Potassium is a vital mineral in the body. Among other things, it is essential for the transmission of nerve stimuli in the muscles and heart, is important for normal blood pressure and ensures a healthy acid-base balance in the body.
Typically, a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables will get adequate amounts of potassium. Bananas, potatoes, oranges, avocados, tomato paste, dried apricots, raisins, dates, vegetable juice, soybeans, spinach and mushrooms are particularly rich in potassium.
Potassium is a vital mineral in the body that is involved in numerous functions in every cell in the body. More than 98% of the potassium in the body is located directly in the cells.
Potassium is a natural antagonist of sodium. Too much sodium in the body can lead to a potassium deficiency and, conversely, too much potassium in the blood can lead to an increased elimination of sodium. A balance of the electrolyte household of sodium to potassium is a prerequisite for the correct water content of the cells as well as for the regulation of many physiological processes in the body.
What functions does potassium have in the body?
- It contributes to normal functions of the nervous system
- It ensures the correct transmission of nerve stimuli to the muscles
- It is responsible for the impulse generation and nervous conduction in the heart
- It is important for maintaining normal blood pressure
- It ensures an optimal acid-base balance
- It affects the release of hormones
- It is important for the protein and carbohydrate metabolism
- It prevents an increased calcium excretion through the kidneys
What can cause a loss of potassium?
- In the case of insufficient potassium intake through food
- By flushing out potassium when consuming too much salt
- As a result of an illness or by taking medication
- Through excessive exudation of potassium, e.g. in competitive athletes
- In the case of a laxative abuse
- With severe diarrhoea, vomiting, gastric, intestinal and biliary fistulas
- In cirrhosis of the liver or overactive adrenal glands
- From excessive consumption of caffeinated, sugary drinks
Who can potassium be important for?
The intake of potassium may be necessary
- to eliminate as well as avoid a potassium deficiency
- if the potassium level in the blood is low
- if the blood is too acidic
- in neuromuscular disorders to improve the transmission of stimuli from the nerves to the muscles
- for cardiac arrhythmias caused by a potassium deficiency
- for cardiac arrhythmias as a result of taking digitalis preparations
The intake of potassium should be avoided
- if you have high levels of potassium in your blood
- when taking diuretic, potassium-saving medication at the same time
- by dialysis patients, as the kidney function is impaired
- if you have an adrenal cortex illness (hyporeninemic hypoaldosteronism)
- with impaired kidney performance
- if there is a metabolic excess of acid in the blood
- with untreated underactive adrenal glands (Addison's disease)
- if there is an obstruction to the gastric or intestinal passage
Side effects and interactions of potassium
Basically, the intake of potassium should always be discussed with a doctor to clarify whether it is actually necessary or whether it has an interaction with medication. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also only take potassium after consulting with a doctor.
Discuss the use of potassium with your doctor if you have an impaired kidney function or heart disease, or are on a low-salt or low-sugar diet, or have excess acid in your blood.
Certain medications can intensify an excess of potassium, such as certain antihypertensive or blood thinning medications, medication used to treat heart failure and arrhythmias, painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Simultaneous use with drugs that affect the vegetative nervous system should also be avoided.