Potassium is the primary positively charged ion (cation) inside the body’s cells and is crucial for maintaining the balance of fluids and electrolytes. It works in conjunction with other electrolytes, such as sodium and chloride, to regulate various physiological processes.
Functions of Potassium
- Fluid balance: Potassium helps maintain the balance of fluids in and around the body’s cells.
- Nerve function: Potassium is essential for the proper transmission of nerve impulses, allowing for efficient communication between nerves and muscles.
- Muscle contraction: Potassium is involved in the process of muscle contraction, including the function of the heart muscle.
- Blood pressure regulation: Potassium helps regulate blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium and reducing tension in blood vessel walls.
Good Sources of Potassium
- Fruits: Bananas, oranges, and apricots are rich sources of potassium.
- Vegetables: Potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes contain significant amounts of potassium.
- Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas provide substantial amounts of potassium.
- Whole grains: Brown rice, whole wheat bread, and quinoa are good sources of potassium.
- Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese contain potassium.
How Much Potassium Do We Need ?
The NIH does has no recommended daily intake for potassium, instead it provides the adequate intake (AI). The adequate intake (AI) values for potassium provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) do not necessarily apply to individuals who have medical conditions such as kidney disease, or who are taking medications that may impair the excretion of potassium from the body. In these cases, the recommended intake of potassium may need to be adjusted based on the individual’s specific health needs and medical history.
- Infants 0-6 months: 400 mg/day (milligram)
- Infants 7-12 months: 860 mg/day
- Children 1-3 years: 2,000 mg/day
- Children 4-8 years: 2,300 mg/day
- Children 9-13 years: 2,500 mg/day (males), 2300 mg/day (females)
- Adolescents 14-18 years: 3,000 mg/day (males), 2300 mg/day (females)
- Adults 19 years and older: 3400 mg/day (males), 2600 mg/day (females)
- Pregnant women: 2,900 mg/day
- Breastfeeding women: 2,800 mg/day
What Are The Signs of Potassium Deficiency?
Potassium deficiency, or hypokalaemia, can occur due to poor dietary intake, excessive sweating, or certain medical conditions. Some common signs and symptoms include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Muscle cramps or spasms
- Irregular heartbeat
- Numbness and tingling sensations
What Happens If I Take Too Much Potassium?
Excessive potassium intake, or hyperkalaemia, can lead to several health issues, particularly in individuals with kidney problems. Some possible consequences include:
- Irregular heartbeat: High potassium levels can interfere with the normal electrical activity of the heart, leading to an irregular heartbeat or, in severe cases, cardiac arrest.
- Muscle weakness: Excess potassium can impact muscle function, causing muscle weakness or paralysis.
- Nausea and vomiting: High potassium levels can cause gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea and vomiting.
- Breathing difficulties: In severe cases, excessive potassium intake can affect the muscles responsible for breathing, potentially leading to respiratory problems or failure.