There are many causes of potassium deficiency, the most common involve improper diet. Potassium is a chemical that is found naturally in many healthy foods. But over the last few decades, these foods have been lacking in the average diets of most people. Simply not eating foods with enough potassium is the leading cause of potassium deficiency. However, potassium does have some unique qualities, the most important of which is it’s seemingly adversarial role with sodium. Because of this relationship, a diet high in sodium will result in the body not retaining enough potassium, and vice versa. High sodium concentration is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure, therefore a diet that lacks sufficient potassium will increase the chance for a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or a stroke. And conversely, by increasing the potassium in your diet, you can decrease you blood pressure by lowering your sodium levels.
Foods that are high in potassium include fruits, especially bananas, along with most vegetables, including spinach. Red meat is also a good source of potassium, but because of the fat content, it is advisable to get your potassium from fruit and vegetables. Milk and orange juice also contain high levels of potassium. Most of us are aware of foods that are high in sodium, so avoiding those will help increase your potassium levels.
Potassium is absorbed directly from the small intestines and is regulated by the kidneys. Therefore it is understandable that any disease or abnormality that effects the function of those two organs would have an effect on potassium levels. Because potassium is closely linked to water retention, any process that causes dehydration will also reduce potassium levels. Chronic diarrhea is an example of this as well as starvation and excessive vomiting. Also, sweating in general reduces the amount of potassium in the body, this is why sports drinks are high in potassium, to replace what is lost. Diuretics are a class of drugs that reduce the water retained in the body, these drugs will also decrease the amount of potassium in the body, so care must be taken to keep potassium replaced as you take this class of drugs.
Potassium is essential for many normal body functions including digestion, energy production and blood sugar conversion. A deficiency in potassium results in fatigue, vomiting, irregular bowel function as well as muscle contraction, including the muscles of the heart. Potassium is important in both the short term, and the long term health of your body. Increasing your potassium intake will go a long way toward preventing cardiovascular problems later on in life.