The standard modern diets have been reported to lack some of the most fundamental nutrients that the body requires to undergo processes on a daily basis. In comparison with the statistics from 20 years ago, the diet of an American adult has shown a 30% decrease in healthy foods.
An evidence of this is the flow of processed foods into the aisles of every nearby grocery shop and the widespread sales of these products. Consequently, one of the nutrients that get stripped out of the diet is potassium.
Potassium’s role in the body is so important that it is present in every single cell. Without potassium, the most basic functions in the body will be impossible to perform, keeping aside the complicated procedures that involve potassium.
While potassium is present in a good number of foods, studies have shown that a person may not be able to get the whole amount of potassium and fulfill the body’s need even by consumption of such foods.
One of the reasons this happens is because of the quality of food produced nowadays. It is a well-known fact that the way crops are grown along with increased use of chemical fertilizers can make a big difference in the amount of nutrient present in them.
Secondly, the ways in which the potassium-containing food is cooked can lessen a number of nutrients in it to an extent such as proteins in meat break when it is cooked at very high temperatures for a good period of time.
Thirdly, a person might be consuming potassium but not as much as the body requires, hence making room for a potassium deficiency to occur.
Why Causes Lack Of Potassium?
Potassium plays multiple roles in the body from maintaining the concentration gradient for osmosis in the bloodstream to balancing the functions at a cellular level. Usually found in blood, cells, and muscles, potassium can sometimes can as an electrolyte along with magnesium and sodium due to the fact it carries a charge.
Potassium is the main cation or positive ion in the cell. 98 of the 120 grams of potassium stored in the bodies is found within the cells. The blood serum carries merely 2-5 mg per 150 ml of potassium whereas the red blood cells contain 420 mg.
This is the reason why the red blood cell level can have more credibility than blood serum when checking for a person’s potassium levels.
Potassium is one of the most well-absorbed nutrients in the body. The small intestine has been recorded to be able to absorb 90% of the potassium in the consumed food. However, statistically, potassium deficiencies seem to be fairly common.
Where potassium has one of the highest rates of absorption, it is also one of the most soluble minerals lost in the process of cooking or usage of chemical loaded fertilizers on the foods that generally contain the good amount of potassium.
The regulation of potassium is controlled by the Kidneys since they also maintain the blood pressure and cleanse the bloodstream. Potassium is often discarded through an increased level of urine or in the form of sweat.
This is why in potassium deficiencies tend to increase in summers during the months of May, June, and July where excess sweat is the main culprit. This is the second most common cause of low potassium levels in the body.
The most widely observed cause for the loss of potassium can be seen in people who have prescribed the medication known as diuretics which are usually taken in kidney-related complications to increase urination.
Increase in urination tends to disturb the potassium levels, sometimes causing huge potassium and other nutritional deficiencies triggered by it. These types of medicines are also taken in cases of fluctuating blood pressure.
In a similar way, having certain conditions can lead to a decrease in potassium levels. For example, a person loses a good amount of potassium when having diarrhea, loose motions, gastritis as well as in vomiting multiple times.
In addition to all these, potassium deficiencies can also indicate a number of underlying problems such as:
- Folic Acid Deficiency
- Excessive usage of Alcohol
- Primary Aldosteronism
- Excessive usage of Laxatives
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Continuous use of Antibiotics
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
Why is Potassium Important?
In addition to the aforementioned health conditions, potassium plays a significant role in the body and overlooking its importance means ignoring muscles, heart, brain, and blood health.
Potassium deficiency can have an instant effect that shows up in a couple of days as well as cause damage to the body for a long-term and that too in multiple ways.
Without enough levels of potassium, the body may not be able to absorb the following functions:
Contractions of Muscle
In accordance with Periodic Paralysis News Desk, low levels of potassium harm the movements of muscles before affecting other processes in the body.
Potassium often pairs up with sodium to balance acid and water balance in the tissues, muscles, and blood. A potassium-sodium concentration gradient also helps generate certain important muscles movements, the most important one being the beating of the heart.
In comparison with sodium, potassium might be more important since it crosses through the permeable membranes of the cells more easily for the exchange of electrical energy process to begin.
This process is what activates the nerves impulses needs in causing muscles contraction and regulation of heartbeat.
Blood Pressure Balance
According to a study published in American Journal of Physiology potassium has a leading role in balancing blood pressure. Disturbance of potassium-sodium balances in the blood is one of the biggest contributors to high blood pressure patients.
This type of shooting of blood pressure is often linked to people having certain health complications or an extremely high intake of salt in their daily diets.
The study also concentrated on the effects of adding potassium supplements in the diet and concluded that they can help considerably in lowering blood pressures especially for people with sodium sensitivity instead of anti-hypertensive medication.
In addition, taking potassium supplements can also lower the risks of strokes and reverse damages caused by sodium in hypertensive people such as neurological disruptions that lead to epileptic seizures.
It is a well-known fact that the body requires a balance of acid and base in the body to avoid health risks. For this maintenance based on a person’s daily intake, the body sometimes takes calcium out from the bones.
In this whole process, potassium plays a vital role in the transfer of calcium. The role of potassium is often merged with a certain amount of calcium, phosphorous and sodium in the bones along with the interstitial l fluid around it.
The amount of Potassium required can differ from person to person depending on their general health of the body and organs. Sometimes, some people may even need to lower their potassium intake such as in case of reduced kidney function.
Other people who have low potassium levels due to low intake or because of medications that lower potassium levels are more likely to have prescribed potassium supplements where they are given only for a specific time course in the former.
In addition to all this, potassium supplements may react to other medication taken along with them. Therefore, talking to a doctor is better than taking potassium supplements on your own.