The Power of Potassium, the forgotten mineral
Have you been told to reduce salt?
Were you ever asked about your potassium intake?
Were your sodium and/or potassium levels ever tested?
Actual problem may be, you are getting the wrong type of salt AND/OR you are not consuming enough potassium.
Let’s dive in!
You are mostly water, 60-70%!
But in order to hold that water within your body and be hydrated, you require electrolytes.
Electrolytes are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate, phosphate, and sulfur dioxide.
Roles of electrolytes include:
- Controlling the osmosis of water between fluid compartments, which means the diffusion of water from regions of high concentration to regions of lower concentration so the flow of fluid from outside the cell to inside the cell. Water follows minerals into the cell, it helps water stay there and do its work before being eliminated carry cellular waste/toxins.
- Helping to maintain pH balance
- Carrying electrical current as your muscles need to contract and relax when your nerves need to transmit signals
- Serving as cofactors needed for optimal enzyme activity, the catalyst for all biochemical reactions within the body
Did you know that our blood is most abundant of two of those electrolytes? Can you guess which two?
Sodium and chloride….SALT!!!!!
And do you know what electrolytes are found primarily inside of your cells?
On every cell there is a sodium-potassium pump. It is responsible for maintaining not only the fluid balance between inside and outside of the cell but also dictates the ability for nutrients to flow into the cells and for waste to flow out of the cell to be eliminated.
Today’s problem: we want convenience whether that is drive through of Burger King, grabbing a frozen meal, or eating at or getting take out from a restaurant.
Most of these foods are going to contain a lot of salt as it a fantastic way to preserve food and make it taste good so you keep coming back for more.
The issue is, most of these items are using table salt which has been stripped of all minerals except for sodium and chloride.
Unrefined sea salt hasn’t been altered and contains a vast array of minerals, because for many minerals we need teeny tiny amounts of them throughout the day. It will contain all those electrolytes, including potassium!
So first tip, swap out the table salt for unrefined sea salt like Celtic sea salt or Redmond’s Real Salt.
Second tip – potassium is primarily found in produce – vegetables and fruit.
How many cups of vegetables are you getting from Burger King, that frozen meal, or restaurant?
Don’t like vegetables because they are too bitter?
Salting vegetables reduces the bitterness, making them more palatable and desirable.
Hmm…odd how nature gave us vegetables and a way to make them delicious with adding salt…
It also supports our needs for sodium, chloride, and potassium! Which is needed abundantly for cellular function!
Why was it you were told to reduce salt intake? What labs were run or assessment performed?
Remember sodium is extracellular while potassium is intracellular.
Blood labs are not going to adequately reflect your potassium levels!
While reducing sodium intake is probably a fair assessment, it is misleading to you thinking it will fix all your problems as you probably are in desperate need of potassium to really address your concerns.
I use hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) to get an idea of client’s minerals status.
Why? 95% of your body’s minerals are located outside of the bloodstream in your tissues. Blood is not the proper assessment for many of your mineral levels.
Potassium has many functions in the body, a few are:
- Maintains fluid balance (i.e., water retention)
- Nerve conduction, especially in the heart
- Lowers heart rate and dilates arteries
- Regulates blood pressure
- Transports nutrients across cell membrane to create energy at a cellular level
- Muscle contraction and relaxation
- Sensitizes tissues and cells to thyroid hormones (i.e., struggling thyroid function)
- Proper kidney function
Low potassium tissue levels are often associated with losing the mineral due to stress and struggling adrenals.
Oh how it always comes back to stress…
Our adrenals maintain our energy levels and respond to stress so we are ready to fight.
When they are not supported and/or given breaks they start struggling to keep up with their responsibilities – a big one being maintaining sufficient sodium and potassium levels. I’ll be sure to do a separate post on adrenal function, but know this is a responsibility.
What if we can’t maintain adequate sodium and/or potassium levels?
Not having enough sodium and potassium means there is not enough solvent left in your body and other minerals can begin to drop out as there’s nothing there to hold them in place.
Where do they go?
Your tissues, arteries, joints, heart, skin, etc. – you become rigid and stiff and age prematurely.
Not having enough potassium may mean allergies, constipation, fatigue, irregular heartbeats, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, muscle weakness, skin problems, and water retention.
Are any of those symptoms seem familiar?
What to do
The problem with reducing sodium AND struggling adrenals (exhaustion and fatigue can be major clues here), is that you cannot achieve true cellular hydration without salt.
If you crave salt but have been told to reduce it, there can be an explanation for why your body wants salt – your adrenals are exhausted and salt can be a de-stressor (makes the adrenals work less!).
Do you feel like you are constantly drinking water but never feel hydrated and/or you are constantly peeing clear?
You are stripping your body of minerals by drinking distilled, reverse osmosis, and even filtered water.
You are stripping minerals because the body is lacking the 2 primary solvents – sodium and potassium that holds the minerals and water within the body.
Number One Game Changer – switch to a sea salt that as an array of minerals included not just sodium and chloride like table salt.
That will be key to reducing high blood pressure.
Number Two Game Changer – eat vegetables! 6 – 9 cups daily and salt those veggies to make them taste delicious!
If you feel like you need extra boost, you can also sea salt your water by adding a pinch to every glass.
But remember, salt is a food, ideally it should be consumed with your food – all of your salt intake should not be through water.
Reaching for Gatorade or some other electrolyte beverage?
Here are a few recommendations for better options that contain nutrients that will re-hydrate without relying on sugar for the artificial boost of energy (listed from best to good):
- Coconut water – high in potassium but contains other minerals as well. Is nature’s electrolyte beverage – think of where coconuts grow and are abundant – tropical climates! Can add a pinch of sea salt, if you desire.
- Goodonya – this is an electrolyte powder with similar amounts of sodium and potassium
- Electrolyte Lemonade (great for summer) – 2 cups of quality water, 4 teaspoons of maple syrup, and 4 tablespoons of lemon juice. Will give you 118mg of potassium and 3.8mg of sodium, so you can add a little pinch of sea salt, if you desire.
- Concentrace Trace Mineral Drops by Trace Minerals Research (low dose electrolytes)
- 40,000 Volts! by Trace Minerals Research (higher dose electrolytes)
- Ultima may want to add a pinch of sea salt as it has 4x the amount of potassium to sodium
- Nuun tablets
Last to know
The recommendation for potassium is 3,500 – 4,700 milligrams but this also doesn’t take into account your current levels of potassium and/or how long you have been deficient.
Hint, if you are deficient you need more!
But regardless this is a good place to start.
Track your food intake for a day using Cronometer. How much potassium are you consuming?
Start with consuming more veggies!!!
A few high-potassium foods are beet greens, avocados, potatoes, and beets.
Notice I didn’t say banana….Veggies have more potassium then a banana, many double the amount.
If you are on my newsletter, you’ll get a PDF with potassium-rich foods with their amounts so you can start grasping the idea of how many veggies you really need to consume.
If you want it, download here.
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