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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Potassium?

Potassium is a mineral found in many foods and supplements. But you will never see pure potassium in a healthfood store or pharmacy—it's a highly reactive metal that bursts into flames when exposed to water! The potassium you eat, or take as a supplement, is composed of potassium atoms bound to other nonmetallic substances—less exciting, perhaps, but chemically stable.

Potassium is one of the major electrolytesin your body, along with sodium and chloride. Potassium and sodium work together like a molecular seesaw: when the level of one goes up, the other goes down. All together, these three dissolved minerals play an intimate chemical role in every function of your body.

The most common use of potassium supplements is to make up for potassium depletion caused by diuretic drugs. These...

Potassium may be mildly helpful for hypertension . 1

Safety Issues

As an essential nutrient, potassium is safe when taken at appropriate dosages. If you take a bit too much, your body will simply excrete it in the urine. However, people who have severe kidney disease cannot excrete potassium normally and should consult a physician before taking a potassium supplement. Similarly, individuals taking potassium-sparing diuretics (such as spironolactone), ACE inhibitors (such as captopril), 2 3 4 5 or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole 6 should also not take potassium supplements except under doctor supervision.

Potassium pills can cause injury to the esophagus if they get stuck on the way down, so make sure to take them with plenty of water.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking:

  • Loop diuretics...