Together, potassium and sodium provide balanced nutrition to support the body's essential functions. Each depends on the other to maintain proper body functions. For instance, potassium regulates fluid inside cells, and sodium balances things by taking care of the fluid on the outside of cells. If potassium levels drop, then sodium attempts to regain balance by moving from outside the cells to the inside of the cells. The signs and symptoms of these minerals' deficiencies are similar.
Potassium is a nutrient that helps muscles contract and keeps the heart pumping. In addition to helping the heart and muscles stay on track, this necessary mineral also supports proper function of the nerve cells, heart valves and kidneys. It also regulates blood pressure. Potassium can prevent high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and hypoglycemia.
Low Potassium Symptoms
The body gives off several signs and symptoms that signal a potassium deficiency. Some of the symptoms involve muscle fatigue and cramps, irregular heartbeat, depression, chills, nausea, insomnia, diarrhea, constipation, low blood pressure, high cholesterol and occasional headaches.
There are specific health conditions that contribute to low potassium levels, such as diabetes, alcoholism, anorexia, bulimia, kidney disease, heart disease, Cushing's syndrome, excessive vomiting, chronic diarrhea, influenza, anemia, cystic fibrosis and chronic respiratory failure.
Boosting your potassium levels can be achieved by eating fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and whole grain foods. Foods richest in potassium include papayas, lima beans, spinach, avocados, plantains, bananas, tomatoes, oranges, cucumbers, cantaloupes, pears, mangoes, oat bran, baby carrots, strawberries, garlic, lettuce and onions.
Sodium partners with potassium to maintain proper function of nerve cells, muscle contraction, hydration and regulation of blood pressure. Sodium regulates the fluid outside the cells while potassium moves byproducts out of the cells.
Low Sodium Symptoms
Symptoms of low sodium often mimic the symptoms of low potassium, and include fatigue, headache, fainting, hallucinations, coma, convulsions, decreased consciousness, confusion, muscle spasms, irritability, nausea, vomiting, restlessness and loss of appetite.
Adults should limit daily consumption of sodium to no more than 2,300 mg, which is about 1 tsp. of table salt. Sodium deficiencies are rare. Too often, adults consume more sodium than what's required. However, athletes lose a considerable amount of sodium during physical activity through sweating. Athletes can restore sodium levels with foods that have lower levels of sodium, such as beets, chicken, nuts, fish, milk, carrots, cauliflower and celery.