Get back into balance with Potassium

Get back into balance with Potassium

Potassium is the most important dietary electrolyte. We require huge amounts compared to other nutrients. Potassium is necessary for a regular heartbeat and the maintenance of normal blood pressure. It helps regulate the electrolyte balance in our cells, maintain an optimal acidity (pH), and deliver blood glucose into our cells to convert to energy.

We source most of our potassium requirements from our diet. The body is able to absorb potassium from a wide range of foods, especially fruit and vegetables, carbohydrates, and even drinks such as milk, tea and coffee. Almost all of the body’s potassium, up to 98%, is held inside our cells. It works with other electrolytes such as sodium, calcium and magnesium to maintain our electrolyte balance and absorb minerals from the food we eat.

✔️ Regulates normal blood pressure

✔️ Maintains fluid balance in our cells

✔️ Maintain the correct acidity (pH) of our blood and cells.

✔️ Helps convert blood glucose to energy

✔️ Helps the body absorb minerals from food

Doctor taking woman's blood pressure reading.
Potassium is necessary for a regular heartbeat and the maintenance of normal blood pressure.

Sodium and Potassium for balance

The relationship of sodium to potassium is important for your overall health. A low-sodium diet enhances potassium conservation, whereas a high-sodium diet promotes potassium excretion. Studies have shown a connection between high potassium intake and healthier blood pressure. This in turn can help prevent cardiac arrest or the chance of a stroke.

Potassium works with sodium to regulate the flow of nutrients in and out of the trillions of cells in the body. If this flow is thrown out of balance, cells can quickly die and blood pressure is affected and our heart can not function correctly. Numerous studies have shown that a low potassium/high sodium diet plays a role in the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDI) in the USA is much higher than in New Zealand. According to current guidelines, American adults require 4,700mg of potassium, and 1,200mg of sodium daily, or a ratio of nearly four-to-one. However, studies indicate that the average American intake is almost one-to-one, due to excess salt in the diet.

It is estimated that a third of our body and brain energy is used in maintaining the balance of potassium and sodium, controlling water balance and distribution, muscle and nerve cell function, pH balance, and kidney and adrenal function.

Man sitting against gym wall with water bottle after exercise.
When suffering from low energy or fatigue, supplementing with both potassium and magnesium can restore energy levels, often within a few days.

Magnesium and Potassium for energy

These two important electrolytes are important for energy production, and if you are lacking both potassium and magnesium, you may suffer from low energy levels, and in some cases chronic fatigue syndrome.

When suffering from low energy or fatigue, supplementing with both potassium and magnesium can replace lost minerals, achieve optimal balance throughout the body and restore energy levels, often within a few days.

Signs of Potassium deficiency

Some of the warning signs of a potassium deficiency include fatigue, mental confusion, irritability, weakness, headaches, muscle cramps, problems in nerve conduction and muscle contraction and heart disturbances. People with Type 2 diabetes are often low in the mineral.

Potassium is mostly lost through urination. As the body flushes out excess sodium, a large amount potassium goes with it, as the sodium quickly links with potassium during digestion. 

It can also be lost through excessive sweating or vigorous exercise, so it’s helpful to replace and replenish by eating raw fruit or an electrolyte drink during or after a workout.

Excessive fluid loss, and the use of diuretics and laxatives are the most common causes of deficiency. As fluid retention can be a symptom of low potassium status, it may help to supplement with potassium instead of opting for diuretic drugs, but you should of course consult your health professional first before undergoing supplementation.

Sugary drinks and alcohol can also deplete potassium stores. 

Low-carb diets are becoming increasing popular, and if you’re struggling for energy or losing muscle, it may be due to a lack of potassium, which is commonly sourced from carbohydrate-rich fruit and vegetables, as well as other carbohydrates such as bread. 

A diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and low in sodium should help maintain optimal potassium levels.In a study of vegetarians and non-vegetarians, significantly lower blood pressure was found in vegetarians across every age group. Only 2% of the vegetarians had hypertension, compared to 26% hypertension in the non-vegetarian group. While other factors may be at play, this study shows that obtaining good levels of potassium from a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can play an important role in the regulation of blood pressure and may protect against the development of cardiovascular disease.

Food sources of Potassium

Potassium is found in the cells of a wide variety of plant and and animal foods; meat, milk, fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes.

Leafy green vegetables and fruits that grow on vines such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant and pumpkin are the best sources.

Food sources of Potassium: Green leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, potatoes and kūmara (sweet potato).
Food sources of Potassium: Green leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, potatoes and kūmara (sweet potato).

Root vegetables such as potatoes, kūmara and taro contribute the most potassium in our diets according to the latest New Zealand Nutritional Survey. Milk, coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic drinks also provide good sources in the New Zealand diet.

When boiling vegetables, you can lose up to 50% of the potassium, but this can be retained if the cooking water is consumed.

Aren’t bananas a good source of Potassium?

As brazil nuts are associated with Selenium, bananas are often the first foods to come to mind when thinking about potassium. However, it’s estimated that only 40% of the potassium in a banana is absorbed, due to the lack of chloride in the fruit. This lack of absorption is often not allowed for when estimating mineral intake in food tables. This can explain why potassium chloride is often recommended when looking to supplement, as it helps with absorption.

Bananas on a blue background
Bananas are a good source of potassium but not all of it is absorbed due to the lack of chloride in the fruit.

Supplementing with Potassium

Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDI) in New Zealand are lower than other countries, and range from 2,500mg for young females, to 3,800mg for adult males. As the permitted level of potassium allowed in supplements is only 100mg, it’s important to access as much from your diet as possible by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and moderating your salt intake.

Many salt substitutes contain potassium chloride as a replacement for the sodium chloride in salt. The potassium content can vary widely, so for those on medication or with kidney disease it’s best to talk with your health care professional before taking salt substitutes because of the risk of hypokalaemia.

When supplementing, do not exceed recommended dosage and keep potassium supplements out of reach of children. People with heart, adrenal gland, kidney disease or should consult with a health care professional before use. Potassium may interfere with some prescription and non-prescription medications such as diuretics so seek advice on what’s best to take and when.

Woman drinking water with Potassium Liquid mineral added.
Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDI) in New Zealand are lower than other countries, and range from 2,500mg for young females, to 3,800mg for adult males.

Summary

As a rule, all of us generally need a lot more potassium in our diets and a lot less sodium. The simplest way of acheiving this is eating plenty of fresh fruits and leafy green vegetables and avoiding salty snacks, fast foods, and ready-made cakes and biscuits and other heavily processed options, which contain significant amounts of sodium.

Disclaimer:
The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional. 

The many roles of Magnesium

Woman sitting on beach – The many roles of magnesium article

The many roles of magnesium

We should never underestimate the importance of magnesium, and the roles it plays in our general wellbeing. It is one of the more well-known and most available minerals available in supplement form, but there are still widespread defiencies across the population, particularly among older adults.

Although there a no comprehensive studies monitoring the New Zealand population and its magnesium status, we know that our soils are low in magnesium. In the USA it’s estimated that two-thirds of all adults, and up to 90% of the elderly are not getting their Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of this essential mineral.

There are a number of reasons for this. These include the depletion of minerals in the soils through intensive farming, the prevalence of processed foods which further strip away the mineral content, inadequate diet and lack of exercise, and increases in stress and anxiety. The increased use of antibiotics, antacids and prescription medication can also have a detrimental effect in terms of magnesium absorption.

✔️ Calm nerves and anxiety

✔️ Reduces inflammation

✔️ Helps regulate blood sugar levels

✔️ Supports deep sleep patterns

✔️ Relieves muscle aches

✔️ Heart regulation

Magnesium is required for many biological functions within the body, including more than 300 enzyme reactions. Below are some of the benefits of magnesium and the crucial roles it plays in the health of our heart, our muscles and our brain. There are reasons why we need more magnesium when pregnant or when placing significant demands on our bodies in terms of physcial activity. It also explains how we can get more magnesium into our diet through the foods we eat and what we should consider when looking to supplement.

Magnesium for your heart

Adequate levels of magnesium are required for maintaining the function of the nervous system and neuromuscular transmission and activity. It helps with heart muscle contraction-relaxation and regulating the heartbeat. Along with other macro minerals such as calcium, sodium and potassium, magnesium affects the muscle tone in the blood vessels, which enables optimal blood pressure control, with a decreased risk of erratic heartbeat and coronary artery disease.

Man looking out at ocean
Populations with high intakes of magnesium have a much lower rate of cardiovascular disease.

Our nerves depend on magnesium to help keep our arteries relaxed, and free from inflammation, which is the main cause of cardiovascular disease. This allows for good circulation, healthy arteries, and to ensure sufficient blood flow to all parts of the body, including our brain.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that one in three deaths are attributed to cardiovascular disease. Populations with high intakes of magnesium have a much lower rate of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arrhythmia and hypertension compared to those with insufficient levels. Magnesium supplementation programmes have shown to have a significantly postive effect on the treatment of patients with cardiovascular disease, and researchers have advocated for a higher RDI of this essential nutrient for many years.   

Magnesium for muscles and sleep

Magnesium can relax the muscles, out nerves and the mind. It also helps to avoid muscle cramps, headaches and can lessen the effects of stress, leading to a better quality of sleep. 

People with low magnesium status can be tense and irritable, and suffer from cold hands and feet due to poor circulation. They can find it hard to calm the mind and relax, and get a proper night’s sleep.

Woman sleeping in a bed. Magnesium can assist with alleviating muscle cramps at night.
Magnesium is best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation.

The best I’ve had. I feel the difference almost immediately. No digestive problems with this. Helps me sleep and relax in general.”

Lauren

Common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, especially at night, as well as fatigue, insomnia, high blood pressure and heart disturbances.

Magnesium is best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation, lessens the effects of stress, and when paired with a consistent night-time routine it can greatly assist with getting a restful night’s sleep.

Magnesium for your brain

Along with metabolic health and muscular function, magnesium is critical for brain health. It can help support cognitive function, especially among older adults who are at greater risk of deficiency.  

It is also essential for both short and long term memory, enables concentration and learning, and helps with mood, behaviour and healthy aging.

Our brains require an enormous amount of energy – up to 20 percent of all the body’s energy. This requires a constant supply of magnesium, and the trillions of neural networks and synapses within the brain need magnesium to process information. 

Magnesium is essential for brain function.
Magnesium is essential for brain function and acts on receptors which help brain development.

Magnesium has been shown to regulate the receptors in the brain associated with learning, memory, mood regulation. Abnormal NMDA receptor activity has been present in patients presenting with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease as well as depression and anxiety.

“Brilliant product. Sleeping much better compared to other magnesium products that I’ve tried. And my few muscle cramps have disappeared. Though the taste isn’t great, I choose to swallow it straight as the taste soon disappears, so it’s no problem.”

Miranda

Low magnesium status has been linked to anxiety, fibromyalgia, age-related memory loss and depression. In addition, the various medications used to treat depression can further contribute to decreased magnesium levels.

In 2017, to assess the effects of magnesium supplementation, an open-label, randomized, cross-over trial was done with 126 adults who had been diagnosed with mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression. (6) Supplementation was undertaken with 248mg of magnesium chloride per day for 6 weeks, compared to 6 weeks of no supplementation. It led to a clinically significant improvement in mood and anxiety scores, and positive effects were observed within two weeks. The magnesium chloride was also well tolerated, and 61% of participants reported they would use magnesium in the future.

In another study of more than 1,000 older individuals who were followed for 17 years, those with higher intakes of electrolytes such as calcium, potassium and magnesium had a lower risk of developing dementia. (7)

Magnesium for performance

As magnesium helps with regulating the heart and muscle contraction and movements, it is crucial for physical performance, and should be a part of any sports nutrition progamme. 

Woman running on New Zealand beach. Iron for energy.
Supplementation can avoid muscle cramping and even migraines during exercise.

Along with potassium, sodium, chloride and calcium, magnesium is an electrolyte, and is able to hold an electrical charge to supply these macro minerals to our cells accordingly.

Magnesium is depleted in the body through excessive sweating, and supplementation can be required to avoid muscle cramping and even migraines during exercise. As good quality sleep is so important to performance, maintaining sufficient levels of magnesium in the cells is necessary for athletes to enable recovery of both mind and body.

Athlete stretching on running track. About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, with the other 40% found in muscles.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. About 60% of the magnesium in your body is found in bone, with the other 40% found in muscles, soft tissues and fluids. 

Magnesium when pregnant or breastfeeding

When pregnant or breastfeeding, your body requires even more vitamins and minerals, especially iodine and selenium, and also magnesium, all of which are in short supply in the New Zealand soils. Magnesium plays a big part in the baby’s development and growth, and the health of the mother during this important time.

Higher amounts of magnesium have been shown to relieve pre-eclampsia and hypertension in women during the latter stages of pregnancy, and pregnancy-induced leg cramps.

The RDI for Magnesium in women is 310mg per day, but increases to 360mg when pregnant or breastfeeding.

How to get more magnesium into your diet

Through eating a balanced, whole-food diet, you can obtain good levels of magnesium from food sources. The less processed foods you eat the better. For example, approximately 80% of magnesium is lost when wheat is refined into white flour, and all magnesium is lost in the refining of white sugar.

Green leafy vegetables and raw, unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts) and seeds (pumpkin/sunflower) sweetcorn, dates, beans and bananas are the best plant-based sources of magnesium. Other foods such as wheat bran, quinoa, dark chocolate and seafood such as shrimps and pipis contain good levels of the mineral.

How to get more magnesium into your diet with these foods. Green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sweetcorn, bananas, dark chocolate and almonds are all good sources of magnesium.
Green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, sweetcorn, bananas, dark chocolate and almonds are all good sources of magnesium.

Gut health plays a significant part in the absorption of minerals and vitamins from our food, and so too with magnesium. If you experience digestive issues, your body may not be able to utilise the magnesium found in your foods.

“Couldn’t be without it. Have used this for years now. Great for headaches and deep sleep. Take it in a small amount of water just before bed and I always sleep peacefully.”

Lorna

Stress, excessive alcohol intake, excessive sweating, the use of prescription drugs, and advancing age are all factors that can lead to magnesium deficiency. If you’re unable to access sufficient levels from your diet, supplementation may be an option. Magnesium supplements can be found in many forms – capsules, tablets, epsom salts, and liquid mineral formulas.  

Supplementing with magnesium

When considering supplementation, you should look for highly bioavailable options. These inlude organic forms such as magnesium citrate, or ionic liquid mineral supplements, which are more easily absorbed and tolerated by the body.

To generate magnesium ions, the compound must dissolve in water, but common supplements such as magnesium oxide do not dissolve and therefore cannot deliver magnesium ions into the bloodstream, and then into your cells and bone where it needs it most. 

The RDI for magnesium is 310mg for females, increasing to 360mg when pregnant or breastfeeding. The RDI for adult males is 420mg.

When should I take it?
While it’s best taken at night as it contributes to physical and mental relaxation, it can be taken at any time.

Individuals with kidney disease, severe heart disease or on prescription medication should consult their health practitioner before taking a magnesium supplement.  

Summary

Most of us could benefit from topping up our magnesium stores, and the health benefits it provides. Whether we’re taking it for our heart, our brain, to get more energy or improve the quality of our sleep, magnesium is responsible for more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, so there’s hardly any part of the body that doesn’t benefit.

Disclaimer:
The information in this article is not intended as a medical prescription for any disease or illness. Nothing stated here should be considered medical advice. Use as directed. If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional.