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The Balancing Act Between Sodium and Potassium in Your Body

You may know that if you have high blood pressure you should watch how much sodium you have, but do you also know about the other mineral that helps to balance out your sodium?

Well, I was going to just tell you that it's potassium & give you some info on what you need to know about it. But, I just spent an entire afternoon reading about how the body balances all the systems, bells and whistles to make everything work right.
The sodium and potassium relationship
So basically, your body is a beautiful balancing act where what you do and put into it affects how things are working inside! Two main characters in that act are sodium and potassium.

Be sure to read all the way down so you know what besides blood pressure this nutrient effects. You'll definitely want to know!

Potassium = 2x Sodium Normally

Normal recommendations are that you should be getting about twice as much potassium as sodium every day. However, when looking at those recommendations, they don't seem to mention the amount when using low sodium diets for hypertension.

When you are combating high blood pressure, your sodium amount should be around 1500 mg vs the amount recommended in a normal diet of 2400 mg.

The daily potassium amount that is recommended is 4700 mg per day for both males and females over the age of 14. Kids between the age of 9 and 13 need 4500 mg. Expectant mothers are still looking for the 4700 mg, but if you are nursing the baby, shoot for 5100 mg a day. Since we're thinking mainly about keeping our blood pressures normal, I won't go into the kids' portions here.
By the way, in some places, you may find that the recommendation is for around 2000 mg of potassium. That is an old number since the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences raised that amount to 4700 in 2004 because of the fact that too many people were not getting enough.

It's Better to Get Potassium from Food

You CAN take potassium supplements, but it is highly recommended to get it in your food instead. (The e-book to the right has a chapter dedicated to foods with potassium.)

Why? Because the side effects of having too much potassium can be pretty serious. Where that gets a little iffy, especially if you are on heart or blood pressure medications, is that some of the medications that are diuretics can actually cause you to LOSE potassium, in which case the doctor MAY be supplementing your potassium. Other medications may not be causing potassium loss, but instead, are increasing it.

The side effects (i.e: numbness, nausea, disrupted heartbeat, seizure, fatigue)from having too much of this mineral are too high a price to pay to take a chance on supplementing with pills unless directed by a doctor.  Most over the counter potassium supplements only go to 99 mg because of that fact anyway.

When I was really digging to find what all potassium does – well, that's where it got interesting.

 Potassium is needed for muscles, and since the heart is a muscle that's a no-brainer. 

It also affects your blood vessels' tone, which is where it jumps right into affecting how the blood runs through your body. 

With more flexible veins and arteries, you're going to have them expanding to let the blood thru easier, thus creating better blood pressure numbers.
Symptoms of low potassium levels in your body
 But it also has to do with brain function & memory – and get this – depression and fatigue! 
That was news to me and explains a lot. 

Sometimes I get busy and don't watch my diet as carefully as I should, and while it doesn't happen very often, I feel like climbing under the covers and sleeping away the day.
 I'm betting low potassium is the reason!

Kidney Stones, Anyone?

Anyway, one other thing that you can possibly avoid by keeping track of this nutrient is kidney stones. 
Have you either had the "pleasure" of passing a kidney stone or know someone who has? 
From what I've heard, they are no fun!
My favorite foods that are loaded with potassium are bananas and raisins because they are so easy to have on the run
Bananas have the added benefit of having good levels of tryptophan in them which makes them good to have a couple hours before trying to get some sleep. 
Other foods with lots of potassium are red meats, fish, squash, beans,  and orange juice to name just a few.
Magnesium helps absorb calcium and potassium

The Potassium Pump: Sodium to Potassium Balance

It's all about the ebb and flow of sodium and water throughout your body.
The potassium, magnesium, and 3 other hormones that I won't go into here (but are fascinating to me anyway) regulate it all by keeping track of how much fluid is running throughout your blood.  

Side note: Recommended daily of magnesium is between 310 - 420 mg.
Simply put,  potassium's main job is pumping the sodium out of the cells.
The other components of calcium and the three hormones aldosterone, renin, and angiotensin balance how much there is in the body (along with water, of course.)
The balancing act between sodium and potassium in your body
For an animation of the sodium pump working (sodium & potassium being released in & outside of the cell, click here. 
It took me a couple time of watching it to get what was happening, but it gives you an appreciation for how well the body works together.
Speaking of water, at the same time that the daily recommendation for potassium was raised, they also raised the recommendation for the amount of water to drink to 16 cups for men and 12 cups for women from a much lower recommendation in 1989.

Basically, they say if your pee is clear or pale yellow you're in the right range.

Of course, if you have had foods like beets or some medications, that would definitely affect the color.

If you are an athlete, don't pay attention to those recommendations, because your water consumption needs to go up from all the sweating you do.

Once you see how it all works together, it kind of makes you want to give it a hand, doesn't it? The water info was a little added bonus. I figured you might be interested.

If You Know Someone Who Can't Hear Well, Good News Here

 This is definitely off-topic to blood pressure, but one of the hormones mentioned above,  aldosterone, has been discovered as something to help older people get their hearing back!
And just like in blood pressure regulation, keeping sodium and potassium levels regulated plays an important part.



Cleveland Clinic. Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS). Last reviewed September 13, 2022. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/24175-renin-angiotensin-aldosterone-system-raas