Potassium - To Prevent Acidosis

Information on Deficiency, Benefits, Food Sources

Potassium, one of the most important minerals, is essential for the very life of every cell. It is also among the most generously and widely distributed of all the tissue minerals.

Potassium is found principally in the intracellular fluid. A small amount of potassium in the extracellular fluid is necessary for normal muscular activity.

The average adult human body contains 120 g of potassium and 245 g of potassium chloride. Out of this body potassium, 117 g is found in the cells and 3 g in the extracellular compartment. Formation of sulphate and phosphate of potassium also takes place from the food potassium in the body.

Potassium is a bluish-white metallic element. It is highly reactive and never found free in nature. It plays an important role as a catalyst in energy production and in the synthesis of glycogen and protein. Liberal use of alcohol, coffee, sugar, and diuretics can lead to depletion of potassium.

Potassium absorption occurs mainly in the small intestine. In healthy people on a normal diet, about 90 per cent of potassium is excreted in the urine. Increased amounts of potassium are found in the urine whenever the tissues are losing potassium. Perhaps the most important cause is a breakdown of cellular proteins such as occurs in diabetes, under-feeding, and after an injury. Any condition giving rise to acidosis is liable to cause cellular depletion of potassium. In patients given diuretics to increase the output of sodium and water in the urine, an important side-effect is an increase in potassium excretion.

In a healthy person the faeces contain very small amounts of potassium. The digestive juices contain large amounts but this is normally reabsorbed in the gut. However, diarrhoea may cause large losses in the stool. Loss of potassium from the skin is usually negligible.

Recommended Daily Allowance - Potassium
Men 2000 mg
Women 2000 mg
Children 1500 mg

Potassium Benefits - Functions in the Body

Potassium is important as an alkalinizing agent. It maintains a proper acid-alkaline balance in the blood and tissues. It prevents hyperacidity. This mineral is essential for muscle contraction and is, therefore, important for the proper functioning of the heart, especially for maintaining a normal heartbeat. It promotes the secretion of hormones and helps the kidneys in detoxification of blood. Potassium prevents female hormonal disorders by stimulating the hormone production. It is involved in the proper functioning of the nervous system and helps to overcome fatigue. It also assists in reducing blood pressure.

Potassium Rich Food Sources

Potassium is widely distributed in foods. Pulses such as green gram, cow peas, red gram, and black gram; and vegetables like lotus stems and sword beans are rich in potassium. Other good sources are legumes, leafy vegetables, and fruits such as bael, sweet limes, peaches, and apricots.

Potassium Deficiency Symptoms

Potassium deficiency is most unlikely in healthy individuals because normal food supplies sufficient quantities of this mineral. However potassium deficiency may occur during gastrointestinal disturbances accompanied by severe vomiting and diarrhoea, diabetic acidosis, potassium-losing nephritis, and potassium loss during steroid therapy and that of similar drugs. Both mental and physical stress can also lead to potassium deficiency.

Potassium deficiency causes undue body tiredness, palpitations of the heart, cloudiness of the mind, nervous shaking and excessive perspiration of the hands and feet, and great sensitivity of the nerves to cold. It may also result in slow healing of ulcers and fractures.

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