IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in diet.
This road, so long. Seems like I’ve been driving forever. Really hungry. More licorice. Glad Molly brought this back from Europe. I’d starve to death otherwise. Kind of sick of it though but gotta keep my strength up. It’s been hours and hours. Sick of this damn road that’s what I’m sick of. Licorice is getting low. Half a bag yesterday. Real licorice. Tastes good but really want something else.
Finally, lights. See lights. Way ahead. Keep driving. Faster.
I’m here. Can’t believe it. Get out of this truck. Door’s really heavy.
Holy Crap! I can’t stand up. What’s wrong with me? What’s going on? So weak.
Gotta get to a doctor or something.
Whad’ya mean too much licorice? Are you kidding me? My potassium levels are too low from what? Too much aldosterone? Unfreaking believable! Who knew?
WHAT IS POTASSIUM?
Potassium (K) is an alkali with atomic number 19. It is an essential dietary mineral and an elecrolyte. (Salts are ionic compounds that are the result of a neutralizing reaction between an acid and a base producing an alkali.) Therefore, potassium is an ionic salt. It is found dissolved in seawater and in combination with many other minerals. The functioning of all living cells is dependent on this valuable metal. Sodium and potassium are similar and are both alkali metals but they function very differently in our cells.
WHAT DOES POTASSIUM DO FOR US?
Sodium and potassium have similar chemical properties but their functions are very different. Blood plasma is mostly made up of sodium cations and cell fluid is made up mostly of potassium cations. Potassium influences the pressure (osmotic balance) of the fluids surrounding the cells of our bodies (the interstitial fluids). This is done with the action of something called the Na+/K+ ATPase pump (the sodium/potassium adenosine triphosphatase pump). This is an ion pump and it maintains 3 sodium ions outside of a cell for every 2 potassium ions inside a cell keeping the balance of potassium and sodium ions at its correct levels creating what is called the membrane potential. tube.com/watch?v=awz6lIss3hQ&feature=related
The cell membrane potential is critical for muscle contractions, proper functioning of our hearts and for nerve impulse transmissions.
The term electrolyte applies to a substance that separates into ions or charged particles of which potassium is one. Ions make it possible for electrical charges to be conducted throughout our bodies. A cation is a positive ion.
Potassium cations are very important in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance in our bodies.
Because of the transference of electrical impulses potassium is important in both nerve and brain function.
Potassium is also needed for an important enzyme called pyruvate kinase in carbohydrate metabolism.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH POTASSIUM?
Hypokalemia is defined as an abnormally low level of potassium in our blood plasma. Fatigue, muscle weakness, severe bloating and constipation along with abdominal pain are all signs of hypokalemia. Severely low levels of potassium may lead to muscular paralysis and/or abnormal heart rhythms that can be fatal.
What brings on this nasty condition? The condition of hypokalemia is increased with the use of some diuretics, alcoholism, severe vomiting and/or diarrhea, too many laxatives, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, magnesium depletion and congestive heart failure.
There is one other rare and slightly odd reason for developing hypokalemia and that is the over consumption of large amounts of real black licorice. Aldosterone is a hormone found in licorice that increase the excretion of potassium through urine.
Not getting enough potassium in your diet does not lead to hypokalemia although it will affect you in less drastic ways.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH POTASSIUM?
Hyperkalemia is the word which describes elevated levels of potassium in the blood. This occurs when potassium intake is greater than the kidneys ability to eliminate it fast enough.
Signs of hyperkalemia include tingling of the hands and feet, muscular weakness and if bad enough, temporary paralysis and an abnormal heart rhythm which could lead to a heart attack. These signs seem similar to getting too little potassium which leads one to believe that keeping potassium levels at healthy levels through diet is important. It has been observed that getting toxic levels of potassium through your diet does not occur in healthy individuals.
Supplementally administered potassium levels, however, can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea in otherwise healthy individuals.
If taking any potassium supplement you should consult your health care provider.
WHERE DO WE GET POTASSIUM?
Potassium triggers three of our five taste sensations depending on how strong the solution is. Dilute solutions of potassium ion taste sweet, higher concentrations become increasingly bitter and finally they taste salty at very high concentrations.