Potassium pills

Potassium is a mineral element and electrolyte that plays a crucial role in the body. As a mineral it is essential for proper functioning of cells, tissues, and organs; as an electrolyte, it conducts electric currents throughout the body along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. Potassium is very commonly taken in through the diet in the right amounts, but sometimes those who lack it or have a deficit due to an illness need it in supplement form. Without proper levels, many processes that occur in the body will be negatively affected.

Major Functions

Potassium is a major component, and a critical one, in heart function, in skeletal and smooth muscle contractions, and it also provides energy for muscle processes. Additionally, it helps transport glucose into muscle cells, helps store glycogen, and helps produce high-energy compounds. As a major electrolyte in the body, potassium closely works with sodium and chloride in maintaining proper levels of bodily fluids and generating electrical impulses throughout the nerves and muscles. Potassium can be found in many foods, including meats, fish, many fruits and vegetables, legumes, and dairy products.

Deficiency and Excess
However rare, it is possible to have too much potassium in the body or too little potassium. Too much is called hyperkalemia; too little is called hypokalemia. Maintaining proper levels is dependent on other electrolytes—magnesium and sodium— levels in the body. The body is very capable of keeping a correct balance of potassium levels because it is so important and unstable levels can lead to serious health consequences. Normally, however, deficiencies and excesses are rare occurrences. It is possible to acquire a potassium deficiency during fasting, diarrhea, or through the use of diuretics. Deficiency can lead to muscular weakness and cardiac arrest. Excessive potassium levels can result from overdose of potassium supplements, from certain diseases, or losing a tremendous amount of fluids through sweating during strenuous exercise. Potassium levels that are too high can result in heart arrhythmias and death.

Potassium Supplement Pills
Potassium supplements are most commonly used to treat hypokalemia, or low potassium levels. If you are experiencing muscle weakness, low energy levels, muscle cramps, stomach disturbances, and/or an irregular heartbeat, see your physician and you may need to get started on a potassium pill to return levels back to normal. Do not ever take a potassium supplement unless directed by a doctor, and even then, only under the doctor’s supervision because, as mentioned above, abnormal levels can be life-threatening. During the time when you are on the supplement, your doctor will probably check your blood regularly to determine if your potassium levels are normal. An easy do-it-yourself method is to check your pulse at your wrist to make sure it is stable and regular.

How to Use
Potassium pills should be taken with a full glass of water. Take the dose with food or after a meal to prevent an upset stomach. Swallow the tablet whole; do not crush or chew it. Do not lie down for 30 minutes after taking the pill.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

As your body adjusts to the medicine, you may experience mild, but uncomfortable side effects. These include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, or upset stomach. If you experience more severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion, irregular heartbeat, hand or feet tingling, or muscle weakness, consult with your physician immediately. Also, with any side effect that you are remotely concerned about, it cannot hurt to contact your doctor. In addition, certain drugs can interact with potassium pills. Be sure your doctor knows if you are taking any other medications, including but not limited to, diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and salt substitutes containing potassium.

Last updated on Feb 10th, 2011 and filed under Nutritional Information. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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