WHY IS POTASSIUM NECESSARY IN OUR BODY?
Potassium is one of the many ions that the body requires for use in maintaining electrolyte balance in the body. Sodium, Chloride, Calcium, Magnesium and phosphorus are the other important electrolytes. Potassium is involved in maintaining the normal functioning of the cell membranes and cell as we all know is the “basic, structural, functional and biological unit of all living beings”.
The daily intake of potassium in human beings in adults is 4.7 gm/day. Some of the major functions affected by the serum potassium levels in blood include:-
- Muscle contractility –
Potassium is responsible for maintaining adequate contractility in the skeletal and smooth muscles of the body.
- Maintenance of ph balance in blood –
Potassium helps maintain optimum pH values in blood by acting as a blood buffering electrolyte.
- Maintenance of water levels in the body –
It is also essential for keeping an optimum level of water content in all the body tissues of the body.
- Maintenance of blood pressure –
The electrolyte balance in the body especially between sodium and potassium can help maintain blood pressure values within normal limits. If sodium levels in blood are too high, increase in the consumption of potassium leads to a compensatory lowering in the sodium levels. This is how blood pressure regulation is achieved with potassium intake.
The level of sodium and potassium is always so synchronized that the body itself adjusts its levels in blood. But, nowadays due to an increased intake of the junk food in diet, sodium intake has increased markedly leading to a fall in blood potassium levels. It is recommended to always supplement potassium through natural sources like Potatoes, Sweet potato, Bananas, Citrus fruits, Avocados and most meats.
WHY POTASSIUM IS LIMITED IN KIDNEY FAILURE PATIENTS?
Potassium is the major electrolyte component of the body. In the above discussion we have chalked out the major functions of the potassium consumption in our body and its optimum blood levels. Potassium levels in blood are regulated majorly by the kidneys as any excess of it is directly filtered out from the blood into the urine and excreted out from the body. In patients of renal failure, the kidneys are unable to filter out this potassium from the blood into the urine. As a result the level of potassium in blood rises and leads to a condition known as “HYPERKALEMIA”.
The most serious complications associated with hyperkalemia are cardiac arrhythmias. Severe hyperkalemia can also lead to the stoppage of cardiac activity due to abnormal electrical conduction in the nerves and muscle fibres of the heart. Hyperkalemia can also cause disturbance in the nervous conduction which may even lead to paralysis in rare cases.
Therefore, it is very important to limit the total intake of potassium in kidney patients. The recommendations suggest that the total intake should not be more than 2 gm/day.
PROTEINS – The building blocks of the body
- Proteins are essential for maintaining muscular strength-They are also required for repairing any kind of wear and tear that takes place inside the body.
- Maintenance of Hormonal function – Many hormones in our body are actually proteins, such as insulin and oxytocin. These are responsible for the maintenance of the metabolism of the body and can regulate muscle formation in the body.
- Enzymes are also Proteins – All enzymatic activities will be affected if there is an alteration in the total dietary intake of proteins in the body.
- Immune system – All antibodies are also proteins and serve as the second line of defense for the body.
- A source of energy – Proteins are also a source of energy for the body which can be broken down to simpler products or can be converted into glucose by the process of gluconeogenesis in the liver.
PROTEIN DIET IN KIDNEY PATIENTS
Like most other end products of metabolism, the byproducts of protein breakdown in the body are also excreted out through the kidneys. Therefore, in patients of kidney failure it is very essential to limit the intake of proteins by the kidney so as to prevent the accumulation of the waste products of protein metabolism in the body.
The total dietary intake of proteins for any kidney patient depends on the stage of CKD and other associated medical conditions that the patient is suffering from. Therefore, a proper diet plan has to be chalked out to decide the daily dietary requirement of protein by the patient.
The normal daily intake of proteins recommended for a healthy adult should amount to 10 – 15 % of the diet. In case of the first three stages of CKD, this percentage is good enough. Care has to be taken for patients of stage 4 and ESRD (stage -5 or end stage renal disease) where the amount of daily dietary protein should not be more than 10 % of the total food intake per day.
SODIUM AND ITS DAILY REQUIREMENT FOR THE BODY
Sodium is the main elemental component of the body. It is involved in maintaining proper functioning of each and every cell in the body. Therefore, it is essential for the normal working of the human body. It is responsible for proper nerve conduction and maintenance of the neutrality of the acid –base balance in the body.
The daily requirement of sodium in the human body is up to 2.3 gm/ day. In case of kidney failure, the amount has to be reduced according to the patient condition.
SODIUM INTAKE & ITS LIMITATION IN KIDNEY PATIENTS
In case of kidney failure, the patient is unable to excrete excess amounts of sodium in urine, which gets reabsorbed causing high blood pressure and fluid accumulation in the body.
In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, it is very important to keep a check on the blood pressure levels. If the patient is hypertensive, salt restriction is a must. In patients who have not yet developed high blood pressure, sodium intake has to be monitored and whenever there is need, salt restriction may be imposed.
In patients of ESRD, salt restriction is a must as it may interfere with dialysis and also leads to high blood pressure. It is better to chart out a Diet plan for the daily calorie intake in such patients. It is to be remembered here that low salt foods should not be taken as a substitute as they are mostly rich in potassium. So it is very important to watch out what you are eating before it may become a problem.
AUTHOR BIO –
Dr. Vikram Chauhan is an Ayurvedic practitioner based in Mohali, India. He is spreading the knowledge of ancient healing treatment Ayurveda, not only in India but also abroad. He is CEO and Founder of Planet Ayurveda Products, Planet Ayurveda Clinic and Krishna Herbal Company.
Source – Diet in kidney disease