Potassium: Understanding This Major Mineral and Its Impact on Health

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Potassium is an essential nutrient that plays important roles role in our body’s cellular function, fluid balance, nerve signal transmission, and muscle contraction. However, despite its importance, many people are not aware of how crucial it is for overall health and wellbeing. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the topic of potassium, exploring its many benefits, daily requirements, and the foods that are rich in potassium. By providing information on potassium in foods and how potassium is related to health issues, we’ll help you figure out how to get more.  So, let’s get into the benefits of getting adequate potassium.

What Is Potassium?

Back in chemistry class, we learned that pure potassium is a highly reactive metal that can react violently with water. Although explosions are a fun part of chemistry classes, we’ll be more focused on the role of potassium in the body. Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that plays a vital role in many bodily functions. It is crucial for maintaining a regular heart rhythm, aiding in muscle contractions, and supporting proper nerve function. In addition, it helps balance fluids in the body and can contribute to healthy blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium. Thus, getting adequate potassium is important for overall health.

What are the Benefits of Potassium?

  • Heart and Blood Pressure Regulation: Potassium helps to reduce blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium and easing tension in the walls of blood vessels. This can help to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. [PMID: 28024910]
  • Nerve Function and Muscle Contractions: Potassium plays a crucial role in sending nerve signals and regulating muscle contractions and coordination. This includes the regulation of heart rhythms.
  • Bone Health: Higher potassium intake has been associated with increased bone mineral density, which can help to strengthen bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Digestion and Metabolism: Potassium helps to maintain the balance of acids and bases in the body, which is important for many body processes, including efficient digestion and metabolic function.
  • Preventing Kidney Stones: Studies have suggested that higher intake of potassium, particularly in the form of potassium-rich foods, can help to reduce the risk of kidney stones.
  • Fluid Balance: As an electrolyte, potassium helps maintain fluid balance in the body’s cells. It also helps regulate overall fluid balance in the body, alongside other electrolytes like sodium and chloride.

What Are The Symptoms of Low Potassium?

Low potassium levels in your blood, or hypokalemia, can show up in different ways. You might feel weak or tired, which are often the first signs. Since potassium is key for muscle work, low levels can cause muscle cramps or spasms. Potassium also helps with the muscle movements in your gut, so you might have belly cramps or trouble passing stool. Heart problems can also happen. You might feel like your heart skips beats or flutters. In bad cases, these heart issues can make you feel light-headed or dizzy. If you notice these symptoms, you should see a doctor or other health professional right away.

How Much Potassium Do We Need?

People in the US don’t get enough potassium, which is why the Dietary Guidelines for Americans identifies potassium as a “nutrient of public health concern”. Potassium is a mineral that we don’t get enough of unless we are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. The RDA for potassium for adults is 4,700 milligrams per day. Adult men average only 3,016 mg and women get only 2,320 mg per day.

Sweating increases the need for potassium. Potassium loss through sweat can vary greatly, but on average, a person might lose about 200 to 300 milligrams per hour during intense sweating. This calculation is based on sweat typically containing about 200 milligrams of potassium per liter, and an person sweating out approximately 1 to 1.5 liters per hour. Food can usually supply enough potassium to compensate for sweat-related losses. For instance, a medium banana has around 420 milligrams. However, if sweating heavily for long periods, it’s advisable to seek personalized advice from a sports dietitian.

Food Sources of Potassium

The table shows levels of potassium in different foods. Check out our high-potassium electrolyte drink recipe on the Nutriscape Food Site which has 800 mg potassium per drink.

Food SourceAmount of Potassium
Banana (1 medium)422 mg
Avocado (half)487 mg
Sweet potato (1 medium, cooked)541 mg
Spinach (1 cup, cooked)839 mg
Salmon (3 ounces, cooked)416 mg
White beans (half cup, canned)595 mg
Tomato sauce (1 cup)811 mg
Orange juice (1 cup)496 mg
Yogurt (1 cup, plain, low-fat)531 mg
Skim milk (1 cup)382 mg
Salt Substitute (1 tsp)440 mg to 2,800 mg *
Please remember that the daily recommended intake of potassium for the average adult is 4,700 mg. Try to incorporate a mix of these high-potassium foods in your diet for the best health benefits.

Are Potassium Supplements Safe?

CAUTION: If you have kidney disease, your kidneys can’t adjust the potassium in your blood. If this is the case, it is very important to consult a physician before using potassium supplements to rule out serious health risks.

With that said, potassium supplements are generally safe for people without kidney disease when used in appropriate doses. However, it’s important to remember that like any supplement, potassium should be used responsibly. High doses can lead to hyperkalemia, a serious condition that can lead to irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), muscle weakness, fatigue, numbness, and potentially life-threatening heart conditions. It’s also worth noting that the best source of potassium is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

Medication Interactions with Potassium

Potassium can interact with various medications, and these interactions can range from mild to potentially serious. Here are some medications known to interact with potassium:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: Medications such as lisinopril or ramipril are used to lower blood pressure. They can increase potassium levels in your body, potentially leading to hyperkalemia, especially if you’re also consuming a diet high in potassium.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): Drugs like losartan or valsartan, used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure, can also increase potassium levels. This, combined with a high-potassium diet, could potentially cause hyperkalemia.
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics: These include medications like spironolactone and amiloride. As the name suggests, they help your body get rid of water without losing potassium, which can potentially lead to an excess of potassium.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These drugs, including ibuprofen and naproxen, can increase the risk of high potassium levels when taken with potassium supplements.
  • Heparin: An anticoagulant used for treating and preventing blood clots, heparin can sometimes cause increased potassium levels.
  • Beta-blockers: Certain beta-blockers, like propranolol, can slightly increase potassium levels. The risk is low but increases when combined with other medications that affect potassium levels.
  • Digoxin: Potassium interacts with digoxin, a medication used to treat heart conditions. Both low and high levels of potassium can increase the risk of side effects from digoxin.

Supplements That Interact With Potassium

  • Salt Substitutes: Many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride. Using these while also taking potassium supplements can lead to an excessive intake of potassium, potentially resulting in hyperkalemia.
  • Magnesium Supplements: Both magnesium and potassium work together for proper muscle function and maintaining heart rhythm. However, taking high doses of magnesium can increase potassium levels in people with advanced kidney disease, which could lead to hyperkalemia.
  • Calcium Supplements: Although calcium and potassium are both important electrolytes that your body needs to function properly, excessive intake of calcium supplements might affect the balance of potassium, especially in people with kidney issues.
  • Licorice Root: Certain types of licorice root contain a compound called glycyrrhizin, which can decrease potassium levels in the body. If you’re taking potassium supplements, you might need to adjust your dose if you also consume a lot of licorice root.
  • Laxatives and Diuretics: Certain over-the-counter laxatives and diuretics can decrease potassium levels. This could be problematic if you’re relying on a potassium supplement for your daily intake.
  • Bitter Orange: This supplement is often used for weight loss, but it may increase the risk of high potassium levels, especially when combined with potassium supplements.

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K+2 Potassium 300mg by Designs for Health

K+2 Potassium is a uniquely formulated potassium product composed of potassium bicarbonate and potassium bound to the amino acid glycine, which gives the product optimum potency, stability and tolerability. This alkalinizing formula provides nutritional support to help maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Made with non-GMO ingredients.

As a dietary supplement, take one capsule per day with a meal, or as directed by your health care practitioner.

Amount Per 1 Capsule Serving
Potassium … 300mg (as Potassium Glycinate Complex, Potassium Bicarbonate)

Food First!

Although this article discusses supplements in detail, don’t forget that we are absolutely committed to the “Food First” approach to nutrition. When it comes to your health, the totality of your eating habits far surpasses the impact of individual nutrients or any single supplement you consume. Even though this article doesn’t delve into the broader picture of your overall diet, it’s crucial to keep this element at the forefront of our minds. Your food needs to provide all the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals to nourish your body systems down to the cellular level.

Food choices, rather than supplements, are the most critical factors for a healthy gut microbiome. These trillions of tiny inhabitants in your gut affect your brain waves; they orchestrate your immune system. They possess the power to create molecules that can switch genes on or off and are even capable of synthesizing neurotransmitters. Opting for organic foods and steering clear of plastic packaging (including those labeled BPA-free) is a smart move to limit toxin exposure. The sum of all these parts leads to a powerful conclusion: the ultimate key to your health lies in the quality and balance of the food you consume. Supplements are secondary.

To Sum It Up

Potassium is an indispensable mineral, essential for a multitude of physiological processes in our bodies. It is a silent guardian, quietly managing our heart health, fluid balance, nerve function, and more. Despite its critical role, potassium often remains overlooked, leading to suboptimal intake in many diets. Hence, it becomes crucial to recognize its importance and strive for an adequate daily intake.

Ordering potassium online can be a simple and effective solution to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs, especially when dietary sources are not sufficient. However, it’s paramount to consult your healthcare provider before beginning any supplement regimen, to ensure safety and appropriateness.

This article has hopefully shed light on the significance of potassium in our lives and offered valuable guidance for those wishing to supplement their diet. With its widespread benefits and crucial role in health maintenance, potassium truly is a mineral worth understanding and prioritizing.

This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.

About the Author

Stephanie Figon, MS, RDN, LD

Creator of Supplement Sciences and NutriScape.NET. As a dietitian since 1992, Steph has had experiences in consulting, 15 years in clinical, and has operated a private practice nutrition counseling office for since 2011. Log in to comment and save this article on your board or send your comments to reviews@supplement-sciences.com

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