s4 e5: potassium deep dive

Potassium Deep Dive

In this episode, I am doing a deep dive on potassium, one of my favorite minerals because of how it can positively impact those struggling with thyroid health, hormone imbalances, and blood sugar issues. Potassium is definitely an undervalued mineral that deserves more attention! As always, I’ll be going through the different functions of potassium and answering listener questions at the end. If you want access to the bonus episode where I dig into how to improve low potassium on a hair mineral test, share potassium rich food ideas and a sample day of getting at least 4,700mg, and a potassium supplement breakdown, you can join patreon.com/hormonehealingrd

Quick reminder, this podcast is for informational purposes only. Please talk with your healthcare provider before making any nutrition or lifestyle changes. 

This episode covers:

  • How potassium is regulated {8:28}
  • Adequate intake for potassium {15:50}
  • Potassium intake and blood sugar {21:21}
  • Blood pressure and thyroid health {32:05}
  • Major contributors to potassium deficiency {34:47}
  • Mineral interactions {39:23}
  • The best way to get enough potassium {47:47}
  • Risk and benefits of whole foods vs. supplements {52:57}

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Episodes mentioned:
Calcium deep dive
Magnesium deep dive
Sodium deep dive


Potassium physiology

Sodium/Potassium Pump:

Potassium Regulation:

Mineral Interactions:

Potassium & Kidneys:

Potassium & Insulin/Blood Sugar:

Potassium and Blood Pressure:

Potassium & Digestion:

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We are going to be doing a deep dive into potassium, which is one of my favorite minerals. Because of how it can positively impact people that are struggling with thyroid health, it’s really important for our hormones, and then blood sugar. I think that potassium is definitely an undervalued mineral that deserves way more attention. And as always, I’m gonna go through the different functions of potassium, how it impacts different aspects of our health, like I’ll talk about thyroid, blood sugar, digestion, all those things. And then at the end, I’m going to do a rapid fire of listener questions. If you want to access the bonus episode for this one. It’s a good one, I go through how to improve low potassium on a hair test. That’s a really common question I get is like someone has redone their hair mineral testing, their potassium is still low, I’m gonna go through all the different areas that you want to consider and what could keep beekeeping that potassium low. I also share potassium rich food ideas and example, Day of how to get 4700 milligrams, which is the amount that you’d want to have to try to increase levels. And then I’m making a potassium supplement breakdown, which was super interesting to make and taught me a lot about the great absorption of potassium supplements, sometimes to our detriment. So if you want to get all those resources, you can go to patreon.com/hormone Healing rd. And a quick reminder, before we get into things this podcast is for informational purposes only. Please talk with your health care provider before you make any nutrition or lifestyle changes. Since we’re going to be talking about lots of nutrition and supplement stuff, don’t just go making changes, we want to make sure that you’re being safe and that they’re appropriate for you. 


Okay, let’s talk about the functions of potassium. And then we’ll get into like how our bodies regulated. So like sodium, we talked about sodium last week. I did mention potassium a lot in that episode, and I’m going to mention sodium a lot in this episode. So if you haven’t listened to the other one, the partner episode, please please listen to it. I think it will help you make more sense of this mineral. But potassium, it’s an electrolyte just like sodium. But instead of being primarily outside of ourselves, which is where sodium hangs out, it’s primarily inside of ourselves 98% of it. And it’s mostly in our skeletal tissue, I think it’s like 98% is found in the skeletal muscle. Yeah. And there’s, there’s a lot of potassium in our body, there’s 1755 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. So it is one of our most abundant intracellular minerals in the adult human body. And just to give you context on like the concentration inside the cells versus outside, it’s 30 times higher inside the cell than outside. And that’s why bloodwork for potassium is not a great measurement, because like I talked about in that first episode on mineral testing, our blood mineral levels are held in such inside such a tight range, so that you know, our bodies are gonna keep us safe and healthy. And if they start to get out of that range in the blood, it means that, you know, they’ve been getting out of range for a long time inside ourselves, especially a mineral like potassium since most of it’s found inside ourselves. So by the time you see something like a low potassium show up on your bloodwork, you could have seen that on a hair tests probably years ahead of time in potassium is definitely one of the more notoriously difficult minerals to increase from a hair test, but that when we talk about how it’s regulated, I think you’ll understand why. So what do we use potassium for in the body, it’s used for nerve and muscle activity, very important for contraction. That’s why a lot of people struggle with muscle cramps when they have low potassium. It’s also important for that intracellular fluid balance, which I talked about last week a lot with sodium, because a lot of people will get fluid retention when they increase their sodium intake and a lot, it’s typically because they don’t have enough potassium. So that sodium potassium ratio is very important to keep our intracellular fluid imbalance and not outside the cells, which would be fluid retention. We also use potassium and transport nutrients into the cell like glucose and thyroid hormone, and it reduces blood pressure. This is a big topic that I dug into in the sodium episodes. 


So if you want to hear more about this, definitely go listen to that one. But when we increase potassium intake, it means that we have more sodium leaving the body through the urine. So the more sodium retention we have typically that can impact your blood pressure. That’s why Potat increasing potassium intake reduces your blood pressure because it helps sodium leave through the urine. Again, these two minerals work so closely together and we want to make sure they’re imbalanced. sodium or potassium also reduces calcification and I had someone asking I put this in the bonus resources because I had someone in my Patreon asking about calcification on the kidneys and I literally came across a study about that when I was researching for this episode. So it also reduces calcification. It’s great for bone health, there’s a good amount of research on how potassium can help retain calcium or reduces how much calcium is excreted in the urine. And it can help protect against things like osteoporosis. And then blood sugar, its usual blood sugar balance, you heard me say it helps transport glucose inside the cell. That’s huge. So it has like an insulin like effect on our cells. And that helps us tolerate carbohydrates better. It also binds to glucose molecules, so they can be stored as glycogen in the liver, and muscle cells. And I think some people don’t realize how important this is for blood sugar balance. Because if we don’t have enough glycogen stored in the liver and muscle cells, that’s an extremely stressful situation for our body, because our bodies are always trying to keep our blood sugar tightly regulated, to keep us alive. So potassium is very important for that, and so is thyroid hormone. 


But those two work very closely together. And then it’s really important for digestive tract activity, I got a few questions about how potassium impacts constipation, because I can’t tell you how many people have contacted me that I’ve done my course or clients I’ve worked with that have been like, wow, I increased my potassium intake. And now I’m not constipated. Remember, it is important for muscle contraction. If when we get higher low levels, that the messages that are being sent can to our brain can get dysregulated. And so that can lead to issues with peristalsis. Or like that movement, contraction of our intestines. This, I definitely see it mostly with the levels. So if you have improved peristalsis improve movement of your intestines, you’re going to have more regular bowel movements. When that slows down, you’re going to be constipated. Potassium also helps to pull water into the digestive tract, which is important for having regular bowel movements.


And then low potassium diets have been linked with intestinal permeability, or leaky gut is many people hear it called which that that can have a whole host of effects on like our gut bacteria. If we have overgrowth, if we have things like yeast growing pathogens, parasites, things like that, and eventually that’s going to affect our ability to break down our food and that peristalsis that movement. So if we don’t get enough potassium, and then we have issues with our imbalances in our gut, that can also lead to more constipation. So that’s a lot, right. Potassium does a lot of things. It’s really cool. And it’s one of those minerals that like, I mean, I read, I don’t recommend supplements, I just have people get it from food. And it’s like, you can make a little change in it. I’ve had people even just 1000 2000 Extra milligrams a day than what they were currently taking in. And they’re like, Oh, we’re having a bowel movement every day, oh, I have better energy. I’m not having like a dip in the afternoon. I feel like you get a very quick return. And if any, like energetic and time investment you put into it. Okay, so those are all the functions. Let’s talk about how it’s regulated. 


Because again, potassium is one of those minerals that is so important. It’s definitely the one that we take in and like the largest amount. I mean, if you think about we’ll talk about the RDA, but it’s it’s like 1000s of milligrams, which most minerals, it’s like a much lower recommendation. But when it comes to potassium, what we’re taking in is typically going to be excreted unless we’re deficient. So our body is going to adjust based on our current potassium status. And all this is being regulated by our kidneys. So they’re going to regulate that excretion of potassium, just to maintain that homeostasis, like I said, like, we like our bodies like to keep our blood levels very tight. And so if we increase our potassium intake, we’ll excrete more in our urine. If we decrease our potassium intake, we’ll excrete less. And most of the potassium that we’re excreting is through, you’re like 90%. Only, like 10% is through stool, very little is lost through sweat, through sweat. And because our kidneys are the main organs, regulating this mineral, I do often get a lot of questions about like, well, what if someone, is there any issues that someone could experience like kidney issues, if they’re increasing their potassium intake? I mean, I think if you’re doing it through food, the risk is very low. But I think that’s a listener question at the end. So I’ll do like a rapid fire of like situations where people don’t want to increase potassium intake or like why someone may have a bad reaction to increase in their potassium intake. But for most people, if you’re doing it with food and you have healthy kidney function and function, your body’s gonna adjust. So don’t let that kind of fear mongering scare you. 


I did a post on the RDA a while back and I talked about potassium because they like continuously lower the recommendation for that. And I just don’t think it’s serving our population, especially like the general population that’s still eating like the standard American diet. I’m like, This is not fair for these people because they just keep lowering their salt intake, which leads to they’re like, yeah, they’re going to excrete more potassium, it’s just like, it’s going to lead to higher and higher blood pressure is a concern. And I talk more about that. The Sonim episode, but it’s like a frustrating thing for me. And I don’t think people prioritize potassium rich foods enough, it’s mostly going to be in fruits and vegetables, beans, stuff like that cooked greens. And then you can get some from dairy as well. And then some from like me salmon, but a lot of it’s in like fruits and veggies. And I think more people, I mean, most people could deal with an increase in those types of foods anyway, but a lot of people push back in that post saying like, well, people can have heart issues, people could be struggling with kidneys, and I’m like, okay, but for the general population, most people are going to benefit from more potassium rich foods, if someone is supplementing with potassium, I think that’s a different story. Because we absorb a lot of potassium from supplements, it’s I was researching for, I made the potassium supplement resource for the Patreon members. And I was going through each of the common types, and then how they’re absorbed, I mean, potassium supplements are absorbed almost as well as the potassium from potatoes. Sometimes, some forms of potassium are absorbed even better than the potassium and food. And you might hear that and think, Oh, I’m gonna like do a supplement instead. But I think that’s when people could run into issues of overdoing potassium and potentially having problems from it. But if you’re not on any medication, you know, blood pressure meds, of course, if you take blood pressure medication, and then you take a bunch of potassium, that could lead to really low blood pressure, like dangerously low, because potassium lowers our blood pressure. 


But if you’re a healthy person, and you’re not taking medication, maybe you have blood pressure concerns, eating more potassium rich foods would be really helpful. So there’s just so much with misinformation out there with sodium and potassium and heart health and all that, even like kidneys. And like if you’re unless you have like end stage kidney disease, you can, your body can adjust potassium. So it’s like a whole thing. But I know there’s a lot of fear around it, I don’t want you to fear it. I think if you focus on food, you’re probably going to be okay, but just talk with your doctor to make sure. But yeah, most of our potassium is inside our skeletal muscle. When it comes to like we’re excreting it in our urine like that the main thing that’s regulating it is our intake in our kidneys. But other hormones can impact potassium levels like aldosterone. We’ve talked about this a lot and the sodium episode, your kidneys will eventually make this hormone aldosterone if salt intake is too low, like if you’re restricting salt, because they need to retain more salt, or sodium, they need that your body wants to retain more sodium. So if we have salt restriction, we’re going to have more aldosterone. And that’s going to mean more sodium and less potassium. So we’re going to excrete more potassium if we’re holding on to more sodium. And then same thing with stress hormones, like if we’re releasing those stress hormones, aldosterone is also going to get released, which means we’re going to increase that absorption of sodium or retention of sodium and then we’re going to increase the excretion of potassium. So like stress, lowering salt in your diet, those are also going to impact how much potassium you’re retaining or how much you’re going to get rid of. 


And then finally, insulin. And we’ll talk about this more when we go through blood sugar, but insulin can help keep potassium inside the cells. And this is why a lot of people that struggle with type two diabetes that are not utilizing insulin, or insulin resistance, maybe they don’t know yet, they typically can end up with very low potassium levels. But yeah, potassium consumption basically is going to help minimize sodium retention. And it can help people handle higher amounts of salt, it can lower blood pressure, the more you take in, the more you’re going to excrete unless you’re super deficient. And yeah, that’s that’s pretty much it for how our kidneys and our hormones are regulating potassium. Oh, and just I thought this was like a very interesting note. There’s a study that shows with zero potassium intake, serum potassium, so like your blood levels, can reach deficient levels, from three to 3.5 in about a week. But if someone increased their potassium intake, to like 10 to 15,000 milligrams a day, which is a lot of potassium, it barely raised their potassium blood levels. Because your body as you can take more your body, your kidneys going to excrete more in the urine. So your body will adjust to potassium intake. I think this is a huge part of why it’s so hard to improve potassium levels on a hair test. But there’s also a lot more that goes into that like stress. You know, we talked about aldosterone and stress hormones leading to more potassium excretion. If we don’t fix our stress and how we’re living our lives and our habits, then we’re not going to increase our potassium levels, heavy metals and so much more. 


Okay, so let’s go through the RDA for potassium now that we know what it does in the body that our kidneys are regulating it when it comes to the recommended daily allowance. For potassium. There’s actually not one and I talked about this a little bit last week because obviously we have an RDA for sodium. We don’t have an RDA for potassium, it’s called an adequate intake instead, because there isn’t enough scientific data to support one. At least that’s what it means when a nutrient is assigned an adequate intake instead of an RDA. So it’s basically going through an average daily level of intake that’s sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all 97 and 98% healthy individuals. And this is often used for like nutrition plans and stuff like that, and like a more clinical setting. But the adequate intake recommendation for potassium for women is 2600 milligrams for healthy women, it does increase to 2900 milligrams for pregnant women, and then 2800 milligrams for lactation. And then for men, it is 3400 milligrams a day of potassium, the World Health Organization recommends consuming at least 3500 milligrams per day, which I thought was interesting. It used to be 4700 milligrams was the adequate intake recommendation. And then they kept lowering it, lowering it, and now it’s down to 2600 milligrams. And a lot of the reason for this, from what I’ve read, it seems that it is related to trying to make it more realistic, since I think it’s like 98% of the US population doesn’t meet the recommended amount of potassium in their diet, which I’m like, you know, not shocking. And so what happens is that since the potassium intake is lower, and usually the sodium intake is higher from processed foods, you’re going to have a really skewed sodium potassium ratio, which can lead to things like more fluid retention, higher blood pressure, all that kind of stuff. So I do understand where the concern is when it comes to like sodium and blood pressure. But I think a lot of it, the issue is that we’re not getting enough potassium in and now we’re, we’re not really recommended to take in more. 


So I’m like, what incentive do people have. And then if we break it, I did have a note on, I thought this was interesting. So a lot of people ask me about kids, and they’re like how much is recommended for kids. Again, it’s still adequate intake, it’s not an RDA. But from birth to six months, it’s 400 milligrams, from seven to 12 months, it’s 860 milligrams, and then from one to two years is 2000 milligrams from four to eight years, it’s 2300. And then as they get like nine and above, it’s like 2300, for women, and then it goes up higher and higher to the 2600. And for men or boys is 2500. And then it goes up to the 3000. And the 3400 milligrams. So used to be 4700 milligrams keeps going down. The 4700 was recommended, because that’s what it was. That’s what research showed it took to increase deficient potassium levels. And I would say most people probably have division potassium levels, and could benefit from this mineral. And so even if, you know you may not be getting close to 2600. But I would say you know, don’t use that as like your cap. And while getting that adequate potassium in your diet is important. We do want to make sure the ratio of sodium potassium is good. I think, you know, last week I talked about how a four to one ratio of potassium to sodium is optimal, but honestly, I’ve seen even three to one be super effective for people. And everyone is different, right? Everyone’s gonna be a little different with what they do best with. 


But I would say most often people really benefit from increasing their potassium intake through food. And a little historical note, because I did talk about like how low sodium low really low sodium intake that hunter gatherers most likely had. It was like 600 to 800 milligrams a day. And their potassium intake was estimated to be much higher, it was estimated to be from 5850 milligrams to 11,300 milligrams per day. And you know, it makes sense kind of depending on what they were eating because he there’s even potassium and meat and seafood and stuff like that there’s there can be actually a lot in that. 


So it’s it’s in a wide range of foods. I don’t think it’s impossible to get a lot of potassium, but I think if you’re not focusing on it, especially with carbohydrates, it can be an easy one to overlook, and then miss and then a couple interesting adequate intake recommendations for other things would be like for hypertension, the recommended intake for potassium is 3500 milligrams per day. And I don’t I would just again like I I’m sure that there’s data to support this, but I I would say like any increase In potassium that you’re currently eating, if you have more, you’re likely going to see an improvement. But they especially saw improvements in systolic blood pressure. And the other thing is that they potassium can allow our cerebral arteries of the brain to carry blood at high pressure without damage. And this is important because a lot of times we’re talking about high blood pressure, and this population that struggles with high blood pressure and the concerns around that. 


A big part of that is that they are at a higher risk of stroke, and especially if we add diabetes to that picture. So increasing potassium intake could reduce that risk for stroke, which I thought was really interesting. So the RDA for hypertension, high blood pressure through 3500 milligrams per day. Again, even if you increased by like 1000 milligrams, you’ll probably see some improvement there. And then just knowing down the road that this also was protective against stroke, I thought was very interesting. And if anyone has like comorbidities of like diabetes, then I would say you really want to work on your potassium intake, because Insulin helps keep it inside the cell. And if you don’t have great insulin levels, then you probably have depleted potassium. And there are studies that I linked on that and we’ll talk about that more of the blood sugar piece. And then just like that final reminder, because I did get some questions even after last week with sodium. Potassium regulates sodium and sodium can impact our potassium levels. 


So if we have low potassium intake, we’re going to increase how much sodium we’re retaining. So low potassium equals high sodium. If we have adequate potassium intake, or if we increase our potassium intake, then we’re going to increase how much sodium is being excreted from the body. And because we’re excreting that sodium equals lower blood pressure, or if someone’s like salt sensitive, then it usually gets rid of any salt sensitivity issues. So potassium and sodium very close relationship. And, like I mentioned previously, like a lot, I got a question that I wanted to make sure I covered with potassium in the kidneys. And it is a concern to have like, it’s alright, I’m a kidney damage. Unless you have chronic kidney failure, you’re fine. 


But potassium can actually decrease the risk of kidney stones. And I want to mention that because that is a concern a lot of people have, and there’s a lot of potassium rich foods that are higher in oxalates. And people always, you know, gave me crap about that on Instagram. I’m like, Just cook the foods and they’ll have less oxalates. Or don’t worry about oxalates. Can’t wait to see the YouTube comments after saying that. But if we increase potassium rich food intake, it decreases our risk of kidney stones. And there’s certain types of potassium supplements that doctors will even use to reduce kidney stones. So it’s, it’s just one of those tricky things, it’s like, there’s so many benefits with the potassium, and the kidneys and blood pressure. But also like if you’re taking medication or have a specific health history, then like you need to be careful with your intake. 


But again, you know, just focus on food, and I think we’ll be okay. Password blood sugar, then we’ll get into the thyroid, and then we’ll talk about what causes a deficiency. So potassium and blood sugar, it’s gonna affect our blood sugar in three main ways. One, potassium helps get glucose inside the cells. And remember, it helps kind of store it, but it also helps support optimal blood sugar levels. So it has an insulin like effect, we want glucose to go inside the cell, we don’t want it to just hang out in our system, because then it’s going to lead to more and more insulin being released, and eventually it can cause insulin resistance. And then, you know, high blood sugar is not good for us, it can damage our organs. So potassium is awesome, because it helps shuttle that glucose inside the cell. 


Number one, and it’s interesting because a lot of potassium rich foods, not all of them, but a lot of them are also rich in carbohydrates. And I’m like nature’s just so smart. The other way is that it is involved with that conversion of glucose, so it helps us store it. So it helps us get inside the cell and helps us store it for future use. If we don’t have enough glycogen just stored form of glucose in our liver, or muscle tissue, it’s very stressful, especially the liver. We also need thyroid hormone in order to store glycogen in the liver, which we’ll talk about. Potassium and thyroid have a very big impact on each other. But it does potassium does help us store that glycogen for later use. When we don’t have that fuel source, our body’s going to use an alternative one. 


So if we say we don’t have a lot of liver stored in art, or glycogen stored in our liver, that our body’s going to utilize an alternative fuel source typically made from stress hormones, because remember, your body’s going to compensate. So if your glucose levels are too low, say it’s between a meal. Maybe you worked out happening eaten for a while, or you just haven’t eaten that much day in general, or it’s at nighttime and you’re sleeping, of course, you’re not going to be eating and your blood sugar levels drop, you’re going to release stress hormones, which are then going to break down some glucose from your liver to keep those levels steady. If we cannot do that, we’re going to use an alternative fuel source, which is going to typically be coming from breaking down things like muscle tissue. And that’s just not great, and it’s more stressful. 


So the more we can store in our liver, the less of a burden, it’s going to be on our adrenal glands, because we’re going to be releasing less stress hormones. So potassium is huge for shuttling glucose in the cells, it’s also important for storing it for future energy needs. And then finally, it’s important for carbohydrate metabolism. So if we think of how we’re using carbs to make energy, that’s what carbohydrate metabolism is. And it’s it helps power an enzyme. So when I talked in the first episode about why minerals are so important, I said how they’re cofactors. They’re like spark plugs, and they help kick off reactions. This is how they’re doing it potassium helps this specific enzyme called pyruvate kinase. Not important.


 But like if you want to know there it is, it helps get that enzyme working properly. And that’s part of the final step of glycolysis. And glycolysis is just using glucose to make energy. So that that can help your metabolism run all the different organ systems in the body keep things going. So potassium is important for shuttling storing and then converting glucose into ATP for energy. And if we even just look at the research around, like, what are some associations with potassium and blood sugar, not necessarily causation. But there is a lot of high association with people that have a higher potassium intake, they have a much reduced risk of type two diabetes. And like thyroid conditions, which isn’t shocking when you think about how important potassium is for keeping healthy blood sugar levels, because that’s the thing, it’s not just, yes, it’s important for like, using glucose as energy, it’s important for storing and converting. 


But it’s also just important for maintaining healthy glucose levels, that’s when we can’t do that. That’s when we start to release more insulin and we can become insulin resistant. Or we start using alternative fuel sources. And then we reach burnout. And we’re not sure why. So it’s it’s so important for just keeping things functioning optimally, so that you can feel good and live in a way where you’re not struggling with a lot of symptoms. last aspect of potassium and blood sugar I want to talk about because I think it’s I mean, I don’t know, maybe maybe no one’s listening to this podcast that’s uses insulin. But I think it’s really interesting either way. So there’s kind of like two populations we’ll talk about one is a someone that has diabetes that is not using insulin. And then the other take we’re going to look at is someone that is using insulin that has diabetes. So if we think about it, number one, like insulin resistance lowers how much potassium you absorb, we see that very clearly in the research. And then people with less potassium release less insulin. So it’s like this vicious cycle, right, so but that’s for someone that’s not using insulin. 


So there’s one study that there’s a lot of other ones that have been replicated since but they found that potassium depletion was associated with a decrease in pancreatic beta cell sensitivity to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, with a reduction in insulin release. So what this means is that they found that people that had low potassium had less sense their beta cells and their pancreas, which that’s what releases insulin, they had less sensitivity to a high blood sugar level. Because normally, you know, our bodies are constantly looking out for us, our brain is sensing everything. If our brain senses high blood sugar levels, then your pancreas is going to be notified, hey, those beta cells need to release insulin. If our if we’re not as sensitive to that high blood sugar level, because of these low potassium levels, then we’re going to be making less insulin. low potassium also leads to not as strong on insulin release. So it’s like this vicious cycle of people struggling with low potassium, so they have a harder time managing their blood sugar. And then that mismanagement of blood sugar leads to more difficulty having adequate potassium levels.


 So you know, it just kind of goes and goes and goes, but what was interesting when I was reading the studies are like, you know, for people that aren’t using insulin, it’s just so important to have adequate potassium intake and we’ll talk about insulin second. I think it’s important for both populations, but especially for those that are not using insulin. I feel like they could probably restore depending on you know, nutrition, lifestyle, health history, restore a lot of that function and improve their insulin if they were increasing their potassium intake through food. And then when it comes to insulin, for the population that uses insulin, it’s a little different. So because they’re using insulin that insulin can actually help, it basically improves how our sodium potassium pump works.


 So if you remember from the last episode, we talked a lot about the sodium potassium pump. So it’s this pump on all of our cells, and it helps it pump sodium outside of the cell. Remember, that’s our extracellular mineral electrolyte, and then it pumps sodium ions inside the cell, because that’s our intracellular electrolyte. So insulin, it helps make this pump more effective. And it makes it so that we’re getting more and more potassium inside the cells. But that’s lowering our blood level. So people that utilize insulin can experience low potassium levels in the blood are hypokalemia, because it’s increasing how much potassium is getting stored inside our tissues. And if we have low levels in the blood, then that could cause other problems. So it’s still important to like hyperglycemia X, remember, the potassium gets the insulin inside the cell. So it’s still important for both populations to take in potassium rich foods, but I would be much more cautious of potassium levels of someone that was using insulin, since that is just going to keep storing and storing potassium. But just very interesting. This population also typically struggles with blood pressure. 


And it makes me wonder, because they’re storing more insulin and releasing more sodium into the blood. You know, is that part of why are sort of storing more potassium and releasing more sodium into blood? Is that why? Because it that sodium retention could increase their blood pressure. Just interesting, you know, what would happen if they increase their potassium intake would their blood pressure decrease? Who knows, but just something to consider. For those that are have blood sugar concerns, maybe you use insulin, maybe you don’t, and how effective potassium can be for that? Okay, potassium and thyroid health. Talks about that sodium potassium pump, right? Thyroid Hormone active thyroid hormone, so T three is really important for helping that pump function well, but say for some reason the pump function is reduced, then we’re going to have less transport of that thyroid hormone. 


So we need enough thyroid hormone for the pump to work well the sodium potassium pump and we need enough sodium and potassium to support the transport of thyroid hormone. So in sodium is also important. In general, I talked about last week, we use the sodium iodide symporter, which transports iodine which makes thyroid hormone so we need sodium to make thyroid hormone for sure. But as far as like transporting it around the body, we need both sodium and potassium. And then again, because potassium helps shuttle things into the cells, it will also shuttle thyroid hormone. But active T three is really important for the sodium potassium pumps. This is a big reason why people will have a hard time increasing sodium and potassium levels if they have hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is very widely associated with lack of electrolytes like electrolyte imbalances is what they’re typically calling it in the research. 


And it’s typically because of the effect that it has on the pump. So and what that makes me ask is, how is your stress? Are you eating enough? How’s your blood sugar balance? And I think there’s so many things you can go through to optimize both. But we kind of overlook the effect that thyroid health can have on sodium potassium levels and only focus on sodium, potassium and thyroid, but it is definitely a bi directional relationship for sure. Alright, let’s talk about I went through all the different things potassium does talked about potassium and blood sugar, insulin, thyroid health, blood pressure, the RDA is all that stuff. We want to get potassium mostly from food. Let’s talk about what causes potassium deficiency because that’s what most people are struggling with, or even just like sub optimal potassium levels, and things you know, if not having adequate levels that are going to be functional and supportive of our health overall, there are quite a few pretty specific ones. I think, you know, it’s not an all inclusive list, but this is what I look at if someone is struggling with low potassium. So number one, excessive vitamin D supplementation that can cause potassium wasting, same thing with magnesium. I talked about that in the magnesium episode. Because if we get magnesium wasting magnesium helps keep potassium inside the cells then you can get potassium wasting as well. 


Lack of zinc is a big one because that will reduce the absorption of potassium. This is often caused by magnesium, which I’m like, I don’t want to confuse anyone but minerals all work together, right? They all work together, they’re synergistic. Magnesium is really important for zinc, which is also important for potassium. If we have a deficiency in magnesium, then that can lead to a deficiency in zinc, which can lead to a deficiency in potassium. A lot of times this deficiency of magnesium or zinc or both, is linked to heavy metals, because heavy metals, certain ones like mercury, and aluminum, especially, those will bind and replace, and use up more magnesium and zinc. So heavy metals increase our the burden on the body and how many minerals that we need. And then that can lead deficiencies in other minerals as well. Excess copper is also a big one that can cause potassium loss. So if you have too much copper that’s not bioavailable, so that means it’s not bound into a protein called super low plasmin. I talked about this in my copper deep dive episode, which is really common, like if I think what causes excess copper, it’s like usually high estrogen hormonal birth control copper ad, and just inflammation and stress in the body in general, because when we have inflammation and stress, it leads to other nutrient deficiencies. 


And then that means that copper doesn’t get bound up to that soil classroom like it’s supposed to. So excess copper can cause potassium loss. Stress is a huge one, obviously. I mean, stress is hard. And sometimes it can feel like frustrating because it’s like, well, what does that even mean? It’s not just mental emotional, I would say like all physiological stressors as well lead to imbalances in our minerals, and anything that’s going to lead to a stress hormone release. And sometimes we don’t even feel those things like a low blood sugar, you might not even really notice and then you’re releasing stress hormones. Alcohol is another big one, mainly because of how it impacts other minerals. So alcohol can actually cause like excess iron, and then that can cause low copper, but it can make copper become unbound. And then that excess copper member can cause potassium loss. Insulin resistance, also, obviously, we just talked about that it’s going to lower the absorption of potassium, mercury and other toxic metals, fluoride, they can all block potassium channels. So not only do they bind to other minerals, you can block potassium channels. thymine deficiency is a big one.


 And I’ll talk about that one in the next section when I talk about mineral interactions, even though it’s a vitamin, and then prednisone or inhalers. So I have seen this a lot in clients that are using inhalers. I mean, it doesn’t mean we’re gonna stop using inhalers, right? But I was like, That’s so interesting, because like taking prednisone for too long, like a steroid can lead to insulin resistance. So you’d never you’re always your doctor is always gonna want to like taper you off a high dose or like, minimize how many how much you’re taking your how long you’re taking it, because it can cause insulin resistance. And I’m like, is it because it depletes potassium, probably. But I thought that was interesting. And then calcium loss. So if you have really high calcium on a hair test that can lead to losing those solvent minerals like sodium and potassium. And then finally, magnesium deficiency means you lose more potassium in the urine. So these are like the big ones. But the overarching theme here, like what causes these things, sometimes they’re obvious, like excess vitamin D, alcohol, that sort of thing, prednisone, but sometimes it’s like less obvious of like, stress, like so stress is the main thing. And then that can show up differently and impact each person differently based on their health history, their nutrition, their environment, all those things. So a lot of it goes back to stress, but there’s some specific ones too. Alright, let’s go through mineral interactions. I’ve already talked a lot about sodium, so I’m not going to go through this a ton. 


So low potassium intake means sodium retention, sodium retention through stress, and all dosterone means we’re gonna have less potassium. And then if we have adequate potassium intake, we have sodium loss. Or if we have excess of we’re taking a lot of potassium, we’re gonna have more sodium loss. So they just help keep each other in balance, like we need enough potassium to help keep sodium and fluid imbalance. If that potassium intake drops, then and salt intake is too high, then we’re going to have water buildup in the blood, that’s going to create more pressure on the walls of our blood vessels. And then that can cause high blood pressure. And then that potassium deficiency can also increase salt reabsorption in the kidneys, which can lead to high blood pressure, you know, fluid imbalances, we just always want to make sure that we have those two minerals in balance, and it’s usually a four to one ratio, or a three to one ratio is optimal for potassium to sodium.


 So just think of a sodium potassium pump, they all impact each other. And then calcium. This is interesting because potassium like I talked about in the beginning with bone health, but how So you can improve calcium regulation, so we get less calcium leaving the bones in the urine. And this is why having enough potassium is really important for bone health. So I think I talked about bone health and the calcium episode, but I really felt mostly focused on like magnesium and boron and iron. But potassium is important for it to having a high calcium levels from something like hyperparathyroidism that can usually caused by magnesium deficiency, or a boron deficiency that can cause low potassium levels. So that’s definitely a recipe for disaster for the thyroid. If we’re gonna have excess calcium or slow metabolism, and then we’re gonna have eventually depleted potassium, that’s like, your body’s not going to respond to stress, while you’re probably not going to have good energy. adrenals aren’t going to be like super happy. And we do have a thyroid ratio on our hair mineral tests, it’s the calcium potassium ratio.


 So high thyroid ratio means a slow thyroid hormone used in the body. And then low thyroid ratio means we use thyroid hormone faster, typically, but ratios are tricky, because you still have to keep it in context to your test results, because you can have a low thyroid ratio, which means like faster thyroid function, but you could have really low minerals overall, it’s just the ratio between that calcium potassium is a little off. So you know, don’t hang everything on the ratios, but they are really helpful. So that’s calcium, potassium can improve the absorption of it if we have excess calcium that can cause potassium deficiency. And then magnesium, that’s that’s really where the potassium wasting comes in. If we don’t have enough magnesium, we actually have magnesium deficiency that can promote potassium deficiency because we’re getting rid of more potassium. And there is I found this study where it talks about magnesium deficiency aggravates low potassium levels in the blood and leads to basically they treated it with potassium. So they’re talking about how many magnesium deficiency exacerbates potassium wasting when they increased magnesium intake it that did help restore some electrolyte balance, and potassium and electrolyte so it helped restore some potassium balance. The tricky thing with magnesium is that if you it also helps increase aldosterone, which retains sodium but not potassium. So it’s, this is more from like an intracellular perspective, because magnesium and potassium, both intracellular minerals, but we ended up magnesium to keep Tassimo inside the cell, if we take too much magnesium. 


So if we have a magnesium deficiency, it can actually lead to more potassium being excreted from the body in the urine. And there’s studies that I linked that show this. But you know, magnesium is a tricky one, because if you also have low sodium and low potassium, you don’t want to increase magnesium too quickly, because it’s going to lead to a harder time raising your sodium because I talked about this last week. Magnesium is really important, but it does increase our decreases aldosterone. And aldosterone is a mineral that leads to more sodium retention. So if we increase magnesium, and we have less sodium retention, yes, it will help potassium, but it’ll make it very difficult to raise sodium. And honestly, I typically see on hair mineral testing that it’s hard to raise either sodium or potassium, if we’re supplementing with too much magnesium too quickly. So yes, we need magnesium to absorb and keep potassium inside the cell. But it is very nuanced when it comes to sodium levels as well because of how magnesium lowers aldosterone, which lowers sodium retention. So we need magnesium, but we need to be careful with it depending on other mineral levels.


 And the last big interaction that we’re gonna go through is vitamin b1 or thymine, which is not a mineral but I wanted to cover it because it’s one I get questions about a lot. There are animal studies. I could not find any human studies, but I have this is something it’s like when you go through hair mineral testing, and you’re learning about the whole process. It is mentioned because there’s vitamin and mineral interactions as well. It’s mentioned for potassium. And there are animal studies that show thymine deficiency can cause potassium wasting. So it’s intracellular. So you see interesting potassium being excreted into the urine. And then you’ll eventually get low levels of intracellular potassium. So not just blood levels, a lot of the studies we’re looking at are hypokalemia, like low levels of potassium in the blood. But thymine can actually lead to low levels of potassium inside ourselves. And it does this because of how thymine deficiency increases sodium retention. So if you have low thymi, and low B one, you get more sodium retention, which means more potassium loss. And animal studies have shown that giving an IV dose of thymine helps to restore electrolyte balance between sodium and potassium, and potassium being intracellularly. 


So I thought that was really interesting. I don’t, I don’t necessarily use a lot of thymine in practice, it really depends on like that person’s health history, if someone has a history of like abusing alcohol or having like an increase, I mean, I think a lot of people go through seasons of their life where they increase alcohol, maybe drink it more often. Or have like any other health, you know, digestions, big if they have like poor stomach acid levels, sometimes I will utilize B vitamins that are not necessarily like from a food source, they’re more like synthetic. But I haven’t necessarily seen that, like improve potassium on a hair test. And some of the reason for that could be that B vitamins increase our metabolism. And if we do not have the energy to back that up, because our minerals are low, we’ve or we’re in that like end stage of stress and our body like doesn’t have the resources that I don’t necessarily think it would up your intracellular potassium, I think it’s good to know and I think it could be something to consider for certain people. But, you know, I don’t I wouldn’t say that that’s like a clinical pearl that I think works for everyone. 


Okay, that is everything. I’m just gonna go through the Instagram questions. Now. There, there are quite a bit, I’m gonna try to go through these quickly. But you know, hope you like nerding out about potassium. Okay, so what is the best way to submit potassium, if not getting that from food? Honestly, I just don’t really like potassium supplements, it’s really hard to find ones that don’t cause loose stools, which if you have diarrhea from potassium supplement, you’re losing more potassium, right? So just, I don’t use them with clients, I have people either increase coconut water, or they add interleaf, aloe vera juice, those are both very high sources of potassium. And then just focus on potassium rich foods, like you can get a lot of potassium from food, you can easily get 5000 milligrams a day, if you know which foods have high potassium. And I have a breakdown of how to get that much. It’s like a minimum of 4700. But if you added up all the potassium from the day, it’s closer to like 5500 milligrams. That’s for people inside Patreon. But yeah, I would still focus on food. And because if you I would say like, if you Why can’t you get enough from food? Do you have like food sensitivities? Then you might want to look at supporting digestion. 


But it is, I feel like you if you know what foods are high, it’s not hard. Okay, is it possible to only be low on potassium? I’m craving all potassium rich foods, I would think typically no only because minerals all interact with each other. But I do think that potassium is probably the best mineral to start focusing on first for pretty much anyone. So I would say follow those cravings and start supporting your potassium levels. Does liquid retention or fluid retention? I think they mean come from an imbalance in sodium and potassium. Yes. So like I talked about this briefly, but I’ll say it one more time because I feel like people asked me this over and over and over. Adequate potassium helps keep sodium in fluid in balance. So if we have low if we are if our intake of potassium drops, or if we start increasing our salt intake too high to balance out that potassium, then water is going to build up in our blood creates more pressure on the walls of our blood vessels. This can cause high blood pressure. But it can also lead to displacing that potassium from ourselves in sodium and then water fluid comes out of the cell it goes into the blood because it wants to be where sodium is to even it out because it doesn’t want that to be too high. And then we get fluid retention because it’s like fluids moving where it shouldn’t be. But yes, it does. Does cause fluid retetion. How heavy metals potassium levels I I’m gonna get it this is like a whole episode. So I am gonna get into this in the bonus episode in the case study of what can cause low potassium on a hair test that like recurring over time, but it’s mostly of how they impact other minerals. 


Okay, what to look for if potassium isn’t improving stuck at one on a hair mineral tests on repeat consuming 5000 milligrams daily, I would say you probably want to look at heavy metals. But join Patreon. I’m it’s so much to go through, but it’ll and you’ll understand what the visual because I’m going to have a test and everything up. Okay? If you have very low potassium, how do you know when you can start magnesium to support your levels? I would look at your sodium levels is your sodium good on your hair test? Because if so, then you could probably tolerate some magnesium and you just want to go really slow, like start with 100 milligrams and work up very slowly. If you start to feel anxious, more stressed. All the things that are the opposite of what magnesium is supposed to do for you, then you’re probably not tolerating it and going too fast. does potassium impact estrogen and progesterone? So number I would say yes, like indirectly because it impacts our thyroid, our blood sugar, insulin, carbohydrate metabolism, all those things are going to impact our sex hormones. They’ll just be like the last things to change. And you do need enough T three in order to ovulate and make a healthy amount of progesterone. 


So I would say yes, indirectly. And then our hormones do impact potassium levels. If we have excess estrogen that we’re going to have more aldosterone released, which means you’re going to retain more sodium and have more potassium loss, which is why high estrogen can lead to fluid retention. Okay, hot, swollen feet and clothing leaving heavy and dense. Should I look for low potassium, I would just start experimenting with lope with higher potassium foods and see if it helps. Okay, what potassium what nutrients need to be taken with potassium of chronically depleted? Um, it’s not that you need like cofactors for potassium, like things that have to be taken with it in order for it to be used. But I would look at like the ones we talked about above like zinc, magnesium, thymine. But I would test I would not just supplement with those you want to see like, you know, do you have high heavy metals in your hair test? Do you need to work on like excreting those a little bit more? It’s hard to it’s hard because if potassium is low, not only potassium is going to be low. Okay, risk or benefits of Whole Foods versus cream of tartar or other supplement form. So cream of tartar is just potassium bicarbonate. 


Whole Foods are not going to cause health issues. For most people unless you’re in like end stage kidney disease. Supplements are absorbed really well and even better than some foods. So I would say like if you have healthy kidneys, there’s not necessarily a health concern. But I would you know, potassium rich foods are also rich and other minerals. So when we start getting rid of the foods and only doing the supplements that we’re missing on other things, like calcium, for example, a lot of potassium rich foods are also rich in calcium. And so it’s like if you do a potassium supplement, then it’s like how are we gonna get enough calcium? You know, so just focus on food.


Okay, chronic loose stools and potassium how to supplement without making it worse. I a lot of the different types lead to loose stools, I would really try to focus on food, I would say why are you taking potassium supplement number one, and then the two that are less likely to cause loose stools are a liquid potassium chloride, not the capsules, the liquid, and then potassium glucan. Eight. But you know if I would, I would try it food first, and then see if you can get enough there. Because again, if you’re having loose stools, you’re just going to lose more and more potassium. Okay, why does lack of potassium cause cramps. So because calcium helps with like, relaying signals from your brain to the muscles to stimulate contractions, you can also end up having contractions too much or not having that release, because the potassium levels aren’t adequate to relay those signals properly. So you can end up with cramps. How to know when potassium is too high, I have two friends has happened to and it was scary. I would say test. And like, you know, what were they taking supplements would be my first guest. And I think that’s the issue when we hear and this is why when I talk about minerals I’m like it’s not about supplements. It’s about food. And it’s about your stress because stress is what pushes our minerals out of balance. And when we focus on food, you’re going to have a balance of minerals and it’s really hard to overdo minerals from food. You have to really be trying or maybe you have some other big imbalances like copper or something that we’re like you should avoid excess high copper foods. 


But I would say for potassium for most people if you’re eating 4700 milligrams even 5000 milligrams from Food and you don’t have kidney issues and you’re not taking things like spirulina lactone, which is it helps like, retain more potassium, then you should be okay. But if you are taking potassium supplements, then you they are absorbed really well. And if you’re taking a really high amounts, maybe you have other minerals that are out of balance. Like if you have a lot of and then you’re also stressed, like, if you’re losing potassium, then that could be dangerous. Like, for example, like if you’re having a lot of potassium loss, say like, you’re taking a blood pressure medication, and it’s leading to potassium loss, then you have a lot of potassium in the bloodstream that’s also increasing from maybe like a supplement, then, that’s not a good combination, and could be dangerous. But I’d be interested to see like, what happened with your friends and like, how did they get such high potassium levels? And then keep it in context to yourself? What’s your health history? Okay, is there an increasing potassium in pregnancy or postpartum the daily recommended durations are higher like it’s only like 300 milligrams higher and 200 milligrams higher, but salt is much higher salt need is much higher. And I talked about this in the last episode. And if you’re increasing your salt, I just think it’s really important to increase your potassium to.


 Okay, and then the last one is a question about spirulina lactone. I was on it for 10 years, I had potassium blood tests every three months, yay for your doctor. Her potassium was always normal, then went off sparen lactone, three years ago, and all hair mineral tests have low potassium, even as other minerals have improved, have wondered about the lingering effects of Spironolactone. So I don’t know that. I don’t know if this is related to spur on a lactone because spider lactone is a potassium sparing diuretic, so it prevents your body from absorbing too much salt, and it keeps your potassium levels from getting too low. It’s used to treat low blood levels of potassium, it could be pulling potassium from your tissues in order to keep your blood levels optimal. It also could have depleted sodium levels, which eventually can deplete magnesium and potassium. So I would say give yourself a little more time, which I know can be frustrating because it sounds like even as other minerals have improved, you haven’t seen that change in potassium. But since you were on that medication, which impacts other minerals, it could just take much longer for your body to have a true increase in that tissue potassium. So most things I would say like if you can give it a little more time, but just continue to be consistent. And then of course, like assess heavy metals and all that kind of stuff. We’re going to talk about it in the bonus episode next. But I would say I just be very curious of like what the actual I know you went off it three years ago, but like how long have you been eating potassium rich foods for? And maybe do you have enough magnesium? Do you need more magnesium, you know, that sort of thing. But potentially you could just need more time. 


Okay, that is our potassium episode. I hope this is helpful works very closely with sodium. That wraps up our macro minerals. So the macro minerals are calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, my goal was to go through those first and then from here, I’m going to the next episode is going to be all about zinc, which is going to be a really fun one. And then I’ll cover iron deep dive and selenium. And those are more like supportive minerals. They don’t have like all the you know sodium potassium of such big interaction. Same thing with calcium, magnesium, but they’re still super interesting. So yeah, if you guys want that bonus episode content, I’d love to see you on Patreon. The link is in the description. And I’ll see you in the next episode.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

Master Your Minerals

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