Monday, March 12, 2018

ABC's of Nutrition: Potassium

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables produces a potassium-to-sodium ratio (K:Na) of greater than 100:1 because most fruits and vegetables have a K:Na ratio of at least 50:1. Bananas produce a ratio of 440:1 and oranges produce a ratio of 260:1. For people who are on a low carbohydrate diet, salmon and avacados are also high in potassium.

The FDA restricts the amount of potassium in non-food based forms to only 99 milligrams. Nu-salt (potassium chloride) salt substitute provide a whopping 530 milligrams of potassium. Potassium is also available in a prescription.

Most Americans consume a ratio of 1:2 potassium-to-sodium. That’s twice as much sodium intake as it is potassium. This ratio can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, or cancer. A diet rich in table salt (sodium chloride) with a diminished intake of potassium is a common cause of high blood pressure.

Symptoms of a potassium deficiency include muscle weakness, mental confusion, fatigue, weakness, irritability, heart disturbances, and problems with nerve conduction and muscle contraction. (Notice these symptoms mimic magnesium deficiency.)

Excessive fluid loss has a bigger impact on potassium levels than a lack of dietary potassium. Excessive fluid loss (sweating, diarrhea, urination) can be caused by the use of diuretics, laxatives, aspirin, or other drugs. The amount of potassium loss from sweating is quite significant, especially in athletes and those who exercise. That is why it is important to increase potassium when exercising.

Over 95 percent of potassium is inside the cells, whereas most of the body’s sodium is outside of the cells. Cells actually pump out sodium and pump in potassium, known as the “sodium-potassium pump” located within the membrane of each cell in the body. If sodium is not pumped out, the water accumulated causes the cells to swell and possibly burst.

Potassium deficiency generally affects muscles and nerves first. The sodium-potassium pump helps to maintain the electrical charge within the cell. During a muscle contraction or nerve transmission is when the electrical charge (from potassium) occurs. Potassium then leaves the cell and sodium enters the cell resulting in a charge change causing a muscle contraction or nerve transmission.

Potassium is essential for converting blood sugar into glycogen, the storage form of blood sugar in the muscles and liver. If blood sugar drops too low (hypoglycemia), the glycogen converts back into blood sugar. During exercise the body uses glycogen for energy. A potassium deficiency compounds fatigue and muscle weakness.

Potassium and magnesium interact closely in many body systems. A bio-electrical analysis (BIA) is a great way to test the efficiency of your sodium-potassium pump.

by John Connor, CNC

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