Potassium is one of seven inorganic, macro mineral nutrients needed in relatively high daily amounts. It is the third most prevalent element in the body after Calcium. Along with Chloride, Sodium, Magnesium and Calcium, Potassium is an essential electrolyte. These elements are called electrolytes because they carry an electrical charge when dissolved in body fluids. These elements are distributed throughout the body's fluids, including blood, lymph, and interstitial fluids, as well as intracellular fluids.
Electrolytes help regulate nerve transmission and many cell membrane functions. Magnesium helps maintain the Potassium in the cells; but even more crucial is the proper Sodium to Potassium balance. Without Potassium, cell function will be impacted. Potassium works with Sodium to regulate blood pressure, transmit nerve impulses, and maintain cellular wall permeability. Along with Magnesium, it is essential for the proper functioning of the heart muscle. In this role, Potassium acts as the catalyst stimulating cellular contraction.
The body should normally contain more Potassium than Sodium, but the standard American diet, with its reliance on fast foods, packaged convenience foods and refined salt, is too high in Sodium and Chloride and too low in Potassium. An imbalanced diet could be as simple as high protein and low vegetable and fruit intake. Research has found that a high Sodium diet with low Potassium intake tends to disrupt blood pressure. This can lead to a doctor's prescription of diuretics, which can cause even more Potassium loss, further aggravating the underlying problems. This mineral is essential in proper amounts for good health.
Potassium has many functions but most important are:
- Regulating intracellular fluids
- Aids in the regulation of the body's water balance
- Facilitating nerve impulses
- Transmission of electrical signals between nerves and cells
- Contracting muscle tissue
- Balancing the acid/alkaline system
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Severe dehydration
- Excessive perspiration
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- Pharmaceuticals such as diuretics, cortisone, Aspirin and laxatives
- Slow reflexes
- Muscle weakness
- Water retention
- Dry skin
- Irregular heartbeat