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Why does the Human Body need Potassium

An Overview the Body’s Daily need for Potassium

Potassium is the major ion in every living cell, which means you will find it in abundance in fresh foods. The human body does not store it, so we need an intake of potassium every day. Studies show that more than 80 percent of Americans do not consume the daily value of potassium (3,500 mg.). Just half a cup of cooked dry beans contains as much as 480 mg, with no more than 5mg. of sodium.

Potassium is essential for the life of the body’s cells. Although the vast majority of potassium remains inside the cells that make up your body, it is in constant state of balance with a small amount that remains outside .That small amount is of critical importance in contributing to the passage of electrical nerve impulses throughout your body, controlling the contraction of muscles, including the heart muscle, and helping to maintain your blood pressure in the normal range.

Your kidneys primarily regulate the loss of potassium from your body. You also lose some in stomach acid secretions and in sweat. If you suffer a prolonged period of vomiting and diarrhea, you can also become deficient in potassium. When the potassium content of the cells becomes low, sodium intrudes from the fluid around the cells. This changes the acid-alkali balance in the cells, bringing about a toxic condition, which can lead to death. Potassium is also essential because it plays a leading role in the utilization of proteins and carbohydrates. It is also essential for muscular activity, particularly so for that tireless muscle, the heart.

Symptoms of potassium deficiency include acne, constipation, salt and fluid retention, stunted growth, low blood pressure, fatigue, insomnia, muscle weakness and cramping. You may also find yourself subject to increased thirst, depression, nervousness, clouded thinking or sugar intolerance, high cholesterol, extremely dry skin and mouth, and heart palpitations. Too much or too little potassium could cause clouded thinking and weakness.

The most common cause of low potassium is the overuse of diuretic medications (“water” pills).These pills cause a pumping not only of sodium, but also of potassium. Their use requires you to supplement with potassium to keep up with the loss .Caffeine also causes you to waste more potassium through your kidneys and may cause you to become deficient. If you are deficient in magnesium, you will find it difficult to correct low potassium. You must first correct the low magnesium before supplemental potassium will do much good.

With normal kidneys, supplemental potassium almost never causes problems. People with severe kidney impairment (renal failure) cannot handle extra potassium and should only add potassium under the direct supervision of their personal physician or kidney specialist.

Where do we find potassium in our diet? Beans are a good source of potassium. They may even help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Dried apricots, cantaloupe, lima beans, potato, avocado, bananas, broccoli, liver, milk, peanut butter, and citrus fruits are also excellent food sources of potassium.

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