Potassium is a mineral normally present in cells and tissues. It is essential for many functions of the body, so if there are deficiencies of this mineral, can be appropriate to integrate it through alimentation or supplements. Potassium is a mineral found in nature only in two forms: in ionic salts or as part of other minerals. It is also largely present in our cells and extracellular fluids, in form of positive ion, which is in equilibrium with sodium ions. Its biological functions include:
- Nervous communication
- Osmotic balance
- Heart rate
- Acid-basic balance
Potassium takes part of an essential process which occur in many cells, action potentials. It cooperates with other ions, especially sodium ions, and calcium ions, to create a flow of ions essential for the transmission of information through the cells. This mechanism is important because it consents to transmit a single impulse through nervous cells, traveling along neuronal axons. When a signal arrives from a neighboring neuron, open sodium channels, so sodium ions start to enter into the cells, increasing the potential. When it reaches a specific threshold, opens potassium channels, so this ion start to exit from the cell, and the potential decreases. This process can occur in neurons, muscular cells, especially in heart cells, and in endocrine cells, and it’s very important for the transmission of signals through a nerve or a tissue. For this reason an imbalance between potassium and sodium ions can lead to many conditions, which can be hypokaliemia or hyperkaliemia. Potassium is also essential in the body because there are many channels, called Sodium-potassium pump, which are very important to maintain the equilibrium between the two ions into the cells.
Potassium is very important for our body, because it regulates and participates to many cellular functions. It is present into the cells and in interstitial fluids, where it can regulate:
- Muscular excitation
- Heart rate
- Acid-base balance
- Osmotic pression
- Protein syntesis
- Blood pressure
- Renal excretion of toxic substances
For this reason is very important to integrate the amount of potassium into the body, through an adequate alimentation or taking supplements, without exceed. Lack of potassium in fact, a condition known as hypokaliemia, can cause weakness, nausea, altered heartbeat, rapid mood changes and other symptoms. In particular, supplements of potassium can prevent hypertension and strokes.
Some categories of people are more subject to hypokaliemia, for example in case of:
- Elderly persons
- Renal failure
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Excessive introit of salt
- Intense exercise
- Unbalanced alimentation
Potassium and food
Potassium can be integrated by foods, because it is quickly absorbed by intestinal cells. The excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee, salt and sugar may cause a decrease of potassium into the blood. For this reason is important to assume the adequate amount of foods rich in potassium, as:
Potassium and sports supplements
Potassium is easily lost in the urine, and if large amounts of salt is ingested, it may be wise to take a potassium supplement. If you are suffering from vomiting, diarrhea or extreme sweating you may require more potassium or if your diet includes mostly processed foods, large amounts of caffeine, alcohol, or if you take diuretic pills or laxatives. Potassium bicarbonate and potassium citrate are alkalising mineral salts that help the body and the muscle to reduce the acididy levels set by acid lactic.
Potassium is present in our cells and interstitial fluids only as positive ion. supplements can be found in commerce in many forms. It can be used also by athletes during intense exercise, because potassium is eliminated through sweating. There are in fact supplements composed by many mineral salts, in particular potassium, sodium, chlorine and magnesium.
Potassium is normally presents in our body, but in some case it become essential to take supplements of this mineral. However the amount should not exceed the appropriate quantity, because it could lead to hyperkaliemia. Consequences of this condition on the body can be very dangerous, because they include:
- Slow heart rate
For this reason it is very important to be careful when you are taking those supplements, and to talk immediately to the doctor if one of these symptoms occur.