Potassium is an essential mineral needed to regulate water balance, levels of acidity, blood pressure, and neuromuscular function. This mineral also plays a critical role in the transmission of electrical impulses in the heart.
Potassium has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
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So-called primitive diets provided much greater levels of potassium than modern diets, which may provide too little. Gross deficiencies, however, are rare except in cases of prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, or use of “potassium-depleting” diuretic drugs. People taking one of these drugs are often advised by their doctor to take supplemental potassium. Prescription amounts of potassium provide more than the amounts sold over the counter but not more than the amount found in several pieces of fruit.
The best way to obtain extra potassium is to eat several pieces of fruit per day, as well as liberal amounts of vegetables. The amount of potassium found in the diet ranges from about 2.5 grams to about 5.8 grams per day. The amount allowed in supplements—99 mg per tablet or capsule—is very low, considering that one banana can contain 500 mg. One should not attempt to achieve higher potassium levels by taking large numbers of potassium pills. This concentrated form of potassium can irritate the stomach—a problem not encountered with the potassium in food.
High potassium intake (several hundred milligrams at one time in tablet form) can produce stomach irritation. People using potassium-sparing drugs should avoid using potassium chloride-containing products, such as Morton Salt Substitute®, No Salt®, Lite Salt®, and others and should not take potassium supplements, except under the supervision of a doctor. Even eating several pieces of fruit each day can sometimes cause problems for people taking potassium-sparing drugs, due to the high potassium content of fruit.
Potassium and sodium work together in the body to maintain muscle tone, blood pressure, water balance, and other functions. Many researchers believe that part of the blood pressure problem caused by too much salt (which contains sodium) is made worse by too little dietary potassium.
People with kidney failure should not take potassium supplements, except under careful medical supervision.
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Certain medicines may interact with potassium. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.
Copyright © 2007 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. www.healthnotes.com
The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.