Potassium and sodium are electrolytes – substances that in chemical solutions have the property of generating electricity. These electrolytes exist within the human body and maintaining their balance is essential for the proper functioning of cells and organs.
Summer is always accompanied by high temperatures and humidity. Consequently, we sweat more and lose salts, essential elements for the body. In particular, sodium and potassium are two of the most important salts for our body, for the proper functioning of the basic organs.
Sodium is found mainly in the fluid that surrounds the cells, that is, it is located in the extracellular space. When it binds to chlorine, a substance called sodium chloride is produced, which is what is commonly called salt.
Sodium plays an important role in regulating the body’s water. Also, the entry and exit of sodium from certain cells is necessary to carry out basic functions of the body.
For example, in order to perform processes in the brain, nervous system, and muscles it is necessary to create electrical signals for communication between cells. These electrical signals are generated by the movement of sodium. Thus, too large or too small concentration of sodium in the body can cause dysfunction in these cells and in extreme cases even death.
Sodium is also responsible for:
- Regulating the acid-base balance of the body
- Maintaining the balance of fluids inside the cells
- Protecting the body from dehydration
- Favoring muscle activity and nervous system function
- Regulating blood pressure.
The amounts of sodium are regulated by aldosterone, a hormone that interferes with dangerous situations, to increase the absorption of water and sodium.
For example, when we sweat and lose a lot of sodium, the body realizes that something is wrong and mobilizes aldosterone, instructing it to absorb more sodium.
If, on the contrary, the amount of sodium is too large, the hormone is mobilized to reduce it. Sodium is absorbed by the small intestine and its elimination occurs through urine and sweat.
➕ More Sodium
Cases of increased sodium, the so-called “hypernatremia”, can be observed: After taking very salty foods, in cases of dehydration, after fever or diarrhea, in cases of hypercalcemia, hyperkalemia, etc. In general, in all these cases the most common symptoms are an increase in blood pressure and fluid retention.
➖ Less Sodium
A severe drop in the level of sodium, the so-called “hyponatremia”, can result from the use of diuretics, diseases of the kidneys, burns, hemorrhages, diarrhea, surgical interventions. In all these cases the symptoms are cramps and muscle weakness, dizziness, a drop in blood pressure.
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Potassium, the other basic electrolyte of the body. It is found mainly inside the cells, that is, in the intracellular space.
Potassium plays an important role in the smooth regulation of heart rate and the functioning of the muscles of the body.
A large increase or decrease in potassium levels in the body can have devastating effects on the nervous system and can cause up to potentially fatal arrhythmias in the heart.
Potassium is an indispensable component, because:
- Controls the acid-base balance
- Regulates the processes of transmission of nerve movements
- Favors muscle contraction (cramps are an indication of low potassium levels)
- Adjusts the pressure
- Intervenes in the synthesis of glycogen
The main source of potassium intake in everyday life is fruits and green vegetables.
➕ More Pottasium
Thanks to the ability of the kidneys to eliminate excess potassium, it is quite difficult to present elevated levels. “Hyperkalemia”, however, can be observed in cases: kidney dysfunction, muscle fatigue, taking medications to lower blood pressure, diets poor in sodium, skin burns.
➖ Less Pottasium
Hypokalemia can be observed when the body has large losses of potassium. This can be observed in diseases of the kidneys, after multiple vomiting or diarrhea, after taking specific medications, such as diuretics, etc.
In general, the symptoms that accompany the lack of potassium can be numbness, muscle fatigue, cramps, drowsiness, nausea, anorexia, abnormal heart rhythms.
Unlike sodium, it is more difficult to replenish potassium in our bodies through food. The kidneys eliminate it very easily, making it more difficult to retake it.
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