Our bodies need potassium in order to perform a variety of essential functions, such as sending electrical signals along nerves, converting glucose to glycogen, maintaining bone health, regulating water balance within cells, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, maintaining our body’s acid-base balance and ensuring proper muscle function, including the heart muscle. Potassium deficiency, known as hypokalemia, can cause irregular heart rhythm, and lacking enough potassium in our diets can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.
If you experience muscle cramps or spasms, constipation, ongoing fatigue or a general feeling of weakness, a lack of potassium might be to blame. If you take certain prescription or over-the-counter medications, such as diuretics and some blood pressure pills, your body may be excreting potassium at a faster than normal rate, which can lead to potassium deficiency and a host of medical issues.
Potassium deficiency can have serious consequences, and steps should be taken to correct hypokalemia right away; however, a trip to your healthcare provider is essential before partaking in a little self-diagnosis and heading to the drug store for a potassium supplement. If you suspect that you might not be getting enough potassium in your diet, a good first step is heading to the doctor for a simple blood test to see if increasing your potassium intake might improve your current health or lower the risk of future medical issues.
Potassium can be found in most multivitamins, so if you take a daily supplement to help ensure you get essential vitamins and minerals when you are on the road, you might already be supplementing your potassium intake, but it is important to speak to your doctor before considering taking a separate potassium supplement. Having too much potassium in your system, known as hyperkalemia, is also dangerous, so you should never take a potassium supplement without medical supervision.
Whether you are at home or on the road, it is easy to increase your potassium intake by making a couple of simple changes to your diet. Simply eating a banana every day is the most popular option, but you can also get good amounts of potassium from whole grains, legumes, avocados and leafy greens.
If you think you might need a bit more potassium in your diet, reduce your sodium intake and include more mineral-rich fruits and vegetables in your meals. If you think you could have a serious potassium deficiency, contact your doctor for a proper diagnosis, and never take a potassium supplement without your doctor’s knowledge.