Potassium and Diabetes
Diabetes is a disease that comes with a host of health concerns. One of the biggest areas of concern for patients and carers alike is the threat to kidney health. This new research hopes to shine a light on the positive effects of dietary potassium intake on kidney function in diabetes.
Diabetes is a heightened concern worldwide, leading to complications, disability, mortality, and higher medical costs. The growing prevalence of obesity has been linked with an increase in the occurrence of type 2 diabetes. Obesity itself is the most important explanatory factor, but there are other metabolic, environmental, and genetic factors that contribute to the diabetes epidemic. Potassium deficiency is a well-established correlate of disturbances in glucose metabolism.
Is There A Link Between Diabetes And Potassium Levels?
It is a question many people with diabetes have been asking their doctors for years. Potassium, a nutrient in foods like bananas, squash, and potatoes might have a link to diabetes. There is some evidence that eating too little potassium might be linked to diabetes.
The main reason for the linkage between the two is the role played by insulin in type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes, a hormone called insulin does not move glucose into your body’s cells which are created by processing the food one eats. Since the body uses glucose for energy but if your body cannot use or store glucose for energy, the sugar circulates in the blood instead. Over time, high levels of sugar in the blood can damage your body and lead to several complications.
Potassium (electrolyte and mineral) keeps the level of bodily fluid in check. There are various things which you can do if you have the proper level of fluid such as:
- Contracting muscles without pain
- Maintaining the heartbeat
- Keeping the brain functioning at its highest capability
To maintain the right level of potassium in your body, you need to make sure you are consuming enough to prevent muscle cramps and spasms, as well as improve your health overall. Potassium is involved in fluid balance regulation and is important for nerve function. So, one can say that there may be a linkage.
Research On The Linkage
As per a recent study, there may be a linkage between type 2 diabetes and potassium levels.
One of the research projects shows, that healthy people have a low level of insulin and glucose but the person who is associated with diabetes has a low level of potassium and a high level of insulin and glucose.
Another conducted research in 2011 discovered that those who take thiazides to cure high blood pressure experienced a loss of electrolytes, such as potassium. It is noted in that this might increase the risk of a person’s suffering from diabetes. Even researchers have linked high blood pressure to potassium levels.
Potassium’s Role In Diabetes
Potassium is an important mineral involved that looks after the normal functioning of all the cells, tissues, and organs of the body. Along with minerals present in the body such as sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium, potassium is a charged particle referred to as an electrolyte. Potassium helps to regulate nerve impulses, control the rhythm of the heart, and promote healthy bone growth and fluid balance. One of the main roles of the kidney is to make sure that potassium level is balanced in the body as too little or more can cause problems.
Reasons For The Fluctuation Of Potassium
Potassium is an essential mineral that your body needs to function properly. It makes up about 6% of your total body weight and plays a key role in many important physiological processes. On average, people aged 14 and above should intake about 4,700 milligrams, or 4.7 grams, of potassium per day. Even if one is getting as much potassium as you need, your levels may still become too high or low.
There can be numerous reasons, one being the change in the sodium levels as an increase in sodium level makes potassium level down. Other grounds include kidney problems, improper blood pH, hormonal change, frequent urination, vomiting, etc. Along with these several diabetes medications can also affect potassium levels. For instance, if diabetes is not being controlled by the person who is taking insulin it can lower the potassium level.
How Does Potassium Affect Insulin?
The main cause for the rise in type 2 diabetes is obesity. If you are overweight or have obesity, gaining even a little weight can cause a lot of problems. Weight gain can make it harder for your body to use insulin and put sugar into storage. That is why weight loss is key to controlling high blood sugar and preventing diabetes.
If your potassium levels are too low, it can make your body less effective at using insulin. That may lead to high blood sugar. Studies show that people with low potassium levels release less insulin and have higher blood sugar levels than those with normal potassium levels.
It is noted that there is not enough evidence to state that low potassium directly results in diabetes. So, it is advised to check your potassium levels by the doctor if one is already at risk for diabetes.
Why There Is A Low Level Of Potassium In The Body?
One’s potassium level can be tested by the doctor using a blood or urine sample. It is an important part of one’s routine physical exam which should be conducted often. It is suggested that women need 2,600 milligrams while men need 3,400 milligrams of potassium daily. Various medicines also lower the level of potassium including certain diuretic drugs that help in treating high blood pressure which makes the kidney put sodium and potassium in the urine.
Diabetic People With Low Potassium Level
If a person is already suffering from diabetes, a low potassium level may be a reason due to a complication called diabetic ketoacidosis. When the body cannot produce enough insulin to use sugar as fuel, it breaks down fat to use as energy instead.
The breakdown of fat then releases chemicals called ketones in the blood and this can build up to threatening levels in your body and cause various symptoms like thirst, nausea, weakness, and shortness of breath.
The fluids and insulin suggested by the doctor to treat diabetic ketoacidosis can make the potassium levels go down. The ketones thus along with high blood sugar can lead to potassium loss through the kidney.
How To Increase Potassium Level?
Your body uses potassium in all sorts of ways: to maintain fluids and electrolyte balance, to keep muscles and nerves working properly, and to help generate energy. That is why it is a key nutrient. The low level can lead to constipation, tiredness, and weakness.
One can increase the level by the intake of food with high potassium levels, including:
- Dried fruits like apricots, prunes, and raisins
- Vegetables such as squash, spinach, potatoes, and broccoli
- Beans and lentils
- Fortified milk and orange juice
- Chicken breast, salmon, and beef
Suppose one is still lacking potassium in the body. In that case, the doctor advises the dietary supplements containing potassium chloride but some of them contain a form like potassium citrate or potassium phosphate.
Associated Problems With High Potassium
Hyperkalemia is a type of electrolyte imbalance that occurs when there is too much potassium in the body. It can be a problem in people with poorly controlled diabetes, especially if they take medication that makes them dehydrated. High blood sugar can damage your kidneys. But the kidneys normally remove extra potassium from your body and people with diabetes and high levels of potassium are more likely to have heart problems and other complications. A low-potassium diet and proper blood glucose control can help protect your kidneys in addition to helping you feel better overall.
Talk with your doctor about ways to reduce the amount of potassium in your diet. If your potassium is too high, your doctor might suggest tips like these to lower it:
- Take a diet including low potassium
- Take diuretics or potassium binders to remove extra potassium
- Avoiding salt substitutes that have a high level of potassium
- If you are planning to use herbal remedies, do so only under the supervision of a doctor. Herbs can interfere with prescription medications, and some may even cause dangerous reactions when combined with certain other herbs or natural supplements. Before taking any herb, find out what medications you are already taking, and talk to your doctor about drug interactions.
- The best way to avoid low potassium is to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Good blood sugar control will also help keep your potassium at a healthy level.
Ways To Prevent Potassium Levels From Fluctuating
It is important to keep the level in check and avoid the fluctuation of potassium levels. One can follow the below steps:
- Consuming 4.7 grams of potassium every day can help you maintain healthy levels of potassium. To do this, keep a food journal and actively research how much potassium the foods you eat contain.
- If you work out regularly and sweat a lot, consider adding a post-workout banana smoothie to your routine. This can replenish some of the lost potassium and help balance your body’s electrolyte levels.
- If you are not getting enough potassium, you may want to talk to your doctor. They can help you figure out what is going on, and together you can create a plan.
- Monitoring and diet planning can help in controlling potassium levels and in preventing diabetes.
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