Potassium is a mineral found in varying amounts in almost every type of food, especially green leafy plants. It’s a critical element for proper functioning in all organs, tissues and cells in the human body. Potassium is also an electrolyte that conducts electrical charges in the body along with sodium, chloride, magnesium and calcium. 1,2,3
Some of the best potassium dietary sources come from foods like bananas, citrus fruits, potatoes, lima beans, avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, chicken, cod, salmon, dairy products and most red meats. Potassium supplements are widely available in tablet, capsule, effervescent powder and liquids. Potassium derivatives include potassium acetate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium chloride, potassium citrate and potassium gluconate. 2
Signs of a potassium deficiency may include:
- Muscle weakness
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Abdominal pain
Potassium Health Uses and Health Benefits
The proper balance of potassium is absolutely critical for proper health and body functions. Most people get the proper potassium amount in a regular diet, however when an imbalance occurs the body can go into shock from an electrolyte deficiency. Recovery can be difficult as stroke or cardiac failure may occur. 1
Potassium for cramps is commonly taken as potassium allows muscles to expand and contract, allowing relief. Potassium health benefits also including being an important contributor to these body functions:
- Improving blood pressure
- Transmitting nerve impulses
- Regulating body fluids
- Balancing blood sugar (glucose)
Potassium uses for health include treatment for the following conditions:
- Muscle Cramps - One of the most important potassium uses for health is its importance in proper muscle contraction and expansion. This is due to its effects on electrolytes that control electrical and chemical signals to muscles. Taking potassium for cramps can help to alleviate painful muscle cramping symptoms.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - Carpal tunnel syndrome is a muscle, nerve and tendon condition where cramping and dysfunction of the fingers, hands and wrists occur. Like potassium for cramps, proper potassium levels also help to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Dry Mouth - Dry mouth is caused by a lack of saliva. Proper potassium levels help to regulate body fluids and prevent dry mouth.
- Stroke - Stroke is related to improper cardiovascular operation and hypertension. Having a balanced potassium level is critical for proper heart and blood pressure regulation that are instrumental in preventing a stroke.
- Multiple Sclerosis - Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease of the central nervous system. Potassium plays a key role in nerve development and operation, allowing electrical and chemical signals that control information flow throughout the body. Ensuring a proper potassium level assists to manage MS symptoms.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease - Potassium has a significant part in digestive system function. Inflammatory bowel disease may be aggravated by an imbalance in potassium levels.
Potassium Side Effects and Precautions
For healthy people with normal kidney function, there is no known risk of toxicity from excessive dietary potassium. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has chosen not to set a Tolerable Upper Limit (UL) for potassium. People with fluid balance conditions should work with their doctor before taking potassium supplements. 3
Excessive supplement consumption may cause potassium side effects like diarrhea, nausea, stomach irritation and cramping. Extreme doses may result in other potassium side effects like slowed heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm or muscle weakness. 2