What is Potassium Chloride (Potassium Salt)?
Potassium chloride, also known as potassium salt, is a combination of potassium and chlorine. It dissolves easily in water and has a salty flavor. Potassium chloride rose to prominence as a nutritional supplement in the 1950s as a remedy for hypokalemia (low potassium). It’s a common component of fertilizer, as potassium availability is essential for plant growth. It’s also often used in household water softeners as a sodium chloride alternative and was used to extinguish fires up until the late 1960s.
Potassium Deficiency Symptoms
Adequate potassium intake for adult men is 3400mg daily, and 2600mg for adult women. However, this increases to 2900mg during pregnancy and 2800 while lactating. Some potassium food sources include milk, coffee, tea, potatoes, and bananas. However, the typical western diet consistently falls short of daily potassium intake recommendations. Adult men only consume around 3000mg of potassium daily, and adult women average 2300mg. It is extremely effective for improving potassium insufficiencies and deficiencies, and in 2020, it was the 33rd most prescribed supplement in the United States.
Some common potassium deficiency symptoms include fatigue, constipation, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, muscle twitches, muscle cramps, tingling, and numbness.
What is Potassium Chloride Used For?
Modern-day use for potassium chloride is chiefly to address low potassium levels and restore electrolytes. Several things can reduce potassium, including diarrhea, vomiting, some medications, diuretics (water pills), excessive sweating, some kidney conditions, adrenal disorders, and low magnesium.
Potassium and Kidney Stones
A different form of potassium, potassium citrate, may benefit individuals prone to developing calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate kidney stones. Low potassium impairs calcium reabsorption in the kidneys, resulting in hypercalciuria and kidney stones. Low citrate also contributes to the formation of these types of kidney stones. Potassium citrate may inhibit these stones from forming by increasing both potassium and citrate.
Potassium Chloride and Exercise Performance
Exercise has interesting effects on blood potassium levels. Potassium elevates during exercise but sharply declines after finishing the workout. A typical adult loses 100-200mg of potassium per each hour of endurance exercise due to increased sweating. Potassium chloride is an effective electrolyte that can restore potassium levels, reduce the likelihood of muscle cramping, and slow the onset of exercise-induced fatigue.
Potassium Chloride as a Salt Substitute
High-sodium diets can cause many health problems, including high blood pressure and other heart health problems. People following low sodium diets for health or personal reasons rely on salt substitutes to cut their sodium intake. Salt substitutes often contain potassium chloride as a primary ingredient, as it shares a similar saltiness to that of sodium chloride (table salt).
Potential Potassium Chloride Side Effects
Potassium supplements may cause mild gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, gas, or diarrhea. Individuals with high potassium or taking potassium-sparing diuretics should not take potassium chloride. Individuals with certain medical conditions should consult a physician before taking potassium chloride, including diabetes, kidney conditions, liver conditions, adrenal conditions, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
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