Potassium Deficiency can lead to a whole array of health complications. The Body can not produce Potassium on its own and so needs to source it through foods. Adequate amounts of Potassium is needed for Vibrant Health.
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Adding in extra potassium when on certain medications such as blood pressure medication or if you have kidney disease can lead to serious health complications.
There is a lot to take in here as well as many factors or variables to consider. However, I do find it interesting the effects of potassium on the body and how it reacts in the body with other minerals, especially when too low in potassium. Which can lead to a whole host of health complications.
I can only share what I believe to be true and tested for myself. As always do your own research and discuss with your doctor for professional advice.
Daily recommended amounts of Potassium
The recommended amount of potassium an adult should be getting from their diet is 3,500–4,700 mg or 3.5 – 4.7 grams daily.
WHO suggests a potassium intake of at least 90 mmol/day (3510 mg/day) for adults.
From the above-required amounts, it appears that most people are low in potassium. As there is no way to reach those amounts through food alone on a daily basis.
What is Potassium
Potassium is one of the major minerals and acts as an electrolyte because when dissolved in water produces positively charged ions. It assist in a range of bodily functions including
- Blood Pressure
- Water Balance (Edema) by regulating the Salt level in your body
- Muscle Contractions
- Nerve impulses
- Heart Rhythm
- PH Balance
What are Electrolytes
Electrolytes are essential minerals that are vital in many key functions within the body and carry an electrical charge. Which conducts electrical impulses throughout the body.
Common electrolytes include:
Potassium Rich Foods
Some foods rich in potassium higher than 400 mg are below
The Beans below are very good sources of Potassium as well.
- White Beans
- Lima Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Red Kidney Beans
- Black Eyed Beans
Cream of Tartar
This is the heavy hitter for Potassium. Just 100 g equates to 16,500 mg of potassium or 1 tsp containing 495 mg of Potassium.
It is a byproduct of wine making and often used as a medicinal purgative. Despite it’s high amounts of potassium, there has been no well documented cases where it causes toxicity.
This makes Cream of Tartar for me, the go-to for Potassium deficiency along with Potassium rich foods. It is an excellent way to increase your potassium immediately.
Too much of this however can result in Hyperkalemia and can be life-threatening. Especially with those who use it in higher amounts as a purgative. A healthy adult is able to take up to 15 g of potassium without any issues.
It would seem to me that you do not want to introduce a huge amount of Potassium into the body at once. Just as drinking too much water at once can be life threatening. Potassium spread out through the day, however, would enable your body sufficient potassium at a rate it can absorb and for your kidneys to filter.
Signs of Potassium Deficiency
Hypokalemia is the term given for not enough potassium. The symptoms of that may present themselves with the following.
- High Blood Pressure
- Water retention
- Digestive issues and Constipation
- Nerve issues
- Heart irregularities
- Weakness & Lethargic
- Muscle Cramps, Aches, Twitching and Stiffness
- Tingles and Numbness
- Mood Changes
- Difficulty breathing in severe cases
- High Insulin levels
- Anxiety & Insomnia
Signs you may be getting too much Potassium
Too much Potassium in the body is called Hyperkalemia. The symptoms of that may present itself with all of the symptoms of not enough potassium, above. As well as Nausea and Paralysis. In severe cases, it can cause a Heart Attack.
How to know if you are too high or too low in potassium
A blood test can indicate your blood/serum levels of Potassium. But not your overall Potassium. Since potassium is stored in cells which blood test do not measure. Up to 98 % of your total Potassium is inside your cells. Therefore a blood test will only show extreme cases of low or high Potassium levels.
You need an intracellular test to determine your Potassium levels. The Potassium RBC test provides a measurement of intracellular Potassium levels which can indicate deficiency sooner than an ordinary blood test. This test is typically ordered by people who are experiencing symptoms common to Potassium deficiency, but show regular levels with a Potassium Blood test.
Life Style Clues indicating low Potassium
Other variables that can indicate where on the spectrum you might be are considering other variables including Stress, which lowers your levels.
Excessive Vomiting, Diarrhea or excessive Laxative use, excessive urination, Adrenal Gland disorders and some medications such as steroids, some antibiotics, insulin at higher doses, Sudafed, Albuterol used in Asthma medication can all cause your Potassium levels to drop.
Drinking Alcohol excessively, excessive sugar intake and excessive sweating are other factors that result in low potassium levels.
Drinking coffee can increase potassium levels and drinking excessive amounts of soda can decrease your potassium levels.
The Keto Diet over time will reduce your potassium levels as well.
Craving sweets all the time is a good indication that you are potassium deficient.
While the above can give a clue on where you are at, based on your daily habits. Your doctor will be able to confirm with the correct testing.
Salt & Potassium
From the perspective of the body, Potassium is the opposite of Salt. If the Salt level is high, potassium is low, and vice versa. The ideal ratio is about 4 x potassium levels than sodium. Most people do not have this and instead have high sodium levels and low potassium levels.
High Blood Pressure
This is why I don’t subscribe to the ideology of lowering salt levels for high blood pressure. In fact, reducing your salt levels can lead to health complications as well. While I do believe in lowering your salt level to get your potassium under control. I don’t think this is something you want to practice regularly which will lead you to the opposite problem. Low Sodium Level and High Potassium/Hyperkalemia.
The real cause of salt levels being too high is not enough Potassium. Either just not getting enough or other health complications that prevent the utilization of Potassium. Whether that is tied to Calcium or Magnesium or adrenal gland failure, is something that will have to be investigated by your doctor.
To me, this would indicate that if a person has high blood pressure the remedy would be potassium. There are other factors that contribute to high blood pressure. But this is definitely where I would start and is the easiest to test.
Eating a Grapefruit every day also will drop your blood pressure naturally. This is why eating grapefruit is not recommended for those who are taking pills to lower their blood pressure.
Magnesium and Potassium
Magnesium works very closely with potassium. Often low levels of Magnesium will result in low levels of Potassium.
All three Magnesium, Calcium, and Potassium are needed and work together. Calcium is deposited into muscles via Potassium. This is why muscle cramps is associated with low levels of potassium.
Interestingly, all three are related to Blood pressure and hypertension.
Calcium and Potassium
Low Potassium levels in your body promote vascular calcification and aortic stiffness as well as thickness of the coronary arteries. Potassium and Calcium work together and your body will start depositing calcium if you are low on potassium.
Insulin And Potassium
Potassium will reduce the need for higher levels of insulin. This is why Potassium is most beneficial to people who have diabetes or insulin resistance.
Vitamin D3 and K2 also are extremely beneficial for Diabetics or Insulin resistance. It’s interesting to note that both of these mobilize Calcium. Too much Calcium is also tied to insulin resistance and Diabetes.
Sugar & Potassium
Potassium is the mineral needed to store sugar into glycogen. Glycogen being the storage of glucose mainly in the liver and muscles and is used for the fastest form of energy. Potassium is the mineral that is used to store glucose as glycogen. For every glucose molecule you need one potassium.
If your potassium levels are low, then your body doesn’t store glucose. If this happens, then your body starts storing more fat. Because higher levels of insulin is needed.
Potassium Health Benefits
Most people are deficient in potassium because it is extremely difficult to get the recommended amounts through our diet. As well as Sugars and Carbs reducing the body’s overall potassium.
It is important for you to do your own research as well or talk with your doctor about a particular health concern that may affect you.
Up to 6000 – 7000 mg of potassium can really improve your symptoms. There have been a few studies that suggest higher levels of potassium can drastically reduce the symptoms or pain associated with arthritis. It is suggested that people who have this condition actually have low levels of potassium.
Diabetes or Insulin resistance
Insulin controls the level of Blood Potassium. It allows Potassium to enter the cells. Rapid weight gain is associated with insulin resistance. This indicates that the insulin is not working as well or a breakdown of the insulin function is occurring. When this happens your body is not in fat-burning mode. It switches to fat storage mode and no matter what you eat, almost all energy will be stored as fat.
Potassium is needed for insulin resistance because it helps the body to absorb glucose to be used for energy. The need for insulin goes down the more potassium you consume.
High Insulin means fat storage. Low Insulin means fat burning.
Upping your Potassium helps the body to correct insulin resistance and revert the body back to fat burning instead of fat storage. Along with exercise, potassium can assist in burning fat faster.
With sufficient potassium, you won’t crave sugary things. This is because potassium stabilizes blood sugar levels and you don’t have a huge dip in blood sugar. Which is the cause of sugar cravings.
High Blood Pressure
Potassium balances sodium which is usually the cause of high blood pressure. Most diets are high in sodium and not enough potassium. This results not only in high blood pressure but the retention of water (Edema) and salt sensitivity. There are also other issues such risk of heart attack or stroke which is a result of too low potassium which causes calcium to be deposited.
Bone Health and Osteoporosis
It is suggested that higher levels of potassium can prevent osteoporosis. Potassium does this by utilizing calcium more efficiently. If the potassium levels are low, then the utilization of calcium can not occur and your bones will become more porous and weak.
Low potassium levels are associated with risk of stroke. Again this is in relation to calcium deposits. Without sufficient potassium the body can not utilize calcium properly. If this occurs, the body will deposit the calcium instead of utilizing it. Deposits can break off and cause a stroke.
Potassium reduces excretion of calcium, reducing risk of calcium based kidney stones.
Every cell in your body has a pump, more specifically a Sodium & Potassium pump. The term pump refers to or is described as a Mechanism for the movement of electrolytes through the cell membrane. The correct balance of sodium and potassium creates more energy, charging the cells. People low on potassium are often tired or lethargic.
One third of the bodies energy is dedicated to this mechanism.
Calcium is used to relax the muscle. Calcium needs potassium in order to enter the cells. When the potassium levels are low, you will experience muscle cramps. This is because your muscles or the cells within do not have sufficient calcium. Adding more calcium will not remedy the issue because potassium is the transporter of calcium into the cells. To alleviate muscle cramps, more potassium is needed.
If you find your muscles tire extremely fast, this is an indication of not enough potassium in the body. Introducing more potassium in the diet will create more endurance. Because the body can better utilize Calcium.
Both Salt and Sugar will cause the body to retain fluids. Potassium is needed to correct the PH level for proper fluid flow. Increasing your Potassium will remedy Edema related to low levels of potassium.
Potassium is needed in the stomach to create an acidic environment for the proper breakdown and absorption of foods. With low levels of Potassium, your body can not create the acid (Hydrochloric Acid) needed. This can lead to symptoms of Excessive Gas, Bloating, and Acid Reflux.
Too little or too much of potassium can cause heart beat irregularities. Sufficient amounts of Potassium assist to lower blood pressure and keep the heart beat steady, which reduces the risk of cardiac arrest.
Potassium improves your reflexes and assist in helping you feel more calmer and focused. Potassium also works as an electrolyte which is used in nerve impulses. With sufficient potassium in the body, your reflexes improve.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress is extremely underrated. We seem to accept certain stresses in society such as news, relationships, work, money, etc… When we really should not. We really should be able to identify stress triggers and avoid them or do something to eliminate them since they do have a serious impact on health.
Stress releases potassium through the adrenal glands and ongoing stress will have a serious impact on your health. Not just with potassium loss.
Adding more potassium to your diet can assist in reducing stress and anxiety. Potassium along with Magnesium or the utilization of magnesium from your diet assists in calming the body down and relaxing it. Allowing it to become more focused with clarity.
Potassium calms the body, regulates the production of energy and allows you to get better rest.
Very good benefits in muscle gains and cutting when adequate amounts of potassium are taken. During weight training, the potassium is depleted.
Increasing your potassium intake increases calcium absorption which allows the muscles to contract and relax with endurance, because of the movement of calcium. This results in you having more energy and endurance while training, allowing you to get more from your training.
It’s also interesting that Potassium reduces the need for insulin. When insulin levels are low you cut extremely fast, because your body is in fat burning mode.
Potassium acts on the nervous system and electrical impulses. There are some studies that suggest a higher intake of potassium prevents dementia.
How to Increase your Potassium Levels
The number one method to increase your Potassium levels is through Cream of Tartar. Clear this with your doctor first to make sure any medications or your health condition will not cause issues with Potassium intake.
While foods high in Potassium can help keep your levels up. They are certainly not adequate for daily amount values. You would have to eat so much of it and still might not hit your recommended daily intake. We’re talking like 10+ cups of salad each and every day, which isn’t very economical.
Cream of Tartar Drink
To get a good dose of Potassium. Mix 1 tsp of Cream of Tartar with a glass of water and drink. This provides 495 mg of Potassium along with your daily vegetables and other sources of potassium in foods to come closer to the 3500 mg – 4700 mg range.
Start doing this once a day for a week and then increase it to once in the morning and once again a few hours before bed. This will establish a baseline of about 1000 mg of Potassium daily, with the remaining potassium coming from your foods.
Include Cream of Tartar in Foods
Cream of Tartar really is an underused ingredient in kitchens. It really shouldn’t be though. You can include it with recipes to add a slight Acidity and Potassium to the dish.
There are others more specifically with Kidney Issues where even a small amount of Potassium can cause serious health complications. This is why over-the-counter potassium supplements are regulated at 100 g. Which is inadequate to take as a supplement.
Numerous studies show that with perfectly healthy people, there is no issue with taking up to 15 g of potassium daily. Excess potassium will be flushed out by your kidneys. Provided you are not taking potassium in extreme amounts at once and your kidneys are fully functional. Limiting your intake in amounts that the kidney is able to process.
You can order Potassium Citrate online as well. When ordering for a Potassium Supplement be sure to get it in powder form and not pill or tablet form, which are usually limited to 100 g which is insufficient anyways. The second reason is that Pills or tablets when ingested sit in the stomach and is not evenly distributed. Which can cause issues because it is highly concentrated where it comes into contact with the stomach lining. This is also why I prefer cream of Tartar as my source for Potassium.
Cream of Tartar is 20 % potassium, whereas Potassium Citrate is 38.3 % by mass.
All in all seek professional advice before supplementing with potassium. Most Americans are deficient and your doctor knows this. They will be in the best position to advise you on how you should proceed in order to enjoy vibrant health.