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Potassium: The Secret Weapon for Good Health

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Suffer from edema? If you have chronic edema, it is likely that a lack of potassium is causing your condition. Potassium is a vital electrolyte mineral that is essential in nearly all of the body's processes, yet most adults get far too little potassium. Read on to find out more about what potassium can do for you and how it can work to fight edema and many other common health conditions.

Potassium is a mineral that is usually associated with brain health and bananas. But beyond generalized "it's good for you" comments, a lot of people simply do not know what potassium does for you, nor the importance of this mineral in the body.

Potassium is used to help keep your body functioning and is required for nearly all of the body's processes. What's more, only about 5 percent of the entire population of the United States actually eats enough potassium.

Find out more about potassium and the effects it has on the body, including its role in preventing swelling and edema below.

How Much Potassium Do You Need?

The recommended daily intake of potassium from the USDA is 4,700 mg per day. However, the average amount of potassium that a person gets in a day is only 2,600 mg, which is only about half of what should be consumed.

What Does Potassium Do?

Potassium's main role is an electrolyte, which helps conduct electrical charges in the body. Most of your body is run off of either chemical or electrical signals, so a deficiency in electrolytes is similar to an overloaded power grid. Everything tries to continue to run, but without the proper amount of electrolyte support, there are essentially "brownouts" in your body where things don't work like they ought to.

Potassium is a special electrolyte that has specific benefits, including:

Helping Muscles Contract

Potassium is one of the main fuels the heart uses to continue to beat regularly. A high intake of potassium can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Regulates Fluids in the Body

This helps prevent swelling and liquids from leaking into surrounding tissues around your blood vessels. The right balance between sodium and potassium is absolutely essential for keeping your electrolytes balanced. Without potassium, your body is subject to physiological imbalances.

Transmits Nerve Signals

Potassium is an important nutrient for the nervous system. Without enough potassium, your nerve signals will be out of balance and not function properly.

Balances Blood Sugar

Low potassium levels trigger blood sugar levels to drop suddenly and drastically, leading to sweating, confusion, weakness, and trembling. This can occur both for the long-term and short-term, such as on a day when you are unable to eat until supper.

Improves Blood Pressure

Studies have found that when potassium is given to patients with hypertension, about half of them are able to reduce their medication by 50 percent without making any other diet or lifestyle changes. 

Signs of Potassium Deficiency

 

  • Leg edema
  • Muscle weakness
  • Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Abdominal pain (not otherwise specified)
  • Irritability
  • Leg cramps
  • Muscle spasms
  • In extreme cases, potassium deficiency can lead to paralysis

 


How to Add More Potassium to Your Diet

Since it is likely that you are deficient in potassium, make efforts to consume more potassium-rich foods several times a week. Additionally, if you are suffering from uncomfortable swelling in the legs or elsewhere in the body, a potassium supplement can help you regulate and balance your electrolytes and reduce swelling.

After the swelling leaves, you can stop taking the supplement, if desired. Find potassium in the following foods:

Potassium-Rich Foods

 

  • Beets
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Potato skin
  • Black beans
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Salmon
  • Brussles sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Bok choy
  • Cantaloupe
  • Tomatoes
  • Oranges
  • Yogurt
  • Asparagus
  • Fennel
  • Squash
  • Cabbage

 


Reducing Edema with Potassium

Both sodium and potassium are necessary to prevent edema. These two nutrients work together to reduce swelling, even though sodium is commonly associated with an increase in swelling. However, with enough potassium in the diet, the problems with high salt consumption are reduced.

Ideally, you should eat five times more potassium than sodium. If you can't manage quite that much potassium, try a 3 to 1 ratio with three times more potassium than sodium. This will not only force you to eat potassium mindfully, but it will also help you reduce excessive salt intake.

Use these tips to reduce edema symptoms:

  • Do not eat processed food.
  • Eat a diet filled with unprocessed, whole foods (with a lot of vegetables, fruit, and whole grains).
  • Use a natural salt instead of iodized table salt. If you eat a healthy diet you won't have to worry about iodine deficiencies.

Other Nutrients that Stop Edema

If you have edema, you are likely deficient in several nutrients that support vascular health. Edema is often triggered by a lack of exercise, an imbalance of electrolytes, and poor vascular health. Taking the supplements listed below can help reverse the true cause behind the issue of which edema is a symptom.

Supplements that Stop Edema

Potassium: An Important Nutrient for All

If you suffer from edema, or any of the other common signs of a potassium deficiency, your lifestyle can be greatly improved by the addition of more potassium. Using a combination of potassium supplements and potassium-rich foods, you will find that your edema fades away and your overall health will improve. Combine your potassium supplements with the other edema-fighting supplements listed for a powerful edema remedy that works quickly to heal your edema from the inside out.

Next Article: Edema Diet: Foods to Avoid for Edema