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4 Telltale Signs Of POTASSIUM Deficiency Plus The Top 10 Potassium-Rich Foods Graphic © healthpowerboost.com.
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Potassium is a very important mineral, responsible for numerous life-sustaining processes. In the context of the human body: Potassium is acts as an electrolyte that helps with the transport of other electrolytes such as sodium and calcium; it is involved in muscle activity, digestion, energy production and even in the electrical conduction of the heart.  If you don’t get enough potassium in your diet, you can start to have various health problems – including fatigue, arrythmias, high blood pressure.
How Much Potassium Do We Need Daily?
Eric Berg, a famous health Youtuber and best-selling author, recommends about 4700 to 6000mg of potassium per day, which he says is about 7 to 10 servings of salad. We fact checked him and this is pretty accurate; with the US Food and Drug Administration recommending 4,700mg of potassium per day for adults and children 4 years and older.  They based this recommendation on a study in 2013 that showed a decreased risk for stroke among individuals whose potassium intake was between 3,500 and 4,700mg. 
Top 10 Foods Rich In Potassium
Most people think that bananas are at the top of the list, but they would be wrong. In fact, bananas come in at #10:
(2) Cooked Lentils
(3) Acorn Squash
(4) Dried Prunes
(6) Baked Potato Flesh
(7) Kidney Beans
(8) Orange Juice
Apricots top the list with 755mg of potassium, making up 16 percent of the daily value recommendation with half a cup of the fruit (1 serving size). 
The Sodium-Potassium Pump
Dr. Berg talks about the different roles potassium plays in the body, and one of those roles is part of the sodium-potassium pump. The sodium potassium pump is responsible for maintaining cell equilibrium and contributes to the filtration of waste by the kidneys, sperm motility, and the function of neurons in the nervous system. Researchers even found a link between a sodium-potassium pump dysfunction and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s disease. 
These pumps can found in the muscles and nervous system; they are critical for nutrition, transport of glucose, amino acids, and minerals in and out of the cell, and maintaining fluid balance in and out of the cell.
Potassium, via the sodium-potassium pump, is also responsible for maintaining fluid balance in and out of the cell. Potassium, specifically, maintains intracellular fluid levels. 
Dr. Berg mentions that about a third of our food intake actually goes to keeping the sodium-potassium pump in working order, with the ATP or energy needed by the pump coming from the calories in the food we eat.
Other Functions Of Potassium In The Body:
Another important role potassium has in the body is in hydrogen potassium ATPase, or a membrane protein responsible for gastric enzyme production. This protein can be found in the cells of the stomach as well as the kidney.  Gastric enzymes make up stomach acid, which breaks down food during digestion. Not having enough gastric acid can contribute to indigestion and nutrient deficiencies as the body is unable to process food and absorb its nutrients.
Potassium also affects calcium levels. The presence of potassium causes calcium retention by decreasing its excretion in the urine. 
Signs and Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
One of the most common signs of an electrolyte imbalance, particularly one that involves potassium, is cramps. Hypokalemia, or insufficient potassium in the body, often manifests as muscle twitching or cramps, along with fatigue. However, an important thing to remember is that hyperkalemia, or high levels of potassium, also manifests as muscle cramps, so seeking medical attention maybe warranted if you experience persistent cramping. 
Note – always be careful of the tricky linguistic difference between hypo (too little) and hyper (too much) in health and medicine!
Because of the role potassium plays in muscle contractility, fatigue often goes hand in hand with cramps as a sign of potassium insufficiency.  A study on muscle activity has also been linked to low intracellular potassium, resulting in decreased muscle contractility and fatigue after exercise. 
Consequently, one of the most dangerous signs of a potassium problem is an arrythmia. Arrythmias are irregular heart rhythms, which can be caused by problems with electrical conduction in the heart. A study in 2018 found that low potassium levels were associated with an increased risk for supraventricular arrhythmias in the older population while high potassium levels were associated with ventricular arrhythmias and myocardial infarctions (also known as heart attacks). 
4. Fluid Retention
As previously mentioned, potassium plays a role in the sodium-potassium pump, which maintains fluid balance in the body. More often, sodium is seen as the culprit when fluid retention such as edema and swelling occur. However, potassium can also be the cause of fluid retention. A study on post-operative patients found that extracellular potassium loss causes intracellular fluid to exit the cell, leading to fluid retention. 
Causes Of Potassium Deficiency
Dr. Berg focuses on the different causes of deficiency and advises us to monitor our own lifestyles to keep our potassium in check.
1. Insufficient Intake
This is number one on his list, with potassium deficiencies often caused by inadequate dietary sources of potassium. In a 2013 publication by Weaver, it was recommended that above average levels of potassium intake were needed in order to reduce the risk for hypertension, age-related bone loss, and kidney stones. However, western diets have led to lower potassium levels in the community because of decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables and an increased consumption of processed food.  Keeping the FDA recommendation of 4700 mg of potassium in mind, Dr. Berg’s recommendation of 4700 – 6000mg seems to be a better fit to get the full benefits of adequate potassium intake. 
2. Gastrointestinal Losses Through Vomiting And Diarrhea
These can cause low potassium levels. Other chronic gastrointestinal losses can also be caused by obstructions, infections, and even laxative abuse.  This happens as fluid loss causes electrolyte deficiencies as well, particularly with sodium and potassium.
3. Insulin Medication
Did you know that insulin can also cause hypokalemia? Insulin is a kind of medication used to manage diabetes and is supposed to stimulate cellular absorption of glucose. However, the use of insulin also causes potassium to enter the cells, causing extracellular potassium deficiency or hypokalemia. 
Close monitoring of electrolytes, particularly potassium, is vital after surgery. Similar to gastrointestinal losses, fluid loss can happen post-surgery and electrolyte deficiencies often occur.  This is why fluid and electrolyte replacement through intravenous fluids (IVFs) is done during the recovery period. Of course, not all surgeries can cause deficiencies in potassium; typically surgeries that involve the gastrointestinal system are the common culprits in fluid and electrolyte imbalances. 
5. Diuretic Medications
If you are taking diuretics such as Furosemide, your doctor will likely want to monitor your potassium and electrolytes. This is because specific diuretics often cause electrolyte loss along with fluid loss.  Of course, there are also potassium-sparing diuretics available, so if you do suffer from hypokalemia, your doctor will likely switch your medication.
 Harvard TH Chan. Potassium. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/potassium/
 National Institutes of Health. Potassium. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/
 Aburto, N., et. al. (2013). Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23558164/
 Pirahanchi, Y., et .al. (2022). Physiology, Sodium Potassium Pump. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537088/
 Shin, J., et. al. (2008). The gastric HK-ATPase: structure, function, and inhibition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079481/
 Sellmeyer, D., et. al. (2002). Potassium Citrate Prevents Increased Urine Calcium Excretion and Bone Resorption Induced by a High Sodium Chloride Diet. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/87/5/2008/2846608
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 Hoppe, L., et. al. (2018). Association of Abnormal Serum Potassium Levels with Arrhythmias and Cardiovascular Mortality: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29679302/
 Hessels, L., et. al. (2016). Postoperative fluid retention after heart surgery is accompanied by a strongly positive sodium balance and a negative potassium balance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4886173/
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 Kardalas, E., et. al. (2018). Hypokalemia: a clinical update. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5881435/
 Liamis, G., et. al. (2014). Diabetes mellitus and electrolyte disorders. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4198400/
 Siparksy, N. Overview of postoperative electrolyte abnormalities. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-postoperative-electrolyte-abnormalities
 Zhu, Q., et. al. (2018). Prevalence and risk factors for hypokalemia in patients scheduled for laparoscopic colorectal resection and its association with post-operative recovery. https://bmcgastroenterol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12876-018-0876-x
 Oh, S. & Han, S. (2015). Loop Diuretics in Clinical Practice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4520883/
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