Potassium is especially important for regulating the activity of muscles and nerves. The frequency and extent to which the muscles contract and the extent to which the nerves become irritable, are subject to the availability of potassium in the right amount.
Functions of potassium
- Contraction of muscles and nerve transmission. Potassium plays an important role in muscle contraction and excitement of nerves, with many muscle and nerve cells having specialized channels for the transfer of potassium inside and outside the cell.
- Potassium is involved in carbohydrate storage for possible use in the muscles. Potassium is also important for maintaining proper electrolyte and acid (pH) balance. Potassium can also counteract the increased loss of calcium through the urine, caused by intake of foods high in salt, thereby helping to prevent thinning of the bones.
Potassium is present naturally in a wide variety of foods. As a result, potassium deficiency is not common. In case of excessive fluid loss through vomiting, diarrhea, or sweating or taking certain medications, the body may be at risk of potassium deficiency. Symptoms of potassium deficiency include muscle weakness, confusion, irritability, fatigue and heart disorders.
Overdose of potassium
Increased levels of potassium in the blood can be toxic and lead to irregular heartbeat or even heart attacks. High doses of potassium salts (potassium chloride and potassium bicarbonate) can cause nausea, vomiting , diarrhea and ulcers . The kidneys play an important role in removing excess potassium from the body, so if you suffer from kidney disease, you should severely limit your intake of potassium.
Because potassium works closely with sodium, unbalanced intake of salt (sodium chloride) can also increase the body's need for potassium. High amounts of potassium are also needed for people with high blood pressure. Cooking and processing foods loses much of their content of potassium.
The following drugs may cause increased levels of potassium in the blood, especially when taken by people with kidney disease: drugs used to treat high blood pressure / as quinapril, ramipril, enalapril, captopril /; NSAIDs / ibuprofen and indomethacin /; neaprin and some antibiotics.
The following medicines may reduce the levels of potassium in the blood: prolonged use of laxatives, stimulants, cisplatin - a drug for chemotherapy, steroid anti-inflammatory drugs / such as prednisone and cortisone /, neomycin, medication for asthma, tobramycin and diuretics.
Benefits of Potassium
Potassium may play an important role in the prevention and / or treatment of high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease, osteoporosis and others.
Sources of potassium
Potassium can be found in the form of food supplements such as potassium salts (potassium chloride and potassium bicarbonate), potassium citrate and potassium aspartate. It is also found in food-based supplements.