Why Potassium is Good For You
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A national survey identified that 98 percent of Americans are not getting enough potassium in their diet. Similar dietary research in the UK has found that the amount of potassium we are eating has gone down over time. Potassium deficiency can produce heart palpitations, muscle pains and fatigue according to the NHS. It has also been linked to more severe conditions such as arrhythmia of the heart.
The symptoms of potassium deficiency can depend on the severity.
Potassium is vital to the function of nerve cells that carry messages around the body.
Mild potassium deficiency might cause a tingling in the hands and feet, along with cramps and spasms in some muscles.
Severe lack of potassium can cause breathing difficulties as the muscles that control the lungs become less responsive.
Some studies have linked lack of potassium to mood shifts, and potassium deficiency is found to be more common among psychiatric patients.
Non-prescription supplements are not a good way of treating potassium deficiency.
High dosage supplements can damage the gut and cause abnormal heartbeats, with potentially fatal consequences.
Commercially available potassium supplements have a low dosage for this reason, though some prescription supplements may have a higher dose.
Potassium supplements typically have 50 or 100mg of potassium, while the average banana might easily have 400mgs.
Citrus fruits can also be a good source of potassium such as oranges and grapefruit.
Root vegetables such as beets, yams and potatoes are rich in potassium and have fewer of the sugars that are common to fruits.
Other vegetables that contain potassium include spinach, broccoli and tomatoes.
Potassium salts are used in some salt substitutes, which should be used carefully to not take too much potassium.
The recommended daily dose of potassium is 3,500mg according to the NHS.
Some medical conditions might change this number, in which case you should consult with your doctor about dietary planning.
Increased potassium intake can lower your blood pressure, as it displaces sodium, another nutrient that raises blood pressure.
Kidney damage can cause a build-up of potassium in the blood, meaning that people who are at risk of kidney damage may be advised to reduce their potassium consumption.
One of the most common causes of potassium deficiency is loss of fluids.
Potassium is a component of sweat, meaning that heavy exercise will cause your body to lose the nutrient.
Other behaviours, such as excessive alcohol consumption or the use of diuretic drugs can also cause you to lose potassium more quickly.
If you believe you suffer from persistently low potassium levels the NHS suggests you contact your doctor to administer a blood test to determine your potassium levels.
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