Your Potassium Sodium Ratio Should Be 4 to 1

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Today we’re going to talk about potassium and your sodium-to-potassium ratio. I don’t know if you knew this, but the prehistoric diet was very high in potassium and low in sodium.

This is actually much healthier for the human body than the average current sodium-to-potassium ratios.

Here’s what you need to know.

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Our Current Potassium Intake Is Low

raise potassium levels with 7-10 cups of veggies and salad

Currently, an average male consumes about 3026 milligrams of potassium per day, while an average female consumes about 2290 milligrams. This is lower than current standards: the recommended amount is 4700 milligrams - so our potassium intake is at least 1000 milligrams lower than it should be.

Now, there’s limited data on this, but some data shows that prehistoric levels of potassium - in the Paleolithic era - ranged between 7000 and 15000 milligrams per day. They were getting their potassium through greens, tubers, and roots. That’s a lot of potassium, and it was probably a good thing that they were getting so much.


Our bodies need a lot of potassium for many reasons. First, each cell has a sodium-potassium pump. It uses a lot of those minerals to create energy and move things around in the body. Also, potassium can help:

  • Manage how much water you have in your body and help maintain your body’s electrical system
  • Move nutrients into your cells and remove waste
  • Counter the effects of sodium, which can help blood pressure
  • Make your nerves fire properly so they respond to stimulation
  • And more.

And, generally speaking, it’s nothing something that you should really worry about over-doing. If you take too much of it, nothing bad will happen. The body will just get rid of it and excrete it in the urine.

This is not the case with sodium. The body does hold onto dietary sodium, so if you have too much of it, you’ll feel the effects. That’s why, when you eat a particularly salty meal, you’ll notice things like swelling, edema, and other symptoms. The body can’t get rid of it efficiently.

And symptoms of too much sodium can be pretty severe, including excess thirst, infrequent urination, vomiting, hypertensive issues, and diarrhea. High sodium intake is also a big part of a poor diet, which is associated with heart disease, blood pressure issues, weight problems, and more.


Ratios: More Important Than Quantity

Reverse your current sodium-to-potassium ratio and increase potassium 

So we’ve established that getting too much dietary sodium is easy to do, and that - unlike getting too much potassium - excessive sodium intake can be pretty bad. But even more important than the quantity is the sodium-to-potassium ratio that you consume.

You need four times as much potassium as sodium. An average person in America has this switched - they usually have a sodium-to-potassium ratio of 1:4, where they’re very light on the potassium and very heavy on the sodium intake.

And this imbalance doesn’t even come from the quantity of food. Instead, it usually comes from quality. Refined carbs, specifically, deplete potassium in the system and encourage your body to hold sodium. So when you do a high carb diet, you wind up retaining a lot of sodium and losing your potassium.

As a result, you have this severe imbalance in your sodium-to-potassium ratio that’s very difficult to correct. You also have a higher likelihood of developing potassium deficiency, along with heart disease and other concerns.


Understanding Potassium Deficiency

When you’re potassium deficient or you’re on a potassium deficient diet - meaning that you’re not consuming enough vegetables - you tend to get:

  • High blood pressure
  • High pulse rate, abnormal heartbeat, cardiovascular disease, or heart disease
  • Kidney stones
  • Fat Storing Hormone resistance
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Fatigue and low endurance
  • Cardiac hypertrophy - which is when the heart enlarges - or other specific cardiovascular diseases
  • Muscle cramps
  • Sugar cravings
  • Anxiety or insomnia

One way to improve all these things is to increase your potassium intake. Fat Storing Hormone resistance, in particular, prevents you from absorbing potassium. That said, taking more potassium can stop this cycle and improve your Fat Storing Hormone resistance. Potassium is also a natural beta blocker it can help to lower blood pressure by reducing the amount of work that the heart has to do. This can be beneficial for people who are at risk for heart disease or who have high blood pressure. Potassium can also help to reduce the risk of stroke.


Why Isn’t Potassium Deficiency Often Diagnosed?

The problem, though, is that oftentimes doctors don’t realize that potassium deficiency is the problem, so it’s never actually treated. Why?

Normal tests that check potassium levels test the blood, outside the cell. Well, only 2% of your potassium reserves are present outside the cell. 98% of your potassium is inside your cells, and the tests just don’t look there. That’s why they miss it.

To really see your potassium levels, you have to do a special test for intracellular potassium.


How Do You Become Potassium Deficient?


If you are sick and you vomit or let’s say you’re a bulimic, that can cause low potassium.


Maybe you’re just not eating enough potassium in your diet. Now, you might say, “Well, I eat bananas.” 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 recommended potassium intake.

And you don’t want to do that. You don’t want all that sugar.

Instead, it’s best to consume the mineral from potassium-rich vegetables and salad - and you are going to need about seven to ten cups. It’s not as hard as it sounds - it’s just a couple big salads a day. If you don’t like salads, you can take kale and blend it with some berries and water so you can drink your salad in smoothie form.

You’re going to feel a lot better if you do this, too. Because if you’re doing like an Atkins diet, which is high protein, you’re going to need potassium and you’re going to start feeling weakness if you don’t get enough.


Keto potassium deficiency add vegetables 

Ketosis is the state of fat burning when you’re eating more fat, no carbs, and you can become deficient in potassium from that, too. That’s why I always modify the ketosis diet and make sure that we 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. People that are losing their hair, for example, sometimes just eat protein thinking that they’re going to get their hair back.

Without sufficient potassium intake, sorry, it doesn’t work.


Say you’re on medication for high blood pressure. Well, this is going to deplete your potassium.

That’s actually one of the side effects of the blood pressure medication. So you better make sure that your diuretic is not pulling out potassium - or, if it is, make sure that you're putting it back in.

High Cortisol

High cortisol comes from stress. Stress can also deplete potassium. In fact, I’ve had people do advanced testing on their potassium levels - they are eating huge amounts of potassium, but because they’re under tremendous amounts of stress, their potassium stays low.

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.

High Fat Storing Hormone

This will also cause low potassium, and this is sugar. Consuming sugar will deplete your potassium, 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 all your electrolytes. Then your heart starts going out of balance and you can have a heart attack by drinking too much water.

So you want to drink water when you’re thirsty so you don’t flush out all your electrolytes.

I also like to hydrate my water with lemon, a little bit of apple cider vinegar, maybe a little Stevia if it’s carbonated. I drink Pellegrino a lot, or I drink filtered water.

If you’re doing any of these things, or if you’re not consuming a ton of healthy vegetables, chances are you’re low on potassium. And if you’re having any of the symptoms that we explained in the beginning, this deficiency could be hurting your health.

Try raising your potassium and lowering your sodium intake until you reach that 4:1 ratio. This should help.

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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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