What is Potassium Gluconate?
Potassium is the most abundant electrolyte in the body. Potassium gluconate is a salt and often used in food supplements. It is an essential nutrient for cell function, particularly in excitable cells such as those found in skeletal muscles, the heart and nerves.
There are many more types of potassium such as potassium citrate, chloride, phosphate, bicarbonate and aspartate. Potassium gluconate is more palatable and non-acidifying.
What Does Potassium Do in the Body?
Potassium is an element that is essential in physiological processes in the body. Potassium works with salt (or sodium) through something called a sodium-potassium pump. This mechanism in the body maintains water and electrolyte balance.
Electrolytes produce electrically conducting solution in water. In the body, this translates to being able to produce nerve impulses, muscle contractions, kidney function and more. Low intake can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Potassium supplements are very well absorbed in the body and are not much different to that from food sources. 90% of potassium is eliminated via the kidneys and only a small amount is lost through sweat and in the stool.
Potassium tends to concentrate absorption in the cells, but too much in the blood stream can be toxic. Toxicity is rare, but if it occurs, it can cause gastrointestinal upset such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea and muscular dysfunction in the form of cramps.
Since potassium has such a large role in fundamental actions of he body, an imbalance can create a cascade of illness.
What are the Health Benefits of Potassium?
Higher potassium is vital in vasodilation. Vasodilation is the term used for the widening of blood vessels which lowers blood pressure. Low salt intake alongside high potassium can help balance and prevent high blood pressure and subsequent cardiovascular disease.
High sodium levels in the blood stiffen the blood vessels and stop nitric oxide production. High potassium levels in the blood however, soften the blood vessels and halt all release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is needed in the mechanism of widening the blood vessels (vasodilation) and allowing blood to flow through the veins.
Potassium deficiency can happen when there is a higher rate of excretion compared to consumption. Potassium may prevent hypokalemia (potassium deficiency) for those who are particularly at risk due to cardiac arrhythmias.
Bones contain a small amount of potassium in a complex called hydroxyapatite. This is responsible for bone density which stops building past the age of 30. A higher ratio of potassium to sodium is necessary to prevent sodium damage to bones. High sodium increases calcium excretion and bone loss.
Muscle and Nerve function
Muscles include the heart as a whole, our digestive tract and the veins that pump blood around the body. Potassium creates nerve impulses via the nervous system which contract and relax muscle fibers.
When potassium enters the cells, it participates in a sodium-exchange across cell membrane. In the nerve cells this creates an electrical potential that generates the conduction of nerve impulses. Without this mechanism, muscles including the heart can become weak.
What is Potassium Used For?
- Hypokalemia (Potassium deficiency)
- Menière’s disease (disorder of the inner ear)
- Insulin resistance
- Symptoms of menopause
- Edema (water retention)
- Muscle weakness and dystrophy
What are the Food Sources of Potassium?
Potassium is rich is fruits and vegetables such as spinach, bananas, sweet potatoes and avocados. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables also is low in sodium which will support a much more reliable balance.
It’s important to note that if you have a pre-existing kidney condition or are on any medication such as ACE inhibitors or pain killers, you must not take potassium supplements as they may have an additive effect.