What is Potassium?
What is potassium? Potassium is an essential nutrient that is necessary for the proper functioning of cells, tissues, and organs in the body. Potassium has the symbol K and atomic number 19. It is a silvery-white metal that is soft enough to be cut with a knife. Potassium is an important electrolyte that is essential for the proper functioning of cells, tissues, and organs in the human body. It plays a role in regulating heart function, water balance, and muscle function, among other things. Potassium is found in many different types of food, including fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Sources of Potassium
There are many sources of potassium in the diet. Some good sources of potassium include:
- Fruits: bananas, oranges, cantaloupes, apricots, mangoes, grapes, apples, and berries
- Vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, broccoli, peas, and beans
- Meats: chicken, beef, pork, and fish
- Dairy products: milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Grains: rice, wheat, and oats
- Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans
- Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, cashews, almond, sunflower seeds
You can also get potassium from dietary supplements, such as potassium chloride or potassium citrate. However, it is usually best to get nutrients from food rather than supplements, as supplements can have unwanted side effects and may not be absorbed as well as nutrients from food.
Uses of Potassium
In the human body, potassium plays many vital roles. Some of the main uses of potassium include:
Regulating heart function: Potassium helps to regulate the electrical activity of the heart, which is needed for maintaining a normal heartbeat.
Regulating water balance: Potassium helps to balance the amount of water in the body by controlling the movement of water between cells and tissues.
Regulating muscle function: Potassium is critical for the normal functioning of muscles, including the muscles that control heart function, digestion, and breathing.
Maintaining healthy blood pressure: Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure by balancing the effects of sodium on the body.
Building proteins: Potassium is an essential element in the process of building proteins in the body.
Forming cells: Potassium is involved in the formation of new cells in the body.
Activating enzymes: Potassium activates enzymes that are involved in various chemical reactions in the body.
Reducing the risk of stroke: Some research suggests that a higher intake of potassium may be associated with a reduced risk of stroke.
Reducing the risk of osteoporosis: Potassium may help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis by regulating the calcium balance in the body.
Daily Recommended intake
The actual amount of potassium that a person needs may depend on their age, sex, and level of physical activity. Some people, such as athletes, may need more potassium than the average person.
According to the National Academies for Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), potassium should be consumed at the following adequate intakes (AIs):
Infants aged 0-6 months: 400 mg
Infants 7-12 months 860 mg/day
1-3 years 2,000 mg/day
4-8 years: 2,300 mg/day
Males 9-13 years old: 2,500 mg/day
Females 9-13 years old: 2,300 mg/day
Males 14-18 years old: 3,000 mg/day
Females 14-18 years: 2,300 mg/day
Males 19+ years 3,400 mg/day
Females 19+ years 2,600 mg/day
During pregnancy (18 years and older) 2,900 and 2,600 mg/day (under 18)
During lactation 2,500 (under 18) or 2,800 (over 18)
It is important to get enough potassium in your diet because it is essential for the proper functioning of cells, tissues, and organs in the body. However, it is also important not to get too much potassium, as high levels of potassium can be harmful. The upper limit for potassium intake is not well established, but it is generally recommended to not exceed 7000 mg per day for adults.
Generally, it is easy to get enough potassium from a healthy, varied diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, and meats. If you are concerned about your potassium intake, you may want to talk to a healthcare professional for guidance.
If you have a medical condition or are taking medications that impair potassium excretion, you may need to be more careful about your potassium intake. In these cases, it is important to follow the advice of a healthcare professional and to get regular blood tests to check your potassium levels.
If you have kidney disease or are taking medications that can cause hyperkalemia (high potassium levels), you may need to limit your intake of potassium-rich foods or avoid potassium supplements. Some foods that are high in potassium include bananas, oranges, potatoes, and avocados.
Side effects of Potassium
Most people can safely consume the recommended daily amount of potassium, which is 4700 mg per day for adults. However, high levels of potassium can be harmful and can cause side effects.
Some of the side effects of high potassium levels (hyperkalemia) include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Palpitations (irregular heartbeat)
Hyperkalemia can be caused by a number of factors, including kidney disease, excessive use of potassium supplements, and certain medications. It is important to talk to a healthcare professional if you are experiencing any of these symptoms or if you are concerned about your potassium levels.
Potassium can interact with certain medications and supplements in a number of ways. Some medications and supplements can affect the absorption or excretion of potassium, while others can increase or decrease the level of potassium in the body.
Some medications that can interact with potassium include:
- Diuretics: These medications can increase the excretion of potassium in the urine, which can lead to low potassium levels (hypokalemia).
- ACE inhibitors and ARBs: These medications are used to treat high blood pressure and can increase potassium levels in the body.
- Potassium-sparing diuretics: These medications can increase potassium levels in the body by decreasing the excretion of potassium in the urine.
- NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can interfere with the absorption of potassium and may increase the risk of hyperkalemia (high potassium levels).
It is important to tell your healthcare professional about all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications and supplements, as some of these may affect your potassium levels. Your healthcare professional can help you to manage your potassium intake and ensure that your potassium levels are within a healthy range.
Supplementing with Potassium
There are several different types of potassium supplements available, including:
- Potassium chloride: This is the most common form of potassium supplement. It is usually well-tolerated and can be taken orally or injected.
- Potassium citrate: This form of potassium supplement is often used to treat metabolic acidosis (a condition in which the body has too much acid). It is available in tablet or powder form.
- Potassium bicarbonate: This form of potassium supplement is often used to treat metabolic acidosis. It is available in tablet or powder form.
- Potassium gluconate: This form of potassium supplement is available in tablet or capsule form.
- Potassium aspartate: This form of potassium supplement is available in tablet or capsule form.
It is generally best to get nutrients, including potassium, from food rather than supplements. This is because nutrients in food are usually better absorbed and used by the body than those in supplements. In addition, supplements can have unwanted side effects and may interact with medications or other supplements you are taking.
However, in some cases, a healthcare professional may recommend a potassium supplement. This may be necessary for people who have a medical condition that interferes with the absorption or excretion of potassium, or for people who are at risk of potassium deficiency.
If you are considering taking a potassium supplement, it is important to talk to a healthcare professional first. They can help you to determine whether you need a supplement and, if so, what dosage is appropriate for you. It is also important to follow the instructions on the supplement label carefully and to not exceed the recommended dosage.
If you are taking a potassium supplement, it is important to monitor your potassium levels regularly to ensure that they are within a healthy range. High levels of potassium can be harmful, so it is important to not exceed the recommended dosage.