What is the function of potassium in the body?
Potassium belongs to the mineral elements and is found especially in cereals, vegetables and fruits. But it is also present in foods of animal origin.
Adults need about two grams of potassium daily. Potassium is included in many foods, normally the needs of potassium are covered with a normal diet. Potassium deficiency is rare.
A slight deficit of this mineral can be quickly resolved by including potassium-rich foods in the daily menu. However, it must be taken into account that the consumption of effervescent tablets, capsules or tablets with potassium, can quickly produce an excess of potassium. For this reason, preparations with potassium should only be taken on a medical recommendation.
Potassium function in the body
The mineral potassium belongs to the electrolytes of the human body. Electrolytes participate in the maintenance of the so-called osmotic pressure in the cells of the body and thus contribute to the regulation of water balance.
Therefore, potassium is also routinely measured in blood tests. In that case, the potassium concentration in the blood serum should be between 3.5 and 5.0 millimoles per liter (mml / l).
Potassium also plays an important role in the activation of some enzymes, in the production of proteins and in the metabolism of carbohydrates and is therefore important for the generation of energy.
Together with sodium and calcium, potassium acts on myocardial activity and is responsible for the excitability of muscle and nerve cells and is also necessary for the regulation of blood pressure.
The content of potassium in the body is closely related to the sodium content. The more sodium you take (for example, as table salt), the more potassium your body will secrete.
Potassium daily needs for the body
An exact amount that the body needs can not be established, since it is variable for each individual. Therefore, the recommended values for the minimum requirements are always estimated values.
For adults and young people from 15 years on, the minimum needs are estimated at 2 grams of potassium a day. For children and young people under 15 years of age, daily needs are between 1 and 1.9 grams. Infants need approximately between 0.4 and 0.65 grams daily.
Potassium is present in many foods. Most people living in USA meet their potassium needs smoothly with their daily diet.
Due to different conditioning factors, however, a greater consumption of potassium may be necessary. The deficit can be in any case, if there is an incorrect or insufficient feeding.
People with certain cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, need more than twice the normal daily amount and should consult their physician or a nutritionist about the dietary habits they should adopt.
Foods rich in potassium
Foods rich in potassium are especially plant foods:
- Cereals and vegetables (eg, potatoes, spinach, salad, parsley)
- Fruit (eg avocado, bananas, apricots, figs, melons, kiwis, some types of berries, peaches, grapes, dried fruit), also in the form of juices
- Meat and fish also contribute potassium, though not to the same extent as plant foods
If it is left to soak or cook the vegetable for a long time in water, the potassium will pass into the liquid. If this is not used, but is thrown away, the potassium will be lost.
For health reasons, it is necessary to reduce the amount of potassium in the daily diet. It is important to follow the following advice: For kidney patients, vegetables and potatoes will be soaked for a long time to remove potassium.
Potassium deficiency in the body
There is talk of potassium deficit (hypokalemia), when the potassium concentration in the blood serum is less than 3.5 millimoles per liter (mmol / l). Potassium deficiency is the most common form of electrolyte disturbance. The causes for such a deficit can be found in:
- Prolonged and continuous vomiting
- Prolonged and continuous diarrhea
- Abuse of laxatives
- Increased segregation by the kidneys, for example, in treatments with diuretic drugs
- Cushing’s syndrome (hypercortisolism)
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
- Alcohol abuse
- Excessive consumption of salt
- Reduced supply of potassium, for example, for eating disorders such as bulimia or potassium-infused
- Acute disorder in acid-base balance (alkalosis)
- Insufficient intake of potassium by diet (common in elderly people)
- Dehydration due to insufficient fluid consumption
- Intense sweating, physical exertion
Potassium deficiency can cause a number of disorders in the body that are usually general such as:
- Humor changes
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Circulatory problems
- Renal Disorders
Treatment of potassium deficiency will depend on its cause. In case of a slight deficit, a diet rich in potassium will suffice. Food supplements in the form of effervescent tablets or capsules are not recommended because in this case the supply of potassium rapidly increases, which can lead to excess potassium (hyperkalemia). Potassium preparations should only be given under medical supervision.
Excess potassium in the body
Excess potassium is an increase in potassium value in blood serum above 5.5 millimoles per liter (mmol / l). This value may be due to a decrease in potassium consumption, for example, by blood infusions or transfusions.
In addition, excess potassium can also occur when the body’s cells release a large amount of potassium. This can occur in case of reduction of red blood cells by the destruction of their cellular membrane (hemolysis), by hyperacidification of the blood (acidosis), as well as by serious injuries, burns or infections.
Also, kidney disease or potassium-sparing diuretic medicines can cause too much potassium in the blood. In this regard, special attention should be paid to dialysis patients: the consumption of too many bananas can have serious consequences in these patients.
In case of potassium poisoning, it can range from a decrease in the heart rate (bradycardia) to cardiac arrest, as well as muscle weakness and confusion.
In addition, there are also phonation disorders and swallowing disorders. In the case of potassium poisoning, a stomach wash with physiological saline solution can be performed as a treatment.
In severe cases, blood clearance (hemodialysis) is performed. In the case of potassium poisoning, it is especially important to monitor cardiac activity (using an ECG) and to determine the blood potassium concentration.