Today, I want to talk about potassium. Most people know think about potassium as an “electrolyte” — one of those minerals that need to be replenished when you engage in heavy sports. But, it’s much more that that.
I started really digging into potassium a few months ago. At the beginning of 2019 I committed to carefully logging everything I ate and drank in and effort to re-evaluate my overall nutrition. I tend to focus on the nutrients I know I need to supplement in order to manage the Multiple Sclerosis, but I let the rest take care of itself. I felt like I had hit a plateau in my MS management. I wanted to get a really clear picture of my overall nutritional status, to see if I could make any improvements.
I set reminders on my phone to log breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve been faithfully logging every meal, snack, supplement and beverage since the beginning of January. I use an app called Cronometer, and it has an excellent reporting system. I ran reports in March, and again in May to get a really good long term picture of my daily intake of nutrients.
What I learned is that my diet is chronically and severely short on potassium. I don’t eat grains at all, but I do eat at least one serving of fruit every day, and I eat a LOT of vegetables. Health.gov recommends 4 servings of vegetables a day for most people. That translates into about 2 cups of veggies each day. I regularly eat at least double that amount. I eat a good number of high potassium foods, too. Things like:
I don’t eat grains at all, and I limit my intake of dairy because it makes me swell up like a balloon. Seriously, one ounce of cheese can cause me to put on three pounds in swelling overnight. So I make it a point to avoid dairy most of the time. But, the list above are all foods that are high in potassium, and I regularly eat several of them every single day.
And yet, when I looked at my numbers for potassium, I was consistently not getting enough. Not even half the RDA. Which is bad. RDA is nothing more that the *minimum* amount the human body needs in order to avoid signs of deficiency.
So, I started looking into potassium supplements, and I learned that it is practically impossible for me to make up the difference with an over-the-counter potassium supplement. It’s illegal in the U.S to sell OTC supplements that contain more than 3% RDA of potassium. The official reason for this is that overdosing on potassium can be fatal. Which, is true — but (there’s always a but) a large portion of the population in the U.S is thought to be deficient in potassium. Furthermore, it’s incredibly difficult to overdose on potassium. The kidneys do an excellent job of clearing out excess potassium. A person would really have to put a serious effort into intentionally overdosing in order to experience levels high enough to be fatal.
In our modern world it’s much more likely that a person, any person, is deficient in potassium. (Symptoms of potential potassium deficiency are in the chart below.)
So, because my food log made it very clear that I was severely short on potassium, I went looking for a solution. There was no way I could add more potassium rich foods into my daily eating. I tried. But, I struggle to eat enough calories for my weight to begin with, and the idea of adding more food made me queasy. OTC supplements were out. I’d have to take 10 pills a day just to get 30% RDA from them. I try to keep they number of supplements I take to a bare minimum. So, I went hunting for other sources.
I found that Morton Salt Substitute is made from potassium chloride. The nutrition facts on the back say that 1/4 tsp contains 690 mg or 20% RDA of potassium. That’s something I can work with.
I bought a bottle and tried using it on my food. The truth is that I can’t stand the taste. It tastes bitter to me. I tried it on and in a couple of different foods, but it just wasn’t something I could eat regularly.
So, I started experimenting with putting it in water. I tried adding it to my daily powdered magnesium supplement. That works, as long as I don’t use more than 1/8 of a teaspoon.
I can also put it in a water bottle full of tea. My daily use, metal water bottle holds 17 ounces. If I put an herbal or green tea bag in the water bottle with some stevia, I can handle about 1/4 teaspoon of the Morton’s Salt Substitute.
I aim to use 1 teaspoon of the salt substitute each day. That’s 4 servings, or, according to the nutritional label 80% RDA for potassium.
I’ve been doing this regularly for about three weeks. In that time I’ve noticed
My average resting heart rate has come down from 73 to 68
I’m less tired, and have fewer episodes of fatigue.
I sleep better
I have less nerve pain.
My blood sugar is easier to control, and I can eat a second serving of fruit without experiencing symptoms of high blood sugar.
I experience less overall swelling.
For me, using a salt substitute to add more potassium to my diet is working well. It’s solving a problem I didn’t even know I had.
Like always, I suggest talking to your healthcare provider before adding any herbs, supplements or treatments.
Here’s a partial list of symptoms that could be caused by inadequate potassium intake.
|high blood pressure||congestive heart failure|
|abnormal heartbeat||feeling of weak muscles|
|trouble sleeping||high blood sugar|
|muscle spasms||nerve pain|
|nervous and anxiety disorders||slow reflexes|
|abnormally dry skin||chills|
|trouble thinking||general cognitive impairment|
|constipation and diarrhea||swelling|
|high cholesterol||low blood pressure|