Potassium & Digestion

by Lynne Sheldon

About Lynne Sheldon

Lynne Sheldon has over 12 years of dance experience, both in studios and performance groups. She is an avid runner and has studied several types of yoga. Sheldon now works as a freelance writer, editor and book reviewer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and art history from Boston University and recently completed her Master of Fine Arts in writing from Pacific University.

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All of your organs, tissues and cells need potassium to function properly, as does your digestive system. If you get too much potassium, this can have an adverse affect on your digestion, as can not getting enough of this mineral. Furthermore, certain malabsorption conditions and intestinal illnesses can upset your body’s balance of potassium. Talk to your doctor about how to meet your recommended daily allowance and let her know about any digestive issues you have.

Function, RDA and Sources

Potassium plays a vital role in the smooth contraction of muscles. This makes it imperative for the proper functioning of your digestive tract. In addition, many foods that contain this mineral also have large amounts of fiber, which can help prevent constipation and regulate your bowels. These include bananas, lima beans, avocados, potatoes, tomatoes, cantaloupes, dried apricots, broccoli and prunes. Other good sources include salmon, chicken, cod, soy, milk and other dairy products. Adults should get 4.7 grams of potassium daily.

Too Much Potassium and Hyperkalemia

Taking potassium supplements can have adverse side effects, even at normal levels. These include diarrhea, nausea and other types of stomach upset. If you consume high doses of the mineral, you may contract additional symptoms, such as muscle weakness or an abnormal heart rate or rhythm. If too much potassium is in your blood, it can result in a condition known as hyperkalemia. While this typically has no symptoms, you may experience nausea or an irregular heartbeat. Older people are particularly susceptible to contracting hyperkalemia because their bodies cannot eliminate excess potassium as efficiently. If you suspect you have a buildup of too much potassium, seek medical attention.

Too Little Potassium and Hypokalemia

A potassium deficiency can negatively affect your digestion and other bodily functions. It often leads to a condition known as hypokalemia, having too little potassium in your blood. Common symptoms include weakness, muscle cramps, stomach disturbances, a lack of energy and an irregular heartbeat. It is typically the result of too much potassium being lost through your urine or feces, rather than a lack of the mineral in your diet. This condition can endanger your life, and you should seek medical attention to correct it.

Malabsorption Conditions and Temporary Illness

You can also upset your potassium levels if you have a malabsorption condition, such as Crohn’s disease, which can lead to a deficiency in the mineral. Illnesses that cause vomiting and diarrhea can lead to a temporary deficiency in potassium, as well. If you have an intestinal condition or virus, talk to your doctor about what you can do to keep your potassium levels in balance.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.