
  • Sardines
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Apricots
  • Grapefruit
  • Cooked spinach
  • Cooked broccoli
  • Potatoes (particularly their skins)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Pumpkins
  • Leafy greens.

If your diet consists of several of these, there’s little chance you will become deficient…and you likely feel great overall, anyway!

You can also take electrolyte mixes to help deal with deficiencies! 

 

 

Talk soon,

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