by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© April 2016, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Potassium is a major electrolyte in our bodies. This means it is present in large quantities in the body, and is required in large quantities in the diet. Potassium has a single electrical charge, also called a monovalent element. This makes it a good electrical conductor, a solvent, and tends to make it very water-soluble.
Deficiency very widespread. Only 2-10% of the American population obtains the recommended daily amount of potassium each day. This means that at least 90% of the population are deficient in this very essential mineral.
RDA for potassium.
Age 1-3 = 400 mg daily
Age 4-8 = 3800 mg daily
Age 9-13 = 4500 mg daily
Above 13 = 4700 mg daily
Lactating women = 5100 mg daily
The average American eats about half of the required potassium needed for health. This is a major reason to eat loads of cooked vegetables.
Functions. Potassium performs many essential functions ranging from regulating the heart to balancing the electrical potential of the body by polarizing the cells. In fact, one could call potassium the polarizer mineral.
This has to do with the sodium pump, which pumps sodium out of the cells, leaving the potassium inside the cells and the sodium outside. This causes an electrical potential or polarization of the cells that is absolutely necessary for life to exist. On a hair mineral analysis, this electrical charge is represented as the sodium/potassium ratio and it influences other aspects of the mineral chart, as well.
PHILOSOPHY OF POTASSIUM
Dr. Eck called potassium the follow through element. This may have to do with its role in the autonomic nervous system, as it is a primary indicator of an autonomic pattern called sympathetic dominance, described below.
An old word for potassium is kali, which is why the symbol of this element on the periodic table is K. Kali was also the name of the Hindu goddess of time, change, power and destruction. We consider potassium exactly like this – a female element associated with death and destruction.
Potassium is the death element because it dissolves things. It does not kill things, but the monovalent elements tend to disintegrate hard materials such as bone by acting as solvents in the body. This is an essential function, not a problem.
Dr. Joseph Scogna, in his book, The Promethian, likens potassium to a powerful army general and calls potassium the “aggressive power” element.
The concept of pairs of minerals is extremely important in nutritional balancing science. Potassium commonly pairs with sodium and with calcium, and sometimes with zinc and vitamin A.
Sodium. Potassium is closely allied with sodium in the body. Both are used as solvents, both are regulated in the blood by the kidneys, both are monovalent elements, and they share other qualities as well. However, potassium is found mainly inside the cells, while sodium concentrates more in the blood and interstitial fluid outside of the cells. The sodium-to-potassium transmutation is extremely important in our bodies. For more on this, please read Biological Transmutation on this website.
Calcium. Potassium and calcium form another pair or opposites, mainly. Calcium is slow and sturdy. We call it the structural element or the builder. Potassium is the opposite. It is the solvent that breaks down structure in our bodies.
THE FUNCTIONS OF POTASSIUM IN OUR BODIES
Potassium has many critical functions in our bodies, among which are:
- A potent solvent. The monovalent elements are the body’s solvents. Though less important than sodium, potassium also functions to dissolve many chemical compounds in the blood.
- Associated with cortisol levels. Sodium is more associated with adrenalin and aldosterone, which are faster acting hormones. Potassium is more associated with cortisol and cortisone. These are slower-acting stress hormones. The correlation on hair mineral tests is only a general one, however, as many factors can influence the hair levels.
- Thyroid gland regulation. Potassium sensitizes the cells to thyroid hormone, according to Dr. Eck’s research. In addition, when sodium and potassium rise, tissue calcium tends to decrease. This causes the cells to become more permeable to thyroid hormone, in particular, and to other hormones such as insulin, as well.
- Cancer fighter. Max Gerson, MD pioneered a high potassium diet for cancer and other degenerative diseases. His rationale was that potassium leaking out of the cells causes depolarization of the cells and disease. His answer was to replenish potassium in the diet.
Today, however, that diet, usually composed of many glasses of carrot and apple juice, appears to be less effective because today the cancer problem is not so much about potassium as it is about toxic metals and toxic chemicals in the body that must be removed to restore health. Also, potassium in our food has been influenced by the presence of N-P-K fertilizers. This important topic is discussed later in this article.
- Fluid balance and osmotic regulation. Potassium does this along with sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
- Nerve conduction, especially in the heart. Those who eat improperly with not enough vegetables, in particular, may feel weak or even experience palpitations, skipped beats, arrhythmias and rarely heart attacks from potassium depletion. This can be much worse, for example, if they do not replenish their minerals and they use saunas or hot tubs that induce intense sweating. This is why I recommend kelp and sea salt if one uses a sauna.
- Regulation of blood viscosity, serum and cellular acidity, and CO2 transport in the red blood cells.
- Regulation of cell membrane potential, cell permeability, sodium pump action, muscle contraction and relaxation, and nerve impulse conduction. These are all in conjunction with sodium and other macrominerals in most cases.
FOOD SOURCES OF POTASSIUM
Vegetables. Obtaining enough potassium every day is of critical importance. Many people do not get enough from their diets, although it is not difficult to find in certain foods. Most nutrition books and doctors will tell you the best sources are fruits and vegetables. However, I will qualify this.
The best and most biologically available source of high-quality potassium is cooked vegetables, NOT FRUIT and NOT RAW FOODS. This is important to explain.
The problem with fruit. Although many fruits are rich in potassium, the form of potassium is not biologically available to our bodies. The reason is that fruits take up a lot of superphosphate fertilizers, which contain a less usable and toxic form of potassium. This includes bananas, coconut, peaches, pears, apples and most other fruits, as well.
Many health authorities will disagree with me on this, but this is our experience with fruit. Not only is the potassium not biologically available, but it is toxic as well. This is a very important concept, and one of the major reasons we do not recommend eating any fruit at all!
The problem of toxic potassium also extends to some so-called vegetables that are really fruits. These include tomatoes, white and red potatoes, all peppers, all squash, okra, cucumbers, eggplant and perhaps one or two others. This important problem is explained in more detail below in the section below called Toxic Forms Of Potassium.
The problem with raw vegetables. While vegetables are good sources of potassium, in some cases, when eaten raw our bodies cannot extract enough of the minerals. The reason is that we cannot break down enough of the tough fibers in vegetables.
In order to obtain the most minerals, one must cook the vegetables to break down the fiber. I know that upsets some people, but it is my experience.
Vegetables juices are a good source of potassium. The only other option to obtain plenty of potassium from vegetables is to drink some vegetable juice each day. I recommend about 10-12 ounces only of carrot juice, perhaps with a little of the greens in it if you wish such as one Swiss chard leaf or a few small spinach leaves.
Do not drink more juice than this, as it is very yin in Chinese medical terms. Wheat grass juice, one or two ounces at a time, is also excellent and contains some potassium. Another way to get more potassium is to blend your food or puree it. However, I would limit blended and pureed food if it is raw, as all raw food is extremely yin in Chinese terminology.
Raw dairy products. These can also be good sources of potassium, particularly raw, unpasteurized and unhomogenized milk and yogurts.
Drinking water. Some, but not all tap and spring water contains some potassium. Reverse osmosis water and distilled water contain no potassium at all. This is one reason I do not recommend reverse osmosis water ever, and I only recommend distilled water for a day or perhaps for a week or so during some difficult detoxification or purification reaction to remove toxins faster.
TOXIC FORMS OF POTASSIUM
This is a very important topic. It is so critical for our health, and for understanding some hair mineral patterns, that I have assembled a separate article about it. Please do not skip over it. Please read the article entitled Toxic Forms Of Potassium on this website.
POTASSIUM AND HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS
Ideal value. Dr. Paul Eck found that an ideal hair potassium level is about 10 mg% or 100 parts per million, providing the hair is not washed at all in any way, at the laboratory.
A healthy range. This is a much less useful measurement. However, I find that a good range is between 6 and 12 mg%. This is the same as 60-120 parts per million or 60-120 micrograms per 100 grams.
Measuring potassium in hair. Note that hair potassium and sodium levels can be accurately measured in a hair sample only if the laboratory does not wash the hair at all. Potassium and sodium levels are extremely erratic and inaccurate if the hair has been washed at the laboratory because washing the hair washes out some or even most of the potassium.
Measuring toxic potassium. On an initial hair mineral analysis, a very elevated potassium level may be due to:
1. A metabolic imbalance with regards to potassium such as a very fast oxidation rate.
2. The use of a water softener that contains potassium. In this case, the elevated potassium is an artifact due to water contamination with potassium.
3. Rarely, it is due to an elimination or just the presence of toxic potassium.
A fairly reliable indicator for the two latter items is an Na/K ratio less than about 0.4. The reason for this is that life is very difficult to maintain with an Na/K less than about 0.4. So it is a good assumption that if the Na/K ratio is lower than this, the reading is usually due either to an artifact – bathing in water very high in potassium, or the body is throwing off some toxic potassium.
On a retest hair mineral analysis, an elimination of toxic potassium also occurs quite commonly during development programs. This particular form of potassium cannot be changed into a more healthful form by our bodies, so it excreted during the program.
In most of these cases, the hair potassium level doubles, or increases even more than this. Another indicator that elimination of toxic potassium is the cause of the elevated potassium is if the Na/K ratio decreases to less than about 0.4.
While the combination of a rise in hair potassium and a sharp decrease in the Na/K may be due to other causes, a release of toxic potassium is one of the most common and most important reasons for it. For more, read Toxic Forms Of Potassium.
HAIR ANALYSIS PATTERNS INVOLVING POTASSIUM
The hair potassium level is important for a number of basic and critical initial and retest hair analysis patterns and progressions (patterns that involve 3 or more tests):
1. Sympathetic dominance (potassium of 4 mg% or less.) A hair potassium level of 4 mg% or less is the main indicator of sympathetic dominance pattern. A secondary indicator is a high Na/K ratio. A newer indicator is a three highs pattern, or a four highs pattern combined with any elevated Na/K ratio.
This pattern indicates a person who “pushes” himself, either physically with excessive activities, or mentally with worry or fear. As a result, the person remains in a fight-or-flight mode of living too much, even when the body is very tired. One therapist phrased it as “acting as though you are being chased by tigers all of the time”.
Sympathetic dominance is often mainly a lifestyle pattern. This means it is often more of a habit pattern, rather than a strictly physical illness or condition. However, the presence of excess copper, and excesses of toxic metals, along with possible zinc deficiency, can reinforce and hold one in the pattern. For much more on this important pattern, read sympathetic dominance.
2. Potassium trauma pattern (potassium less than 1 mg%). This is not a common pattern, fortunately, and it cannot be currently read on a hair mineral test from most laboratories. It requires reading the potassium level below 1 mg% or 10 parts per million, which is not offered by most laboratories.
However, the hair potassium level can be as low as 0.5 mg% or 5 ppm. A reading less than 1 mg% or 10 ppm always indicates the presence of trauma. Its specific meaning is related to sympathetic dominance, explained above. It might be called a super-sympathetic dominance indicator. That is it indicates an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system in all cases.
Interestingly, it does not affect the design of the nutritional balancing program, although it might lead us to suggest a trauma program. This is a heavier supplement program discussed in the articles entitled Trauma Release and Trauma Retracing.
3. Four Lows, and perhaps Three Lows. A low potassium level is always part of a four Lows pattern. This is one of the most important hair analysis patterns. For more details, please read Four Lows Pattern on this site.
A low potassium level may be part of a Three Lows pattern. This is also a very important pattern associated with fatigue and exhaustion. For more, read Three Lows Pattern.
4. Trying Hard To Stay Float. This is a potassium less than 5 mg%, plus a double high ratio pattern (high Ca/Mg ratio and an elevated Na/K ratio.
5. Trying Too Hard. This is a potassium level less than 5 mg% and a calcium level greater than 165 mg% in a woman or greater than 155 mg% in a man.
6. Wasting One’s Time. This is similar to the pattern above, but with another pattern present. It is a potassium level less than 5 mg% and a calcium level greater than 165 mg% in a woman or greater than 155 mg% in a man, but also the Ca/Mg ratio is greater than 13.5.
7. Fast and slow oxidation. An elevated hair potassium level, in relation to calcium (a low Ca/K ratio < 4), is associated with a fast oxidation rate. A low potassium in relation to calcium (a high Ca/K ratio > 4), is associated with a slower oxidation rate.
8. High Na/K. This is any Na/K ratio greater that about 5. It is associated with inflammation, anger and/or acute stress. At times it is associated also with edema, and weight gain due to some water retention. It is also associated with kidney imbalances and renal disease, in some cases.
9. Low Na/K. This is any Na/K ratio less than 2.5. It is associated with fatigue, blood sugar imbalance, infections, cardiovascular stress, kidney stress, malignancy, and with the emotions of frustration, resentment and hostility. It is also associated with electrical discharge in the cells, and low vitality. For much more about this critical ratio, please read The Sodium/Potassium Ratio.
The electrical balance of the cells, the sodium pump, and kidney activity. The sodium/potassium ratio on a hair mineral analysis in which the hair has not been washed at the laboratory is the most important single ratio on a hair mineral test.
10. A high or low calcium/potassium ratio. Dr. Paul Eck called the calcium/potassium ratio on a hair mineral test the thyroid ratio. The hair must not be washed at the laboratory for this to apply. He found that a ratio greater than 4:1 is associated with sluggish thyroid hormonal effect at a cellular level only. Whereas, a ratio less than 4:1 may be associated with an increased thyroid hormonal effect at a cellular level.
This can be very confusing, however, because the hair mineral ratios will not necessarily correlate with serum thyroid hormone levels, or with the TSH level. This is because the latter two are measured in the blood, not the cells. Much more on this topic is explored in three articles entitled Thyroid Imbalances, Grave’s Disease Or Hyperthyroidism and Interview With Dr. Wilson On Grave’s Disease.
Adrenal hormone levels may be reflected in the hair potassium level. Low hair potassium tends to correspond to reduced adrenal and thyroid glandular activity. Elevated hair potassium tends to correspond to increased adrenal glandular activity and, at times, high adrenal cortical hormones, in particular. However, the presence of toxic metals and other factors such as toxic metals in the kidneys, for example, can also either elevate or depress the hair potassium level.
Kidney stress and hair tissue potassium. If the kidneys become toxic or congested, it can affect the hair potassium level – usually raising it. This we call kidney stress. It is a common finding on hair analysis retests, but also on initial hair mineral analyses.
The most common cause of kidney stress and kidney congestion and toxicity is the presence in the body of the ‘amigos’ – aluminum and toxic forms of copper, iron, manganese, cobalt, chromium, selenium and vanadium. For more on this interesting subject, read The Amigos on this website. When any of these elements are removed from the body during a nutritional balancing program, which occurs very often, the hair potassium level can rise for a few months due to a little extra effort required of the kidneys. This is the meaning of kidney stress.
Kidney stress may also be due to the release of certain medical drugs, cadmium, mercury or other toxic substances. In many, but not all cases, this will temporarily affect the hair potassium level and perhaps the ratios involving potassium, as well.
Other hair patterns involving potassium include:
Double high ratio.
Double low ratio.
Step up pattern.
Step down pattern.
Beam Me Up, Scottie pattern, also called Reaching for The Tunnel, and False Yang. This pattern is not too common. It is associated with eating a lot of fruit, in most cases. This fills the body with a toxic form of potassium, and an initial hair test shows a high potassium level, often with a low sodium/potassium ratio. It is hard to identify this pattern just from a hair mineral analysis. A history of eating a lot of fruit is also needed, in most cases.
This is a type of death pattern, as it cannot go on too long without compromising one’s health.
Potassium works closely with sodium, calcium and magnesium to regulate metabolism. Other synergists include most vitamins. These assist kidney activity and may therefore help regulate the potassium level in the blood and the tissues. Most of the important trace minerals are also synergists because they all regulate potassium levels to a degree. Dr. Paul Eck emphasized that zinc appears to raise potassium in the mineral system of the body. Phosphorus, along with zinc, are synergists in protein synthesis.
Calcium and magnesium tend to rise in the hair as potassium falls. Sodium is pumped out of the cells and potassium must be pumped in to maintain the electrical balance of the cells. This antagonism with sodium is particularly important.
Copper, in the mineral balancing system, lowers potassium to some degree. In fact, a low hair potassium level is an indicator for hidden copper toxicity. Vitamin D can raise the calcium level, which tends to lower potassium, as can too much vitamin A, in some people. All the toxic metals, once again, are antagonistic to all of the vital minerals in the body.
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