Header Graphic

Have You Had Your Daily potassium?

Do you remember your doctor telling you to eat bananas whenever you have diarrhea, or are feeling weak? And you would probably wonder, why bananas? What are in these bananas that can help provide you with more energy plus help keep your body fluids balanced? The answer is potassium, whose chemical symbol is not a P which is for phosphorus but K.

What is the role of potassium in the body? Potassium plays a big role in the maintenance of the balance of substances in a cellular level. It is also seen in the transmission of signals in the nerve cells. It is considered to be a major cation or positive ion in the cell along with sodium (Na+). Although both positive, they help maintain the charges inside and outside of the cell, to be able to help the body function normally through the ion pumps and channels found in the membrane of cells. An example of this is the sodium-potassium pump wherein for every 3 sodium ions that goes out, 2 potassium ions goes inside the cell.

Potassium is also found to play a role in the contraction of muscles. This is quite significantly seen in the cardiac muscles, when an irregular rhythm is found afflicting the heart through an ECG test.

Potassium is considered to be a vital macronutrient and mineral found in the human body. This means that the human body should eat foods rich in potassium so as to not to deplete its normal stores. Aside from bananas, there are other food products that have high potassium levels such as potatoes, avocados, broccoli, apricots and soybeans. In fact, almost all vegetables, fruits, and meat products contain potassium but those mentioned earlier have the highest potassium content.

Having potassium in the diet may prevent the occurrence of hypertension as well as cardiovascular diseases. The average person should actually take in around 4,000mg of potassium daily but in reality, they are only taking in half of this. This is why potassium supplements have become popular.

When the levels of potassium in the body are low, it can cause hypokalemia, which is a serious and fatal condition. This is brought about by untreated diarrhea, an increase in urine output, and continuous vomiting. Symptoms of hypokalemia include weakness, alkalosis, a decrease in the response of the reflexes, and even a paralysis of the respiratory system. These levels can usually be verified through blood examination. Unfortunately, when a patient has severely low potassium levels, this cannot be resolved at once through injecting potassium into the body. It should be a gradual increase in potassium in the blood because too much given in a dosage may also be fatal.

People with kidney damage may have problems with an increase in potassium in the body, therefore, must watch their diet for its potassium content. Eating baking soda can help bring down potassium levels as well as glucose, perspiring and hyperventilating.

Knowing that potassium plays an important role in taking care of the body, the challenge lies on what can be done about it.