Benefits of Potassium
By Susan Cohen
Count potassium as one of the most beneficial and essential minerals your body needs for survival. Every cell in your body should have a sufficient concentration of potassium, allowing for optimum functionality and overall health. The health benefits of Potassium are numerous and a deficiency in it can cause several health complications.
Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
Your body will be able to tell you when it is deficient in potassium. If you notice the following symptoms, visit your doctor for a definite diagnosis and treatment plan:
- Loss of appetite. Potassium helps to regulate your appetite, so eat foods rich in this nutrient.
- No matter how long it has been since your last meal, you just don’t feel hungry. If you go without food for too long, your energy levels fall, leading to fatigue.
- When you try to participate in exercise or strenuous activities, you become even more fatigued.
- You may develop muscle cramps – they need sufficient potassium in order to function properly.
Symptoms of low potassium aren’t limited to physical symptoms. You may also experience psychological symptoms that can be traced to a potassium deficiency. These symptoms can include depression, hallucinations, confusion and, in cases of severe deficiency, delirium.
Causes of Potassium Deficiency
The main cause of potassium deficiency is malnutrition. Even if you eat other foods, you may not include enough potassium-rich foods in your diet. These foods include potatoes, yams, bananas, pineapples and spinach. If you have been diagnosed with a kidney disorder, you may be predisposed to developing potassium deficiency. If you urinate a lot, this can lead to potassium depletion. Kidney failure, either acute or chronic, can also lead to a potassium deficiency in your body. Work with your doctor or a registered dietician to ensure you eat plenty of potassium-rich foods. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can make it difficult for potassium to pass from your intestines into your body.
Ask your doctor about potassium supplements if you have been diagnosed with this condition. If you come down with a gastrointestinal illness (stomach bug), this can cause your body to lose excessive amounts of potassium through vomiting or diarrhea. If you use laxatives to excess, this can lead to a potassium deficiency.
Benefits of Potassium
Potassium can aid in preventing the formation of kidney stones. If you have too much calcium in your kidneys, you could find yourself dealing with kidney stones and their painful consequences. Once you increase your daily intake of potassium, it works to prevent the calcium from forming stones. Potassium works to filter calcium, helping you to eliminate it in urination. Potassium also aids in optimal brain function. As oxygen circulates through your bloodstream, potassium carries the oxygen to your brain, which increases the performance of your brain’s neurotransmitters. These help to carry the signals from your brain to your nerves and back again. However, if you are allergic to potassium, you can develop headaches.
Another one of the Potassium benefits is that it is critical in preventing high blood pressure and the possibility of strokes. Potassium in your blood vessels helps to keep them flexible, reducing the risk of clot formation. The formation of clots can lead to a higher heart rate, increased blood pressure and eventually, a stroke. Potassium also regulates the amount of sodium in your arteries. If you want potassium to work in your body, you need to achieve a healthy balance between your sodium and magnesium levels. Too much potassium and your can develop heart arrhythmia, stomach cramping and muscle weakness.
Foods High In Potassium
Foods with potassium include white beans, dark leafy greens, spinach, baked potatoes with skin, baked acorn squash, dried apricots, yogurt (plain or skim/non-fat), fish (especially salmon), avocados, mushrooms, and bananas.