Our Educational Content is Not Meant or Intended for Medical Advice or Treatment
Here, we’re going to talk about insulin resistance, potassium, blood pressure, and hypertension.
Out of all the nutrients that you need, potassium is the one that’s required in one of the largest quantities - you need 4700 mg of potassium every single day to reach recommended requirements!(1)
Very people get this amount, and not getting enough potassium could actually contribute to many other health concerns, including high blood pressure. Here’s why.
In this article:-
- Our Potassium Intake Is Low and Our Sodium Is High
- Problems That Come With Potassium Deficiency
- Causes of Low Potassium
Our Potassium Intake Is Low and Our Sodium Is High
Hardly anyone is getting enough potassium. You need 7-10 cups of vegetables every single day to get close to 4000 milligrams of potassium, and very few people consume that much.
Think about it: how many cups of vegetables do you eat each day? Maybe five? Or less? Unless you’re eating something like two big veggie stir-fries or two large salads, it’s not close to seven.
And it gets even more difficult. Why? Because here’s the thing: we need four times as much potassium as we do sodium, which means we should only be having about 1000mg of sodium a day(2). Most people have this ratio reversed: they consume four times more sodium as they do potassium, and they have a lot of fluid retention and health problems as a result.
This has a lot to do with the average American diet(3). If you look at vegetable content, it’s always heavy on the potassium and very low-salt. But if you look at chips and other salty things that are common in the average diet, it’s way off. Refined carbs, too, decrease potassium in the system and encourage your body to hold sodium(4).
And unfortunately, this is a difficult imbalance to correct. That’s because, in simple terms, sodium and potassium work kind of like a see-saw in the body. If sodium is extremely high, potassium is naturally going to decrease in response(5).
If you have this imbalance, it’s going to hurt your ability to create energy and move things around in the body (which is what your cells’ sodium-potassium pumps do)(6). It’s also going to be more difficult to maintain proper fluids and hydration(7). Finally, it's going to increase your risk of high blood pressure and hypertension(8).
Here are some other concerns that come with low potassium and with high sodium intake.
Problems That Come With Potassium Deficiency
Potassium is super important for many basic functions in the body. Namely:
- It’s a physiological relaxer and it calms the nervous system(9)
- It can soften the arteries and prevent strokes(10)
- It can prevent constipation(11)
- It can stave off leg cramps(12)
- It can help your kidneys work more efficiently(13)
- It is involved in nerve conductivity and muscle contraction or relaxation(14)
That means that, when you have a problem with potassium, you can have a lot of cramps, tightness, and tension in your body(15). You can also have a lot of electrical problems with your heart, which can lead to conditions like arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation(16). That’s all potassium deficiency and it happens because people just don’t consume enough potassium day-to-day.
Low Potassium Can Cause High Blood Pressure(17)
Another concern with low potassium? High blood pressure and the medication that’s used to treat it.
So let’s pretend that you have high blood pressure or hypertension and you have to take a diuretic thiazide. That medication is meant to get rid of fluid(18). Well, most prescriptions like thiazide also get rid of potassium as a side effect, so you wind up losing more potassium when you take these prescriptions. This raises your blood pressure even more, so you end up needing another medication(19).
Then, you’re told to drink more water. That dilutes important electrolytes in your body - including potassium - and your blood pressure goes even higher. More water is not going to properly hydrate you if you have an issue with potassium. Instead, it’s going to get rid of the electrolytes that you have, and you won’t get the hydration that you once had(20).
In short, you have a whole unhealthy cycle that starts with diuretics. This cycle depletes your potassium, dehydrates you, and makes you dependent on prescriptions that you just shouldn’t take. It’s certainly not the solution to any of your health concerns.
If you really want to help, then, start by trying to increase your potassium levels. This could possibly help stabilize your blood pressure and address your primary concerns without requiring any medication.
Now let’s take a look at what else this could help with.
Other Issues With Low Potassium
Overall, potassium deficiency can actually lead to a plethora of health concerns, and it can cause a lot of symptoms besides high blood pressure and hypertension. These include:
- Muscle cramps: Potassium is an electrolyte(21).
- Sugar cravings: Potassium helps you store sugar, and it’ll actually help you get rid of sugar cravings because the storage of glucose needs potassium(22).
- Constipation: Potassium also helps keep things moving in the digestive tract, which means that not having enough could slow things down(23).
- High insulin: There’s a relationship between sugar, blood sugar, diabetes, and potassium(24). In fact, when you have enough potassium, the need for insulin goes down - so I always recommend potassium for diabetic clients(25).
- Muscle weakness: You can have this inexplicable muscle weakness and not know why. That’s because electrolytes are needed to help the muscles contract(26).
- Abnormal heartbeat: That’s also why you can have an abnormal heartbeat or coronary heart disease. The heart is a muscle. These abnormal heartbeats - for example, atrial fibrillation and arrhythmias - are a combination of deficiency in potassium and/or magnesium(27).
- Anxiety and insomnia: Again, potassium is something to calm you down. So if you’re doing, for example, a diet that doesn’t involve a lot of potassium, you can start manifesting a lot of these symptoms(28).
- Decreased renal function: Potassium helps your kidneys work more efficiently, which means that having low potassium will actually decrease your kidneys' function and efficiency if left unchecked. This can eventually lead to full-blown kidney disease(29).
If you experience any of these symptoms, then, it may be appropriate to look at low potassium as the culprit. But how do you know if you’re particularly at risk? First, keep in mind that a simple blood test is unlikely to give you answers. That's because we have very little potassium in our blood (only 2%). The majority of it is actually in our cells, which means that a simple blood test won't actually tell you if you have a problem(30).
That's why I like to go by symptoms here. Let’s go over how people can end up with low potassium in the first place.
Causes of Low Potassium
If you are sick or bulimic and you vomit for an extended period of time, it can cause low potassium. That's because, when you vomit a lot, you're physically removing the potassium from your digestive tract. Over time, this can contribute to a deficiency(31).
Low Potassium Diet
Once again, a consistently low potassium diet can cause a deficiency. Now, you might say, “Well, I eat bananas - I shouldn't be deficient.” Well, bananas only have 300 mg of potassium, and you need 4700 mg per day to hit the regular amount that you need. That means you would have to consume 11-12 bananas to hit your daily dose(32).
And you don’t want to do that. You don’t want all that sugar. That’s why it needs to be through those high quantities of veggies.
Ketosis is a state of fat-burning during which you eat a high-fat, low carb diet. You can become deficient in potassium from that, too(33). That’s why I always modify the ketosis diet and make sure that you have enough greens and vegetables to balance things out and prevent this problem.
Also, potassium is necessary for the digestion and breakdown and buildup of protein(34). People that are losing their hair, for example, sometimes just eat protein thinking that they’re going to get their hair back.
Without potassium, sorry, it doesn’t work.
This is stress. Stress can also deplete potassium. In fact, I’ve had people do advanced testing on their potassium levels when they are eating huge amounts of potassium. Because they’re under tremendous amounts of stress, their potassium stays low no matter how much they consume.
That’s because, when the adrenals are that depleted, it’s almost like you have a hole in the bucket and the potassium goes right through. So your levels will never be where they’re supposed to be if you’re amazingly stressed(35).
This will also cause low potassium, and this is sugar. Consuming sugar will deplete your potassium(36), and you can even feel it in your heartbeat. It starts to go fast and you can hear it in your inner ear - that strong heartbeat that you can hear is a sign of low potassium because you ate a lot of sugar. The solution? Eat more salad to put that back.
Drinking Too Much Water
When you drink too much water, you create a condition called hyponatremia, which is a dilution of your electrolytes. Then your heart starts going out of balance and you can have a heart attack by drinking too much water(37).
So you want to drink water when you’re thirsty so you don’t flush out all your electrolytes.
Overall, the key is to take control of your health and be your own best advocate. Just because the doctor recommends certain medications - like a diuretic - it doesn’t mean they’re always on the right track. Do your due diligence and make sure that you truly understand the root cause of your health concerns before you start any recommended treatment.
Let us know if you have any questions.
- Diabetes Type 1 and Potassium
- Heart Failure and Potassium Deficiency
- High Potassium Diets Protects Your Kidneys
Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.