Potassium is an essential mineral that is needed for proper functioning of each cell in the human body. As an electrolyte, it conducts electricity throughout the body. The mineral is critical for functioning of the muscles, the digestive system and the heart. If you suspect a potassium deficiency, consult your physician for guidelines on how much to take. Do not supplement with potassium without medical guidance as it may interact with other medications or affect certain medical conditions.
Low Potassium Levels
Having too little potassium is known as hypokalemia. Normally, hypokalemia is caused by an underlying medical condition or a medication rather than diet. According to PubMed Health, a small drop in potassium does not create hypokalemia, but a significant decline in potassium can be life-threatening. Symptoms of hypokalemia include abnormal heart rhythms, fatigue, constipation or muscle weakness. A blood test ordered by a doctor is the only way to assess your potassium levels.
Potassium Supplement Dosage
The dosage for potassium supplements varies depending on your condition. In 2004, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine established an adequate intake level based on previous research. For adults age 19 and older, the recommended dose is 4,700 mg per day. This level may help to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of salt and decrease the chances of developing kidney stones. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports, however, that the recommended daily intake for dietary potassium is 2,000 mg for adults. Your physician can determine the appropriate amount for your condition and medical circumstances.
Sources of Potassium
Most people get enough potassium through diet. Fruits and vegetables contain the highest levels of potassium. Some foods that have high levels of potassium include bananas, potatoes, plums, oranges, raisins, tomatoes, artichoke, spinach, lima beans and acorn squash. A baked potato with skin contains 936 mg of potassium, the highest amounts of out of most foods. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the average adult male consumes approximately 3,100 mg of potassium a day. An adult female receives 2,300 mg a day from food sources.
Consult your physician before taking a potassium supplement. Too much potassium in the blood can also create complications. Your medical provider will be able to provide you with an exact dose for the supplement based on your deficiency. Potassium supplements may also be contraindicated if you have certain disease or are taking other medications. Side effects from potassium supplements are generally mild and may include diarrhea, stomach irritation and nausea. Other, more severe side effects have been noted at higher doses of potassium and include muscle weakness and abnormal heart rate.