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POTASSIUM: The MOST Important Electrolyte - MUST WATCH!

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 12/10/2023

Let me discuss in this article the importance of potassium so you know how to value the mineral and avoid potassium side effects.

RELATED: The Purpose Of Potassium

In this article:

  1. What Are Electrolytes?

  2. Potassium: The Highest RDA of All Minerals - but the Hardest to Get

  3. Potassium Benefits

  4. Why You Become Potassium Deficient

Potassium Side Effects and the Mineral’s Vital Role

What Are Electrolytes?

Before I talk about potassium side effects and the mineral’s role in the body, let me first explain what electrolytes are. If you take salt and put it into water until they dissolve, it dissociates the sodium and chloride, then the sodium and chloride become two separate minerals. That fluid is very electrically conductive. So, basically, electrolytes have to do with minerals that help control electricity in the body. They also control many bodily functions. The electrolytes you have and need are as follows:

  • Sodium

  • Magnesium

  • Potassium

  • Chlorides

  • Calcium

All of those minerals are important. Potassium is also a natural beta blocker. This means it can help lower your blood pressure by blocking the effects of natural chemicals like epinephrine in your body. Potassium can also help to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Potassium: The Highest RDA of All Minerals but the Hardest to Get

Mixed chef's salad | POTASSIUM: The MOST Important Electrolyte | is potassium electrolyte

Potassium, out of all the electrolytes, is the one we need in very large quantities. I was curious: why is that? Why do we need potassium in such large amounts—4,700 to 6,400 milligrams a day? That's 7 to 10 cups of salad or vegetables a day. That's a huge amount of necessary potassium and such a high requirement that’s very hard to meet.

There's something in the body called the sodium-potassium pump. It's built into a little protein, attached to an enzyme on the surface of your cells. You have 800,000 to 30 million of these in your body. The pumps are little generators, allowing things to enter into the cells. They use a lot of energy to work.

In fact, one-third of all the food you eat goes to running those pumps. You also have another pump in the stomach called the hydrogen-potassium adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and it's a pump to help you create stomach acid, helping you digest foods to avoid abdominal pain from constipation. 

These pumps are found in various places in the body, including the muscles and the nervous system. In fact, the ones in your nervous system take up 60% of your body's caloric intake of energy. So, these pumps are critically important in exchanging nutrition, glucose, amino acids, and other minerals to allow them to transport in and out of the cell. Potassium is essential for building the pumps that control these functions:

Potassium Benefits

Muscular man with stomach pain isolated on white | POTASSIUM: The MOST Important Electrolyte | potassium electrolyte

Potassium side effects may happen, but the mineral’s benefits are much bigger, given you consume it in the right amounts.  

  • Potassium charges the cells - that voltage from potassium powers your cells and allows things to go in and out of the cells. This little sodium-potassium pump partially controls that energy powering your metabolism. Potassium gives you energy.

  • Potassium electrolyte helps the muscles to contract or relax by controlling the transport of calcium.

So, if you're low on something and this hydrogen-potassium pump is missing, you suffer from muscle weakness and cramps from the lack of calcium. But then, we can only fix that by giving you potassium, not calcium.

The muscle needs this pump. The nerves need this pump to conduct electricity. This pump controls the fluid for hydrating the body and your overall physical energy. So, if you don't eat enough vegetables, you can experience a set of signs and symptoms like this:

  • Fatigue can result from a potassium deficiency because your cells are going to be down in terms of electricity. Because of this, you cannot pump anymore.

    • The problem is if you try to ask a pharmacist for a potassium citrate pill, for example, it only provides maybe 40 to 90 milligrams of potassium, and you need 4,700 milligrams, so you need a whole bottle of the supplements. Worrying about a missed dose doesn’t even matter because supplements alone cannot help you reach the suggested potassium daily intake. Plus, if you take that much potassium without other minerals, you want to get your potassium from food and food concentrates.

  • Other symptoms or adverse effects of potassium deficiency are energy fatigue and muscle fatigue. You'll have a lack of endurance and a risk of having heavy legs. It may require you to take potassium gluconate to increase your potassium levels.

  • If the nerves are tired and the electrical impulses don’t work, you have a medical condition called arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation.

    • Fluid retention also indicates a potassium deficiency. But, what your doctor recommends as medication for this deficiency is to decrease salt, which is a big mistake.

  • Also, there is a lack of energy in the cells.

  • In the stomach, without enough blood potassium levels, you cannot create the acid you need to metabolize proteins and absorb other minerals. This can lead to developing a disease or illness like cancer or Crohn's disease.

Arrhythmias Definition: An issue with a person's heartbeat rhythm or rate where it can be too slow or too fast.

Atrial Fibrillation Definition: An abnormal heartbeat rhythm that occurs when electrical impulses fire off in various areas in the atria.

RELATED: The Adrenal Potassium Connection

Why You Become Potassium Deficient

Grilled meat garnished with tomatoes | POTASSIUM: The MOST Important Electrolyte | potassium benefits

You need 7-10 cups of vegetables or salad a day to achieve good levels of potassium. I enhance this with food concentrates if I can't get the number of vegetables I need. I use my wheatgrass juice powder. That provides plenty of potassium and magnesium to spike the sodium-potassium pump and boost my energy as well.

Vomiting, diarrhea, and surgery also decrease potassium in the body. That's because surgery creates a lot of stress, virtually causing the body to dump out potassium. Likewise, stress decreases your potassium levels.

Adrenal stress creates potassium loss. Sugar also creates a potassium deficiency. Why? Fat Storing Hormone is the hormone that helps you absorb nutrients, but it also keeps everything to be stored as fat.

If you have Fat Storing Hormone resistance, then you cannot pull nutrients into the cell, which is likely why you're craving sweets. See, Fat Storing Hormone acts as a trigger of the sodium-potassium pump. Being Fat Storing Hormone resistant, you're not absorbing enough potassium. That's why you get these sugar cravings. The body is telling you it needs something badly for energy that you're not giving it enough of.

It's very difficult for patients with diabetes and high blood sugar to fix these problems without enough potassium, which also means without enough vegetables. So, if you consume more potassium, your need for Fat Storing Hormone decreases as well. Diuretics also leach potassium out of the body.

A good way to tell you if you're potassium deficient is your blood pressure goes up and you don't absorb calcium as needed. Too much salt in the diet can deplete potassium. Alcohol can also deplete potassium. Ketogenic diets can cause potassium to plummet. That's the reason why I tell you to consume more vegetables when you switch to a high-fat diet, so you can replenish the potassium and feel better.

A lot of time, you not only dump fat but you also dump water. All of this causes potassium to drop and, consequently, your energy levels. It's not the fiber, but it's the potassium in the food that flushes out the waste in the liver, helping those pumps work better, and keeping the fat off the liver. Too much potassium, however, may be unsafe because it can give you the following symptoms:

  • Mental confusion

  • Irregular heart rhythm

  • Severe burning or tingling

  • Generalized weakness

  • Paralysis

I hope this has given you an enhanced understanding of what potassium side effects are and what the mineral does in the body. To maximize potassium health benefits and avoid deficiency symptoms, you need to achieve the recommended daily intake. So, start including 7-10 cups of salad in your meals now to get the right amount of potassium. Hope this helped, and I'll talk to you soon.

Up Next:

Understand the benefits of potassium and see more Nutrition Advice from Dr. Berg Video Blog.

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.

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