Potassium is considered one of 5 major minerals along with calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and sodium. One of the benefits of potassium is to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. It’s also the third most abundant mineral in the body and a required mineral for the function of several organs, including the heart, kidneys, brain and muscular tissues. Potassium also plays an important role in keeping the body hydrated and works with sodium to support cellular function with your body’s sodium-potassium pump.
Symptoms of low potassium (hypokalemia) include severe headaches, dehydration, heart palpitations and swelling of glands and tissues. Causes of hypokalemia include inadequate dietary consumption of potassium, severe diarrhea, improperly managed diabetes, extremely low-calorie diets, excessive sweating, chronic alcoholism, vomiting, Crohn’s disease, some heart medications, diuretics and laxative use. Hyperkalemia is when a person has abnormally high levels of potassium. Hyperkalemia most often affects individuals with chronic or acute kidney failure or very low aldosterone secretion, as both limit the kidneys’ ability to remove potassium from the bloodstream to be flushed out in urination. The current recommended dietary intake for male and female adults is 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day.
Eating a balanced and healthy diet should allow the average person to meet their potassium requirements easily. And although bananas are known to be a good source of potassium, avocados, squash, spinach, white beans and salmon contain more potassium per serving. Because potassium is so readily available in foods, potassium as a supplement is only available in very low dosages.
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