Potassium is a highly underestimated nutrient.
Potassium is classified as an electrolyte because it is highly reactive in water. When potassium is dissolved in water, it yields positively-charged ions
The ability of potassium to produce positively-charged ions in water helps it conduct electricity, which is essential for many processes in the body.
A diet rich in potassium is linked to many significant health benefits. For example, potassium may help reduce water retention and blood pressure, protect against stroke, and prevent kidney stones and osteoporosis (1, 2, 3, 4).
This article gives a detailed review of potassium and its health benefits.
Not many know that potassium is the third most abundant mineral in the body. Potassium helps regulate body fluid, muscle contractions, and the transmission of nerve signals.
At least 98% of your body’s potassium is found in the cells. Out of this, over 80% is stored in the muscle cells, while the remaining 20% is spread among your red blood cells, liver, and bones (5).
Once potassium gets into your body, it functions as an electrolyte. When potassium is in water, it dissolves into negative or positive ions that have the potential to conduct electricity. Potassium ions have a positive charge.
This electricity manages various processes, such as nerve signals, muscle contractions, and fluid balance (6).
A high or low amount of electrolytes in the body can affect many essential processes.
Approximately 60 percent of the human body is water (7).
Forty percent of this water is present within your cells in a substance known as intracellular fluid (ICF).
The remaining is present outside your cells in your spinal fluid, blood, and between cells. This is known as the extracellular fluid.
It is worth knowing that the amount of water in the ECF and ICF is affected by the concentration of electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium.
Potassium is the primary electrolyte in the intracellular fluid. Therefore, potassium determines how much water gets into the cells. On the other hand, sodium is the primary electrolyte in the extracellular fluid. Therefore, sodium determines how much water is present outside the cells.
It is essential to maintain fluid balance in the body. Good fluid balance is vital for optimal health. If your body fluid is not balanced, you may dehydrate, and dehydration affects the kidneys and heart (8).
Eating a diet rich in potassium is one of the best ways to stay hydrated.
The nervous system is responsible for relaying messages between your brain and the rest of your body.
These messages are usually transmitted in the form of nerve signals. Nerve signals help regulate muscle contractions, reflexes, heartbeat, and other essential body functions (9).
It is important to note that nerve impulses are generated by sodium ions that move into the cells and potassium ions that carry out of the cells.
The movement of ions changes cell voltage, which activates nerve impulses (10).
However, when potassium levels in the body drop, your body’s ability to generate a nerve impulse becomes severely affected (5).
Eating a potassium-rich diet can help maintain the health of your nerve.
The nervous system helps in regulating muscle contractions.
However, the alteration of blood potassium levels can affect nerve signaling in the nervous system, thus weakening the contraction of the muscle.
Potassium is also essential for a healthy heart. The movement of electrolytes in and out of the cells maintains the heartbeat.
If your blood potassium level is high, the heart can become dilated and flaccid. This will cause its contractions to weaken, causing the heart to beat in an abnormal rhythm.
If the heart cannot beat properly, it cannot pump blood as effectively as it should. As a result, the organs, muscles, and brain will experience a blood shortage.
Heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) can be fatal and cause sudden death (12).
Nearly one in three Americans are affected by high blood pressure (13).
High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease, a primary cause of death globally (14).
A diet rich in potassium may reduce blood pressure by facilitating the removal of excess sodium (14).
High sodium levels can increase blood pressure, especially for those with pre-existing hypertension (15).
According to over 33 studies, an increased potassium intake by people with high blood pressure decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 3.49 mmHg and 1.96 mmHg, respectively (1).
Osteoporosis is a condition that affects the bones. Bones that are affected by this condition are usually porous and hollow.
Osteoporosis is often linked to calcium deficiency because calcium plays a vital role in bone health (16).
Kidney stones are clumps that may form in highly concentrated urine (20).
This is how potassium helps prevent kidney stones.
Many vegetables and fruits contain potassium citrate, so it’s easy to incorporate it into your diet.
A four-year study involving 45,619 men showed that a daily potassium intake by the subjects reduced the risk of kidney stones by 51% (3).
Also, a 12-year study involving 91,731 women found that daily potassium intake by women lowered the risk of kidney stones by 35 percent (23).
Many whole foods are enriched with potassium. Vegetables, fish, and fruits are common examples.
Below are some sources of potassium and how much potassium you can get from eating a 100-gram serving of each food (26):
Disclaimer: Dr. Berner does not diagnose, treat, or prevent any medical diseases or conditions; instead, he analyzes and corrects the structure of his patients with Foundational Correction to improve their overall quality of life. He works with their physicians, who regulate their medications. This blog post is not designed to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or any other individual. The information provided in this post or through linkages to other sites is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, consultation, or the advice of your physician or another healthcare provider. Foundation Chiropractic and Dr. Brett Berner are not liable or responsible for any advice, the course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain through this article or others.
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