know that nearly one in five people admitted to hospitals have
low potassium levels? Itís one of the facts that scientists are
discovering as they delve into the reasons that people become
ill. As little as thirty years ago, any doctor who suggested
that diet and nutrition held the key to eliminating disorders
like diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer was seen as
somewhat of a quack.
days, itís a rare doctor who doesnít understand that what we eat
is a major factor in maintaining health. Scientists and
researchers are taking a long, hard look at how levels of
various minerals and elements in the body affect and are
affected by illness. What theyíve found is that low levels of
several minerals are implicated in many common disorders and
health problems. Low potassium levels, for instance, are
widespread and have been linked to muscle fatigue, general
fatigue, cramping and muscle paralysis, tingling and numbness,
vomiting and diarrhea, irregular heart rate including arrhythmia
and heart palpitations, excessive thirst and urination,
fainting, depression, anxiety, psychosis and hallucination.
Thatís an impressive list of symptoms to be associated with a
lack of just one nutrient.
potassium is active in nearly every cell in the body, though,
low potassium levels can affect a wide variety of biochemical
processes. Even more important, people with moderately low
potassium levels may show no symptoms at all Ė but their bodies
are being affected nonetheless. Doctors believe that the typical
low potassium/high sodium American diet may be at the root of
many of the illnesses that are prevalent in America today.
Potassium is one of the most important electrolytes in the body.
It is largely responsible for smooth muscle contractions,
including regulating the heartbeat and blood pressure. It also
is part of the process that synthesizes proteins from amino
acids, and helps metabolize glucose and glycogen, which is
stored by the body for energy. The body must maintain a
finely-tuned balance of sodium and potassium in order for all of
these systems to work properly. The importance of the balance
between sodium and potassium is one of the reasons that lowering
the intake of salt is such an effective treatment for high blood
pressure. More and more often, doctors are prescribing potassium
supplements and diets high in potassium along with a reduction
in sodium to help lower blood pressure and regulate heart
potassium is found in a wide variety of foods, there are many
reasons that people may not get all the potassium that they need
from diet alone. Besides the high sodium intake thatís common in
American diets, low potassium levels can be caused by treatment
with diuretics (common for those with high blood pressure),
diabetes, long term use of laxatives, aspirin, digitalis or
cortisone, diarrhea and vomiting that accompanies some illnesses
and excessive sweating. While the symptoms of severe potassium
deficiency that accompanies dehydration are dramatic, those of
long term, chronic low potassium levels can be much more subtle.
Low potassium is often only diagnosed when a doctor specifically
tests for it.