Crucial to kidney and heart function, healthy potassium levels help keep your blood pressure in check. In a study published earlier this year, researchers found that low potassium may be as harmful as excess sodium when it comes to raising your risk of blood pressure. Meanwhile, several other studies show that upping your intake of this mineral could strengthen your bones as well as cut your risk of stroke (the third leading cause of death each year among American women).
Symptoms of LOW potassium include dry skin, muscle weakness, fatigue, constipation and slow reflexes. If the deficiency develops rapidly (sudden loss of potassium), heart problems may result. Remember the three (3) main minerals the heart needs to pump are Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium. When sudden loss of potassium occurs, a condition known as hypokalemic paralysis may develop and that is an emergency situation. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) is also known to cause potassium deficiency. If you are taking prescriptions like diuretics, cortisones and high blood pressure medication, they all cause loss of potassium. Other causes are alcoholism, severe vomiting or diarrhea, overuse of laxatives, anorexia, nervosa or bulimia, magnesium depletion and congestive heart failure.
Some more symptoms that indicate a need for high-potassium foods are these: Muscle weakness, confusion, irritability, fatigue, heart problems, chronic diarrhea and regular INTENSE exercise. Most American’s diets are high in sodium due to processed foods. Skimping on mineral-rich fruits and vegetables can prevent you from getting enough potassium in the first place. Overcooking your vegetables also depletes them of potassium. Overusing your muscles due to excessive physical activity is a factor that increases your need for potassium. Perspiring, caffeine beverages, poor water intake or a high protein, low carbohydrate diet can increase your need for potassium. Low potassium may be the reason for atherosclerosis, cataracts, dehydration, diabetes, hepatitis, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), and osteoporosis.
To reach your recommended 4,700 mg of potassium daily, turn to foods that are rich in the mineral such as bananas (422 mg each), baked potato with skin (926 mg each), prunes (637 mg per ½ cup), acorn squash (448 mg per ½ cup), cooked spinach (420 mg per ½ cup) and almonds (200 mg per ounce). Parsley, Blessed Thistle and Barley Grass are herbs that are especially high in potassium. Nap’s Combination Potassium is an excellent source of herbal potassium. Sources: Herbal News from Loring Hammer, Nutritional Herbology by Mark Pedersen and Body+Soul Magazine.
IMPORTANT: You must not increase the average amount of potassium in your diet when you are using certain blood pressure medications either in food or supplements. If you are using blood pressure medication, check with your health advisor before supplementing with potassium.