Potassium

What is it?

Scientifically it is a silvery-white metallic element that oxidizes rapidly in the air and whose compounds are used as fertilizer and in special hard glasses. Symbol:  K; atomic weight:  39.102; atomic number:  19; specific gravity:  0.86 at 20°C.

Potassium is a major mineral as well as an electrolyte, which means that it carries an electrical charge. The positive charge of potassium ensures that potassium is able to perform all of its necessary functions in your body.  Every fluid in your body contains potassium, but 95 percent of the potassium in your body is located inside of your cells.

Why do we need it?

NIH Says:

“Potassium is essential for the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, muscles, nerves, and digestive system.”  Usually the food you eat supplies all of the potassium you need.  However, certain diseases (e.g., kidney disease and gastrointestinal disease with vomiting and diarrhea) and drugs, especially diuretics (‘water pills’), remove potassium from the body.  Potassium supplements are taken to replace potassium losses and prevent potassium deficiency.

This medication is sometimes prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

 How do we get it?

You normally get all you need each day from the foods you eat.  However, if you are depleted and need it fast, potassium supplements are available at your health food store or if you see your doctor, they can prescribe medication to replenish the potassium you need.

Potassium is found in abundance in many foods, and is especially easy to obtain in fruits and vegetables. Excellent sources of potassium include chard, crimini mushrooms, and spinach.

Very good sources of potassium include fennel, kale, mustard greens, brussel sprouts, broccoli, winter squash, blackstrap molasses, eggplant, bell pepper, cantaloupe, tomatoes, summer squash, celery, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, turnip greens, asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, kale, carrots, beets, green beans, and papaya.

Good sources of potassium include grapefruit, cucumber, turmeric, apricots, ginger root, strawberries, avocado, banana, tuna, halibut, and cabbage.

 What happens if we don’t get enough?

Muscle Weakness, Spasms, Cramps and Tetany

In order for muscle cells to contract, a marked difference in intracellular and extracellular potassium concentrations must exist. As potassium levels drop, this concentration difference decreases and the muscles are unable to function normally. This causes generalized fatigue and a variety of muscular symptoms including weakness, spasms, twitching and cramps. In cases of extreme hypokalemia, the muscles can go into a sustained involuntary state of contraction called tetany.

Paralysis

Extreme hypokalemia can cause the muscles to go completely limp, a condition called flaccid paralysis. Importantly, the muscles involved in breathing can be affected by hypokalemic paralysis.  Breathing can be slow and shallow, or may stop completely.

Muscle Stiffness, Aching and Tenderness

Severe potassium deficiency not only impairs the function of muscle cells, it also damages them, causing their contents to leak out–a condition called rhabdomyolysis.  Symptoms include profound weakness and muscle stiffness, aching and tenderness.

Abdominal Bloating, Pain and Cramping

The involuntary muscles of the stomach and intestines can also malfunction when the potassium level is too low. Symptoms including abdominal bloating, pain, and cramping may be present.  Constipation may also occur. In the extreme, intestinal activity may virtually stop, a condition called paralytic ileus.

Heart Palpitations

The rhythmic, coordinated contractions of the heart are controlled by electrical impulses, which are ferried across the heart muscle by a specialized conduction system.  Hypokalemia can disrupt this conduction system, causing heart rhythm abnormalities.  The most common symptom is heart palpitations–an awareness of missed beats, extra beats, or a feeling that the heart is pounding too fast or too hard. These rhythm abnormalities can be life- threatening, and cardiac arrest may occur.

Dizziness and Fainting

Potassium deficiency can cause the kidneys to lose their ability to concentrate urine.  As a result, excessive amounts of water are lost from the body and the blood pressure drops.  This can cause symptoms of dizziness or fainting, especially when getting up to a standing position.

Frequent Urination and Extreme Thirst

As already noted, hypokalemia can cause an excessive loss of water through the kidneys.  Frequent urination and extreme thirst are common symptoms when hypokalemia has been present for some time.

Numbness and Tingling

Low potassium causes the nerves to fire abnormally, which may cause numbness, tingling or a burning sensation, especially in the hands and feet.

What if you have too much?

Many people who have extremely high levels of potassium in the blood experience no symptoms. However, sometimes people suffering from this condition experience nausea, an irregular heartbeat or a slow or weak pulse, loss of consciousness, or weakness.

Treatment

Acute treatment of hyperkalemia includes dialysis, prescribing diuretics, intravenous calcium, glucose and insulin, sodium bicarbonate and cation-exchange resin medications.  Long-term treatment of the condition involves limiting or stopping the use of potassium supplements and prescribing loop diuretics to reduce potassium and fluid levels in persons with chronic renal failure.  Close monitoring and hospitalization is often required in either acute or severe cases of hyperkalemia, because cardiac arrest may occur at any time during treatment.

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/370963-what-is-potassium-used-for-in-the-body/#ixzz24bKddfzM

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/202597-what-causes-potassium-to-be-dangerously-high/#ixzz24b41Gs00

Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/386840-risks-associated-with-extremely-high-levels-of-potassium/#ixzz24b4i2Cyd

Gary

About Gary

I am retired, but not tired. I still want to be valuable to others. I know that others are valuable to me. After looking back on six decades, I have asked myself this question: “What do I believe?” My mind filled up. My heart started beating faster. My spirit soared. I post blogs to share what my mind is working on, what my heart believes would help others and, what my spirit is communicating to me. What do I believe, you ask? Decisions dictate your path In love, not hate In tolerance, not prejudice In health, not sickness In wealth, not poverty In kindness, rudeness In happiness, not sadness In encouragement, not discouragement In faith, not doubt In courage, not fear I have been and will be challenged in each one of these beliefs, but the biggest belief is to stay positive and not turn negative. This belief helps me maintain all of the others.

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