Potassium, which is the nineteenth element in the Periodic Table, influences the health of all living things. Whether it be used in a medicine or in certain amounts in dietary supplements, it helps all living things to improve the quality of life. Potassium has many uses, ranging from those of everyday life to those in rare circumstances. Although potassium may be a necessity to the maintenance of life, its intake must be regulated. It is known that too much of a good thing can be harmful, and this theory applies to potassium, as well. If potassium is taken in the correct doses, it can be a very helpful element in the improvement of the quality of life.

Potassium is very important in the human body. Along with sodium, it regulates the water balance and the acid-base balance in the blood and tissues. It helps to generate and regulate muscle contractions and heart beat. Potassium participates in the synthesis of protein from amino acids in the cell.

It also functions in carbohydrate metabolism, and it is active in glycogen and glucose metabolism. This process is responsible for converting glucose to glycogen that can be stored in the liver for future energy. Potassium is important for normal growth and for building muscle, and should be an abundant part of the diet of all living things. The most efficient way of providing one's body is by shifting to natural, potassium foods and away from high-salt foods, lose weight if needed, and follow an exercise program to improve cardiovascular tone and physical stamina. This would be called the natural diet. It is known to help maintain normal blood pressure and possibly lower high blood pressure.

Foods which help these causes are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are foods that have a very low sodium content. Some include leaf green vegetables such as spinach, parsley, and lettuce, as well as broccoli, peas, lima beans, tomatoes, and potatoes. Fruits that contain this mineral include oranges and other citrus fruits, bananas, apples, avocados, raisins, and apricots, particularly dried. Whole grains, wheat germ, seeds, and nuts are high-potassium foods. It is recommended that one should avoid fast foods and foods which are high in fat, as well. Potassium's presence in the human diet may contribute to a healthy heart and normal blood pressure.

Both of these functions, if treated without care, may lead to serious health problems in one's life. This is one main factor which has been influenced by potassium and its impact on the human body. Potassium may be used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes, as well. Potassium chloride has occasionally been helpful in treating infant colic, some cases of allergies, and headaches. During and after diarrhea, potassium replacement may be necessary, and it has been said that many people feel better taking potassium during weight-loss programs. This is because without potassium, one may experience dehydration and weakness due to the cells inability to regulate water in the bloodstream and convert glucose into usable forms of energy.

Fatigue or weakness, especially in the elderly, is often alleviated with a supplement of potassium, along with magnesium. Additional potassium may also be required for dehydration states after fluid losses and may be used to prevent or reduce hangover symptoms after alcohol consumption. Again, this is because alcohol dehydrates one's body, which can be helped by the cells regaining the power to regulate water supply. Potassium has an important role in the maintenance of the cells and the achievement of homeostasis. In other fields of health, current research has shown that there may be a link between the amount of potassium intake and rheumatoid arthritis.

Charles Weber conducted research which supports the theory that a deficiency in potassium may cause or worsen arthritis. Weber states that a deficiency of potassium leads to deterioration of the cells and tissue, which, in turn, causes the symptoms of this disease to blossom. Ideally, potassium should be obtained through foods if one has normally functioning kidneys. He hypothesized that some poison or decline in kidney function with age degrades ability to concentrate potassium and thus makes it impossible to eat the food from which almost every processing procedure removes potassium these days.

Arthritics characteristically have poor nourishment, which is evidence that may support his theory. This may have been the discovery of a new way to help prevent and treat arthritis. One diet which may help to increase the amount of potassium intake is the raw vegetable diet. Although many say it is quite unappetizing, it may help to cure arthritis, as it did for Weber, himself. This is a classic case of a dietary supplement of potassium having the ability to cure or prevent diseases.

Curing rheumatoid arthritis is one other way that potassium supplements can be used to enhance one's health. Cresson Kearny was responsible for finding yet another use for potassium in the lives of humans. He discovered that a salt of the elements potassium and iodine, taken orally even in very small quantities a half hour to one day before radioactive iodine is swallowed or inhaled, prevents about 99% of the damage to the thyroid gland that may occur if the body was pure of other chemical substances. The thyroid gland absorbs both non-radioactive and radioactive iodine, and normally retains much of this element.

When ordinary, non-radioactive iodine is made available in the blood for absorption by the thyroid gland before any radioactive iodine is made available, the gland will absorb and retain so much that it becomes saturated with non-radioactive iodine. His research demonstrated that, when saturated, the thyroid can absorb only about l% as much additional iodine, including radioactive forms that later may become available in the blood. Then, it is said to be blocked. The consumption of potassium, in this case, prevents a person's thyroid gland from being overloaded with radioactive iodine, which may, in some circumstances, prevent early and unexpected fatalities. This effective form of treatment helps to prevent toxic ation of the blood by blocking enough radioactive iodine from entering the blood stream. The small amount of radioactive iodine that is left is purified in the kidneys and the waste products are then removed.

This is another example of how potassium is used in the maintenance of human life. Although potassium is considered a necessity in the maintenance of human life, it must be carefully regulated and used in its correct dosages. One disease which comes from an excess in the amount of potassium in the blood is Hyperkalemia. Hyperkalemia occurs when the level of potassium in the bloodstream is higher than normal. This may be related to increase in total body potassium or excessive release of potassium from the cells into the bloodstream. A defect in the kidneys may cause an inability of the body to excrete excess potassium.

Hyperkalemia can have serious, potentially life threatening effects on the body. The excess amount of potassium can cause chronic renal failure, which is the breaking down or deterioration of the kidneys. This disease may be caused by a variety of different things, ranging from physical injuries to overdoses in medication. No matter what the cause, this disease must be treated with utmost caution. Different people may react differently to the same amounts of potassium in the blood, but, for the most part, and excess can cause very serious health problems which must be taken care of immediately. When under control, potassium levels in the bloodstream will more than likely improve and promote health conditions in living people and organisms.

Current research has shown that new discoveries in the use and mechanism of potassium has helped to promote and improve the health of living things. It may be used to cure symptoms of diseases, prevent diseases from occurring, protect living things from harmful substances in the environment and promote good cardiovascular health. However, potassium must be used at the appropriate levels and concentrations is the blood, otherwise serious defects may occur. As long as potassium is dealt with in a responsible and careful manner, its affects will more than likely improve rather than damage the quality of life of living organisms.

Bibliography

Adam. com. Hyperkalemia. Online. 11 Dec. 2000.
Haas, Elson M.D. Staying healthy with Nutrition. Online. 10 Dec. 2000.
Kearny, Cresson. Nuclear accident / war preventative medicine. Online. 12 Dec. 2000.
The Rx List Home Page. Potassium Chloride. Online. 10 Dec. 2000.
Weber, Charles. Potassium in foods, as affecting arthritis and heart disease. Online. 12 Dec. 2000.