Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte. Electrolytes conduct electrical impulses throughout the body. They assist in a range of essential body functions, including blood pressure, normal water balance, muscle contractions, nerve impulses, digestion, heart rhythm and pH balance. Potassium is essential for life, it helps nerves and muscles function properly, and moves nutrients into cells and waste products out of cells.
A potassium-rich diet is linked to many powerful health benefits. It may help reduce blood pressure and water retention, protect against stroke and help prevent osteoporosis and kidney stones.
Most people get all the potassium they need from their food and drink, however having low or high potassium levels can potentially cause serious problems.
Certain conditions can cause potassium deficiencies. These include:
- kidney disease
- overuse of diuretics
- excess sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting
- magnesium deficiency
- use of antibiotics
If you have abnormally low levels of potassium in your body (known as hypokalaemia), you may feel weak and tired, suffer from muscle cramps, you may be constipated and have an abnormal heart rhythm.
You are at risk of developing low potassium, levels if you:
- take a diuretic
- have vomiting or diarrhoea
- have a very physically demanding job
- live in extremely hot climates
- are a professional athlete
- don’t get enough potassium from your diet
Most people get enough potassium from what they eat. There is plenty of potassium in:
leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and silverbeet, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocados, apples, oranges and bananas, beans, peas, milk, yoghurt and meat.
If you think you may need potassium supplement talk to your doctor and have your potassium levels checked. Potassium supplements are available in the form of potassium tablets or in combination as a magnesium potassium supplement.
Talk to your health professional as to what would be the best potassium supplement for you.
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