Potassium is important for maintaining normal energy levels and all-around health. Learn the signs of potassium deficiency and the best ways to get enough of this crucial mineral.
WHAT IS POTASSIUM AND HOW DOES IT BENEFIT YOU?
Potassium is a critical mineral in the human body that maintains a delicate relationship with sodium. The two minerals work together to maintain the proper balance of fluid in the body that is so critical to good health. Because potassium is necessary for the organs in the body to perform properly, inadequate levels of this mineral can result in a variety of complications. It is absolutely essential for maintaining the proper fluid levels, as well as blood pressure and the health of the muscles, nerves, heart, and other organs.
This mineral is considered an electrolyte, because of its importance in cellular electrical activity. It is so important to cellular function that only a modest reduction in the normal potassium level is required to cause noticeable effects on bodily energy and health.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU SUFFER FROM POTASSIUM DEFICIENCY?
Potassium deficiency is often recognized by signs such as fatigue, heartbeat irregularities, weakness, nausea, and moodiness. Deficiency is often seen in people who suffer from problems with the GI tract, and those with kidney ailments.
Potassium is so intimately tied to the management of energy that the effects of low levels of the mineral can be dramatic. Potassium is necessary for proper depolarization and re-polarization of the nerve cells in the muscles, and any decrease in normal mineral levels can disrupt that process. This results in malfunctioning nerves and muscles which can lead to fatigue, cramps, weakness in the muscles, and even irregular heartbeat. It should also be noted that low potassium levels can contribute to depression, which is a condition that often has fatigue as one of its prime symptoms.
How to Diagnose Potassium Deficiency
Potassium levels are evaluated with a common blood test. Since many medications and conditions can result in decreased potassium levels, doctors typically take measurements for this mineral so that they can monitor any changes. At times, an EKG can also reveal lower potassium levels, due to wave changes in the readings.
Food Sources for Potassium
Fruits like bananas are an excellent source of potassium, but people can also obtain this mineral from other foods. Legumes, dark leafy greens and even potatoes can likewise provide the potassium you need. Other good sources of the mineral include oranges and tomatoes, as well as mushrooms, peas, and even meats such as fish and turkey.
How to Supplement Potassium
Because supplementing potassium can throw off the balance between this mineral and sodium, most experts recommend against doing it on your own. In fact, you should only supplement your potassium levels if your doctor advises you to do so. In most instances, dietary changes are all that most patients need to restore their potassium balance.
Even during times when illness or other factors cause a drop in potassium levels, most people are able to recover if they have sufficient amounts of potassium in their diet. It is only when the deficiency becomes an ongoing concern that doctors consider more extraordinary measures. Those measures usually involve oral potassium supplements – either in liquid or pill form. If food and oral supplementation fail to resolve the problems, intravenous supplements may be necessary.
Potential Side Effects and Interactions
Excess potassium can interfere with fluid balance, cause vomiting, tingling in the hands and feet, and heart palpitations. In addition, potassium supplements interact poorly with most medications, many of which can cause the mineral levels in your body to rise unexpectedly. Again, rely on your doctor’s advice so that the plan used to counter your deficiency takes into consideration any potential considerations.
So, while potassium levels are very important, your efforts to manage them should be done in consultation with your physician. Together, you can work to ensure that your diet contains sufficient food sources for this vital mineral, which can usually help you to avoid the need for additional supplementation.