Potassium Rich Foods: Health Benefits and Deficiency Symptoms
Benefits of Potassium
Potassium is used by the body for overall cell function in our tissues and organs. Potassium is especially vital in supporting a healthy cardiovascular system. Potassium also affects the function of the muscular and skeletal systems. A diet rich in potassium is known to benefit a variety of patients. Especially those suffering from cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, insomnia and gout. For example, tart cherry juice is rich in potassium and is commonly consumed to reduce the symptoms of insomnia, gout, joint pain and muscle fatigue.
What is Potassium?
Potassium is a mineral commonly found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Potassium is necessary for cardiovascular health, supports muscular and digestive systems. Potassium plays an important role in cell, tissue and organ function in the body. Aside from being a mineral, potassium is also an electrolyte.
- Hyperkalemia: too much potassium is present in the blood.
- Hypokalemia: too little potassium in the blood.
Hyperkalemia: too much potassium in the blood
Too much potassium is usually caused by the kidney's inability to remove excessive potassium as well as possible supplement abuse. Those diagnosed with diabetes need to maintain awareness of their respective diet and kidney function.
Addison's Disease: is a disorder affecting the production of hormones in the adrenal gland. The disorder causes the adrenal gland to produce too little cortisol or aldosterol. Addison's Disease is also known as, adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism. In acute adrenal failure a common symptom is high potassium (hyperkalemia).
Potassium loss is usually caused by the following conditions: Excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, malnutrition and issues such as Crohn's Disease may cause potassium deficiency. Diuretics and certain diuretic based hypertension medications can also trigger potassium deficiency. Age also plays a role in the body's use of potassium; our kidneys become less effective with age. The kidneys normally remove excess potassium from the body. They also send potassium into the bloodstream. It is important to note that potassium supplements in the aging may cause health issues due to the challenges faced by aging kidneys.
Potassium Deficiency Symptoms
Symptoms of Hypokalemia (low potassium): It is important to note, most cases of hypokalemia are blamed on the loss of potassium through the urine and intestines, as opposed to a diet lacking in potassium.
- muscle cramps
- irregular heartbeat
Low potassium symptoms are commonly related to secondary health issues. The following populations should remain vigilant of their symptoms and potassium intake in their diets.
- Hypertension / High Blood Pressure Patients: A variety of studies have found a diet rich in potassium can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease related death.
- At risk Stroke Patients: Patients who improve their potassium intake through their diets significantly reduce their risk of stroke. Interestingly, the risk of stroke is not reduced with potassium supplements.
- Crohn's Disease and Irritable Bowel Disease Patients: This population has difficulty with absorption in the intestine. This effect may hinder their levels of potassium and put them at risk for potassium deficiency.
- Bone Health in Postmenopausal women: A diet rich in potassium may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Who needs more potassium?
Increased potassium supplementation is sometimes used to treat the following conditions: (please check with your physician before taking up a potassium supplement regimen)
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
High calcium levels
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Foods Rich in Potassium
- black beans
- buckwheat flour
- carrots and carrot juice
- garbanzo beans
- kidney beans
- lima beans
- navy beans
- potato (with skin)
- prune juice
- sweet potato
- tart cherry juice
- white beans
University of Maryland Medical Center
National Institutes of Health
Dickinson HO, Nicolson DJ, Campbell F, Beyer FR, Mason J. Potassium supplementation for the management of primary hypertension in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006
Matsui H, Shimosawa T, Uetake Y, Wang H, Ogura S, Kaneko T, et al. Protective effect of potassium against the hypertensive cardiac dysfunction: association with reactive oxygen species reduction. Hypertension. 2006
Disclaimer: The information provided in this hub should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. Please consult a physician for medical and dietary advice and treatment. Potassium Deficiency should not be assumed or treated without the supervision of a medical professional.
© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares