Potassium is important to maintain electrolyte balance in the body and is an essential mineral like calcium, sodium, magnesium. Absorption of this mineral takes place in the small intestine. Deficiency as well excessive intake of potassium in the body can cause adverse effects.
Some of the benefits of potassium are as follows:
It is essential for protein synthesis.
It is required for the conversion of glucose into glycogen.
Some enzymes need potassium to be activated.
It helps in muscle contraction and relaxation.
It prevents muscle cramping.
Helps in maintaining glucose levels. Deficiency of potassium in the body is known to raise glucose levels.
Maintain electrolyte balance and pH level in the body, and electrical conductivity of the brain.
It regulates water balance in the body, and helps in excretion of waste from the kidneys.
It prevents strokes.
Deficiency of potassium in the body leads to fatigue, anemia high blood pressure, headache, weakness in muscles. Some of the severe effects include diabetes, swelling, pain in the intestines etc. Potassium deficiency maybe caused due to surgeries, high sodium intake, injuries, Cushing syndrome, kidney and heart disease, and might even be due to prolonged fasting. Some medications can also cause potassium deficiency. Prolonged use of diuretics, corticosteroids, and laxatives are a few that may cause potassium deficiency.
The recommended dose of potassium is 4.7 grams per day. Side effects of excessive intake of potassium include nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, dehydration, gastritis and hemorrhage. Thus, a balanced intake of potassium is important. It is always advisable to consult your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.
The common foods that are rich in potassium are most fruits and vegetables, dairy products, chocolate and nuts. If your potassium is low, concentrate on high potassium foods like banana, milk, avocado, pumpkin spinach etc. If, however, you need to limit your potassium intake apples, grapes, carrots, berries, cabbage, cauliflower maybe a better choice.
If you are concerned about the potassium levels in your body, you should get a blood test done, and consult a dietician for advice. Depending on the levels of potassium in your body simple dietary recommendations may help to restore it. In extreme cases, potassium supplements may also be given. In case of high potassium levels, which is seen in people with kidney disease, dialysis may be the choice to remove the excess levels from the body, in addition to dietary restrictions.