Potassium is a mineral key to many of the body's important functions such as regulating heart rate, smooth muscle contraction, transfer of nutrients through cell membranes, and water balance (works with sodium).
People who are potassium deficient may develop hypokalemia, a condition where there is not enough potassium in the blood. Some of the symptoms include weakness, dry skin, acne, chills, depression, muscular fatigue, an abnormal EKG (electrocardiogram, measure heart function), and circulatory problems. The reverse of this condition is hyperkalemia (too much potassium in the blood). Some elderly people suffer from hyperkalemia due to decreased kidney function or renal failure.
Sources of Potassium
Food sources include milk products and unprocessed foods in general—meat, fish, citrus juice (orange), whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Herbs containing potassium include catnip, hops, nettle, and sage.
Potassium supplements are available in multivitamin preparations and as potassium acetate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium citrate effervescent, potassium chloride, and potassium gluconate.
Guidelines and Cautions
The National Research Council suggests the following as a daily dose:
- Infants 780 mg
- Children 1600 mg
- Adults 3500 mg
- If pregnant or nursing, consult a medical professional prior to taking a potassium supplement.
- Do not include a potassium supplement if taking a multivitamin—unless directed by a medical professional.
Tobacco and caffeine reduce the body's ability to absorb potassium. Laxatives, and diuretics disrupt potassium levels.
If you are older and taking medication (eg, ibuprofen, beta-blocker, heparin) on a regular basis, and/or if kidney problems exist, consult a medical professional prior to taking a potassium supplement.
Disclaimer: Many people report feeling improvement in their condition and/or general well-being taking dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements. The Editorial Board of SpineUniverse.com, however, cannot endorse such products since most lack peer-reviewed scientific validation of their claims. In most cases an appropriate diet and a "multiple vitamin" will provide the necessary dietary supplements for most individuals. Prior to taking additional dietary, vitamin, mineral, and/or herbal supplements it is recommended that patients consult with their personal physician to discuss their specific supplement requirements.