Potassium is an important electrolyte in the body that plays a crucial role in maintaining proper functioning of the circulatory and nervous systems. It affects the neuromuscular conduction, and any inadequacy in potassium levels can result in disordered functioning of the heart and weakened strength of the skeletal muscles.
Potassium also has an indirect impact on blood glucose levels by normalizing blood pressure and the body’s pH, regulating fluid balance, and insulin synthesis in the pancreas. It is often used as a supplement to support the functioning of the heart and skeletal muscles, especially during hypertension treatment that uses diuretics, or intense workouts.
Potassium is commonly taken as a supplement to support the health of the heart and skeletal muscles, especially during hypertension treatment with diuretics and intense physical activity. This is because our diets often fall short in providing the recommended daily amount of potassium. However, there are certain situations where it is necessary to seek medical guidance before supplementing with potassium. The question remains, how much potassium is needed daily and what is the recommended dosage?
What determines how much potassium our bodies need?
The recommended daily intake of potassium for an adult is 4700 mg, which helps maintain the proper concentration of potassium in the blood. This amount is meant for a healthy individual. However, there are several factors that can increase the potassium requirement such as loss of potassium through the skin, urinary and gastrointestinal systems.
Individuals who are at risk of potassium deficiency are commonly those who:
- Participate in strenuous physical activities and may lose potassium through sweating
- Are exposed to high temperatures which can cause sweating
- Take medications such as diuretics or laxatives
- Experience vomiting or diarrhea
- Consume large amounts of sodium, particularly in the form of salt.
Both pregnant women and anyone who have previously experienced a potassium shortage have increased potassium needs.
The following symptoms may indicate a need to increase potassium intake through diet and supplementation:
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Weakened bones and muscles
- Increased thirst
- Excessive urine output
Is it possible to get enough potassium from just your diet alone?
Meeting the need for potassium through food or supplements?
Is the amount of potassium in our diet usually sufficient to meet the daily requirement? On average, the diet only provides half the required amount of potassium. Additionally, our modern diet often has a high sodium content from salt, which necessitates even more potassium. Where can we find this essential element? One source of potassium is cocoa, which contains a high amount of approximately 2000 mg per 100 g.
Other rich sources of potassium in a diet include:
- dried apricots, containing over 1600 mg of potassium
- navy beans, providing nearly 1200 mg of potassium
- tomato concentrate, with approximately 1100 mg of potassium
- pumpkin seeds, containing over 800 mg of potassium.
Other sources of potassium in the diet include nuts, seeds, poppy seeds, and vegetables such as potatoes, parsley leaves, and tomatoes. Fruits with high potassium content include avocados, bananas, and apricots. Taking a potassium-rich diet supplement can also provide a few hundred extra milligrams of potassium, which helps prevent a deficiency and its associated consequences.
Is it possible to overdose on potassium by taking supplements? No, as long as the recommended dosage is followed and there are no serious kidney problems. The kidneys are capable of effectively removing excess potassium through urine, avoiding an overdose. There isn't a specific limit on the amount of potassium that can be taken daily, as it depends on the balance between potassium intake through diet, supplements, and the kidney's ability to eliminate potassium loss in the body. It is recommended, however, not to exceed a daily dose of about 7800 mg of potassium.
And when there is too much potassium...
The recommended dose of potassium supplementation, typically a few hundred milligrams, combined with the potassium in the diet, should not cause an overdose. However, people with impaired kidney function need to exercise caution as they may have difficulty excreting excess potassium. Additionally, taking diuretics can also increase potassium levels in the blood, so regular blood tests for potassium levels are recommended to prevent the rare but serious consequences of an excessive potassium level, such as heart problems, seizures, apathy, fatigue, muscle paralysis, and more.