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Potassium in the body - deficiency, symptoms, standard, what it's in

Potassium is one of the essential minerals that affects many processes in the body.

Nina Wawryszuk - AuthorAuthorNina Wawryszuk
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Nina Wawryszuk specialises in sports supplementation, strength training and psychosomatics. On a daily basis, in addition to writing articles for Natu.Care, as a personal trainer she helps athletes improve their performance through training, diet and supplementation.

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Alexandra Cudna-Bartnicka - Reviewed by
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Potassium in the body - deficiency, symptoms, standard, what it's in
29 April, 2024
18 min
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Potassium is a very hard-working element in our body. As you read this article, it is transmitting electrical impulses between cells, 'wrestling' with sodium to lower blood pressure and 'working' with magnesium to keep an eye on hydration levels.

In this article, you will learn about the important functions of potassium and why its correct concentration is so important for our health. Together with nutritionist Aleksandra Cudna, we will treat you to potassium-rich recipes and share some interesting facts about this element.

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From this article you will learn:

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  • What potassium is and what properties it has
  • .
  • What are the causes, symptoms and treatment of potassium deficiency
  • .
  • When do we talk about excess potassium and what effects does this have
  • .
  • What are the best sources of potassium in the diet
  • .
  • What interesting high-potassium meals you can incorporate into your diet
  • .

See also: 

Potassium properties and role in the body

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Potassium - along with magnesium, calcium and sodium - is an important electrolyte present in our body. Thanks to the potential difference it creates between the inside of the cell and the external environment, it conducts electrical charges that activate various functions of our cells and nervesand.

About 98% of potassium in the body is found inside cells. Of this, 80% is found in skeletal muscle and 20% in bones, red blood cells and liver. Total body potassium content depends on gender, age, muscle mass (which contains 60-75% of total body potassium) and is approximately 40-45, and 50-55 mmol per kilogram of body weight for adult women and men, respectivelyand.

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The average adult weighing 60 kg has about 120 g of potassium in their body. That's as much as a medium-sized banana weighs!

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Potassium is responsible forand:

  • proper water and electrolyte balance,
  • .
  • regulation of the body's acid-base balance,
  • .
  • maintaining the correct electrical tension on cell membranes,
  • .
  • transmission of electrical impulses between cells,
  • .
  • lowering blood pressure,
  • .
  • activation of many body enzymes,
  • .
  • participation in the metabolism of nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins),
  • .
  • control of muscle function, 
  • .
  • regulation of water levels in the body,
  • .

What does potassium help with? Normal potassium levelsand:

  • protects against stroke,
  • .
  • reduces loss of calcium excreted in urine,
  • .
  • regulates normal heartbeat,
  • .
  • may have a protective effect on bone mineral density,
  • .
  • may protect bones against the development of osteoporosis,
  • .
  • may reduce the risk of kidney stones,
  • .

Potassium deficiency - symptoms

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Hypokalaemia is otherwise known as potassium deficiency. It occurs when the serum potassium concentration is below 3.5 mmol/l. The symptoms of hypokalaemia vary depending on how severe the deficiency is.and

A temporary drop in potassium concentration may not cause any symptoms. If you have a session of intense training behind you where you sweated a lot, your potassium concentration may normalise after eating a meal or drinking electrolytes .

However, a long-term deficit is bound to manifest itself with different signals sent by your body. If serum potassium concentrations are chronically low, this can result in serious consequences for health.

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Symptoms of potassium deficiency includeand:

  • fatigue, weakness,
  • .
  • muscle spasms,
  • paresthesias - muscle spasms,
  • pain, weakness,
      • pain.
      • paresthesias - tingling and numbness in the limbs,
      • discomfort.
      • constipation, abdominal bloating,
      • .
      • arrhythmia (uneven heartbeat),
      • .
      • breathing problems - shortness of breath,
      • .
      • increased blood pressure,
      • .

Do you notice these symptoms in yourself? Make an appointment for a consultation or blood test.

Causes of potassium deficiency

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Although potassium is an element available in many foods, there are some factors that increase the risk of potassium deficiency. Read the list below and if you notice some of these apply to you or a loved one - pay attention to the correct supply of potassium in the dietand.

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Potassium deficiency - causes :

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  • vomiting, diarrhoea,
  • .
  • little nutritional diet, eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia),
  • .
  • frequent physical exercise, active sports,
  • .
  • increased sweating (e.g. exercise, fever),
  • .
  • kidney diseases,
  • .
  • use of diuretics or consumption of similarly acting liquids (e.g. coffee, black tea, herbs),
  • .
  • use of certain antibiotics (e.g. penicillin),
  • .
  • abuse of alcohol,
  • .
  • Conn's syndrome (excessive secretion of the hormone aldosterone),
  • .
  • magnesium deficiency,
  • .
  • chronic stress,
  • .
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Do you know why stress is said to leach potassium? Chronic stress leads to an increase in the concentration of aldosterone in the blood. Excess aldosterone causes increased excretion of potassium in the urine.
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Aleksandra Cudna.

Alexandra Cudna Clinical nutritionist

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Potassium deficiency - diagnosis

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If you suspect you have a potassium deficiency, you can ask your GP to refer you for a serum potassium level test. This is part of a test that assesses the concentration of all electrolytes present in the plasma, the ionogram. 

You can also have the test done privately - prices start at around £15. The test should be carried out on an empty stomach (about 12 hours between meals), and 2-3 days before the test it is advisable to limit alcohol consumption and avoid strenuous physical activityand

The normal plasma concentrations of ionograms, or ionograms, are the same as those of other blood tests.

The normal serum potassium concentration is 3.5-5.0 mmol/l. Supplementation is indicated when its serum concentration is < 3.5 mmol/l .

What leaches potassium?

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Potassium is flushed out of the bloodstream due to perspiration, use of diuretic drugs and drinks (e.g. coffee, black tea, herbal teas), due to diarrhoea, vomiting, exercise, chronic stress, excessive dietary salt intake and folic acid (vitamin B9) deficiency) .

Treatment of potassium deficiency

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In treating potassium deficiency, the cause of the condition must first be addressed. This may require an analysis of medications taken, lifestyle, physical activity or diet. For a low deficiency, increasing the amount of potassium in the diet is usually sufficient. If this does not help, your doctor may recommend supplementation with well-absorbed potassium or the inclusion of potassium-containing medicationand.

Severe hypokalaemia requires parenteral potassium supply, with concomitant monitoring of serum potassium levels. Fortunately, these are not common casesand.

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Excess potassium - symptoms

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Too much potassium in the body is called hyperkalaemia. It is diagnosed when the serum potassium concentration is above 5.5 mmol/lUand

In healthy individuals, excess potassium is excreted by the kidneys. However, there are some factors that promote the maintenance of excess of this element in the body.

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Causes of excess potassiumand:

  • overuse of potassium supplements,
  • .
  • kidney disease,
  • .
  • taking medication that retains potassium in the body,
  • .
  • taking certain chemotherapy drugs,
  • .
  • high-potassium diet (more than 4,700 mg of potassium per day), 
  • .
  • use of potassium-based salt substitutes.
  • .

People with mild hyperkalaemia often have no symptoms or experience symptoms that are not clear-cut (they sometimes signify other conditions). Symptoms may appear gradually over weeks or months. 

Symptoms of excess potassiumand:

  • muscle weakness,
  • .
  • general feeling of weakness or fatigue,
  • .
  • nausea and vomiting,
  • .
  • muscular pain or cramps,
  • difficulty in breathing,
  • difficulty in breathing.
  • difficulty breathing,
  • difficulty in breathing.
  • unsteady heartbeat (heart palpitations),
  • difficulty in breathing,
  • difficulty in breathing.
  • pain in the chest,
  • .
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Excess potassium should be treated under medical supervision. A low-potassium diet can support the treatment. Such a diet involves reducing or eliminating potassium-rich foods. Boiling of products is the basis of thermal treatment, and frying in fat is avoided. Adequate hydration, elimination of processed food from the menu and reduction of sodium in the diet are important.
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Aleksandra Cudna.

Alexandra Cudna Clinical nutritionist

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What is potassium in?

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I have asked among friends and family where they think the most potassium is in food. The most common answer I heard was in bananas and potatoes. I was not surprised. Instead, the respondents were surprised to find that their favourites ranked quite low in the ranking of potassium sources! Check out the top sources of potassium belowand.

What's the most potassium in?

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Product

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Content in 100 g

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Dry soya

2100 mg

cacao

1532 mg

dry beans

1200 mg

dried apricots

1160 mg

pistachium

1020 mg

dry lentil

870 mg

pumpkin seeds

809 mg

dried plums

732 mg

Bitter chocolate over 70%

714 mg

dried dates

696 mg

coconut squirts

660 mg

fresh spinach

558 mg

avocado

507 mg

potatoes

.

413 mg

Atlantic cod

413 mg

Atlantic salmon

363 mg

bananas

358 mg

cabs

352 mg

baths

337 mg

tomatoes

277 mg

coconut milk

263 mg

2% fat milk

159 mg

Do you have these products in your diet?

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Potassium rich recipes - from a nutritionist

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The following potassium-rich meal suggestions from nutritionist Aleksandra Cudna. Prepare yourself a delicious breakfast or serve dinner for two.

Potassium-rich meals.

Cocoa oatmeal

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Ingredients:

  • walnuts - 1 tbsp (10g),
  • .
  • banana - 1 piece (90 g),
  • .
  • cacao 16%, powder - 1 teaspoon (5 g),
  • .
  • food milk, 2% fat or vegetable drink - 1 glass (250 ml),
  • .
  • morels, dried - 3 pieces (30 g),
  • .
  • Oatmeal - 4 tbsp (40 g),
  • .

Cook the oatmeal in the milk/vegetable drink until thick. Finally add the cocoa, mix. Chop the nuts and apricots, slice the banana. Transfer the oatmeal to a bowl, garnish with banana slices, dried apricots and nuts. 

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.

This meal has as much as 1384.65 mg of potassium and is high in B vitamins and vitamins A, C, E and K.

Learn how important the correct concentration of these vitamins is for the body in the articles:

Dinner for two - potato salad with smoked salmon

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Ingredients:

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  • red onion, raw - 1/2 piece (50 g), 
  • .
  • garlic - 1 clove (5 g),
  • .
  • natural yoghurt, 2% fat -1 tbsp (15 g), 
  • .
  • black pepper - 1 pinch (1 g),
  • .
  • cress - 2 handfuls (40 g),
  • .
  • white salt - 1 pinch (1 g),
  • .
  • potatoes, medium - 4 and 1/3 pieces (400 g),
  • .
  • beef, smoked - 2 packages (200 g),
  • .
  • dill, fresh - 5 teaspoons (20 g),
  • .
  • pickled cucumbers - 2 pieces (120 g),
  • .

Wash and boil the potatoes in their uniforms with salt. Then set aside to cool, peel and dice them. Place in a large bowl. Dice the salmon, onion and pickled cucumbers and chop the dill. Add all the ingredients to the bowl with the potatoes. Sprinkle the salad with rocket. Prepare the dressing - mix natural yoghurt with garlic clove, pepper and salt. Pour over the salad, mix the ingredients and serve.

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One serving has up to 1365 mg of potassium and contains B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C, Omega acids and magnesium and zinc, among others.

Daily potassium requirements

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European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and World Health Organisation (WHO) expert groups assume that potassium intake should be at a level that will reduce the risk of diseases associated with potassium deficiency, e.g. stroke, hypertension, ischaemic heart diseaseand.

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The WHO recommends a daily intake of potassium of :

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  • in adults approximately 3500 mg, 
  • .
  • in children 1100 mg - 4000 mg (depending on age, height, weight and other environmental factors),
  • .
  • in pregnant women approximately 4000 mg,
  • .
  • in breastfeeding women approx. 4400 mg,
  • in people over 65 years of age 4000 mg,
  • .

Daily potassium requirements are an individual issue and may depend on a number of factors, e.g. age (rapid growth in teenagers increases the need), physical activity (athletes due to the loss of electrolytes during exercise), climate (residents of tropical regions lose more electrolytes during hot weather)and.

Might be of interest to you:

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Potassium contraindications

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Potassium contraindications include hyperkalemia, renal disease, heart disease, adrenal insufficiency, hypovolemia with hyponatremia, severe dehydration, gastrointestinal inflammation, and use of potassium-sparing diureticsand.

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Important!

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Remember to consult your doctor about potassium supplementation to avoid a negative reaction from your body and to avoid harming yourself.

Can potassium be taken during pregnancy?

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Pregnant women should exercise extreme caution and consult their doctor about the intake of medications and supplements. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified potassium in category C. Category C are drugs that show adverse effects in animals but lack confirmation in humans. In this case, adverse effects include effects on the embryo and its developmentand.

Category C drugs are potentially dangerous to the foetus, so they are only prescribed by a doctor when necessary. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor about potassium supplementation, keeping yourself and your baby safeand.

What is the best potassium?

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When looking for the best potassium, take note of the followingand:

    .
  • Form of potassium. The best absorbed form is potassium chloride. In dietary supplements, potassium is also found in the form of aspartate, citrate, gluconate and potassium bicarbonate. 
  • Choose a extended-release dietary supplement. The active ingredient is released gradually from the carrier, thus avoiding local, high concentrations of potassium, which can act as a gastric irritant.
  • The following is an example.
  • Status of medication. When you buy a prescription medicine, you are guaranteed efficacy and assured that the product is well tested. Over-the-counter choices include dietary supplements or combination drugs such as potassium with magnesium.
  • .

Potassium and magnesium - an important duo

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Products combining these two elements can be purchased in pharmacies. Magnesium and potassium are complementary electrolytes. They work together to normalise the function of many organs and systems in the body, including controlling muscle function and ensuring the body is properly hydratedand.

Magnesium is an important electrolyte.

Magnesium increases the uptake of potassium from the gastrointestinal tract, and a deficiency of potassium has a direct effect on the concentration of magnesium in the body. Deficiencies of these elements often occur together. This is why it is so important to control the concentration of these compoundsand.

Potassium and sodium - how do they interact?

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Potassium and sodium are closely linked. They play a key role in maintaining physiological balance and both have been linked to the risk of chronic disease, particularly on the cardiovascular sideand.

Potassium and sodium affect our bodies in opposite ways. High sodium intake increases blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease. On the other hand, high potassium intake helps to excrete sodium while lowering blood pressureand.

Our body needs much more potassium than sodium. Unfortunately, in Poland the consumption of salt, a compound mainly consisting of sodium and chlorine, exceeds twice the recommended standards. Meanwhile, research suggests that excessive sodium intake increases the risk of premature death by 20%and.

See also: 

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Summary

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Potassium in a nutshell... knowledge!

  • Potassium - along with magnesium, sodium and calcium - is one of the main electrolytes in our body.
  • Potassium is one of the main electrolytes in our body.
  • The most important functions of potassium in the body are the transmission of electrical impulses between cells, the coordination of muscle function, the regulation of body hydration, the lowering of blood pressure and participation in the metabolism of nutrients.
  • Potassium is a major electrolyte in the body.
  • Potassium deficiency is called hypokalaemia, and excess is called hyperkalaemia.
  • .
  • Potassium-rich foods include soya, cocoa, dried fruit, beans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, spinach, avocado, potato.
  • .
  • Before starting potassium supplementation, consult your doctor. When you decide to buy a product with this element, pay attention to the bioavailability - the best choice is potassium chloride.

FAQ

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. How to replenish potassium deficiency quickly.

To quickly replenish potassium deficiency, it is necessary to implement products rich in this mineral into the diet or to assist with dietary supplements. The most important thing is systematic supplementation and monitoring of the potassium concentration in the blood so as not to harm yourself. Treatment of the deficiency should take place under the guidance of a doctor.

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. What leaches potassium?.

The leaching of potassium from the body is influenced by diuretics and beverages (e.g. coffee, black tea, herbal teas), diarrhoea, vomiting, increased physical exertion, chronic stress, excessive dietary salt intake, deficiency of folic acid.

. What are the symptoms of potassium deficiency?.

The most common symptoms of potassium deficiency (hypokalaemia) are: fatigue, weakness,

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Muscle cramps, paresthesias (tingling and numbness in the limbs), constipation, abdominal bloating, arrhythmia (uneven heartbeat), breathing problems - shortness of breath, elevated blood pressure.

. Can potassium and magnesium be taken together?.

Yes, potassium and magnesium can be taken together. They show complementary effects on our body. Magnesium also increases the absorption of potassium from the digestive tract. Many products with a combination of magnesium and potassium are available in pharmacies. Remember to read the manufacturer's leaflet before consumption.

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. When is the best time to take potassium?.

Potassium is best taken during or up to 30 minutes after a meal, with a drink of water. This minimises the risk of gastric irritation. The time of day does not matter.

. Is potassium good for a hangover?.

Yes, potassium is good for a hangover. It is best to take potassium for a hangover along with other vitamins, electrolytes and minerals that alcohol has flushed out. Remember that consuming large amounts of alcohol adversely affects water and electrolyte balance.

. Does potassium lower blood pressure?.

Yes, potassium lowers blood pressure. If you are taking medication to lower your blood pressure, consult your doctor before starting potassium supplementation.

. What are the side effects of taking potassium?.

Side effects of potassium intake are most common in people who use excessive supplementation, take drugs that interact with potassium or have a medical condition (e.g. stomach). Side effects may include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, heart rhythm disturbances.

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Sources

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