Dr. Laura on Potassium Levels

Potassium is a mineral that dissolves in water and carries and electrical charge. Easy to see how it can act as an electrolyte.

Nerve, muscle, and heart function all depend on the appropriate level of potassium.It is absorbed in the small intestine and excreted mostly in the urine, and some in the sweat and stool.

The kidney is the main regulator of potassium levels, so if it is healthy and you are getting regular food sources of it, there likely is no reason to be concerned about the levels of potassium in the body.

Potassium’s role in the body.

  • fluid and electrolyte balance
  • maintains nerve and muscle growth
  • balances pH (acid/base balance)
  • contributes to heart function
  • assists in the use of carbohydrates and proteins
  • interacts with blood pressure
  • supports healthy metabolism and blood sugar regulation.

 

Food sources of potassium

  • acorn squash
  • artichokes
  • bananas
  • citrus
  • dried fruits
  • dark leafy greens
  • dried beans
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • potatoes (white and sweet)
  • soy
  • tomatoes
  • cod
  • salmon

Low levels of potassium

Potassium deficiency, or hypokalemia may be noted by fatigue, weakness, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, cardiac arrhythmia’s, hypertension, and postural hypotension. Trouble is, low potassium looks very much like high potassium, however it is more likely to have low levels

Low serum potassium can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, certain drugs, dialysis, plasmapheresis, increased potassium entry into the cells, decreased potassium exit from cells, and increased losses in the urine, gastrointestinal tract, or sweat.

High levels of potassium

Hyperkalemia rarely produces physical symptoms. Excessive potassium can disturb heart and skeletal muscle function, cause nausea, fatigue, muscle aches and weakness and increased respiratory rate.

Some medications can lead to higher than normal potassium levels:  ACE (angiotensin-converting enzymes), some antibiotics, anticoagulants, ARBS (angiotensin-receptor blockers), beta-blockers, COX-2 inhibitors, cyclosporine, antifungals, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs- Advil, Motrin), and potassium sparing diuretics.

Fasting, high blood sugar, metabolic acidosis, kidney insufficiency are all contributors to high levels of potassium.

Measuring potassium

Unless there is a state of severe deficiency, it can be difficult to assess proper levels of potassium. Blood serum levels may be normal, while blood cellular levels deficient. Beyond this, levels in the muscles may not reflect either the levels of blood cell or serum.

So long as the kidneys are functioning well and no drugs (as mentioned above) interfere,  there is generally no need to worry about higher intakes of potassium, as it will be sufficiently excreted.

References:

Kresser, Chris. 2018 Adapt Level One Blood Chemistry Manual. www.kresserinstitute.com

Lavalle, James. 2013 Your Blood Never Lies. Square One Publishers Garden City Park, NY.

Gaby A. 2011 Nutritional Medicine. Fritz Perl Publishing Concord, NH.

Dr. Laura: Long Term Effects of Cortisol and Stress

Cortisol is released in a daily rhythm, but also in response to stress. Ever wonder what are the long term effects of cortisol (stress) in the body?

picture from  philosophytalk.org

Long term danger can be perceived in the form of anything that takes away our freedom, feeling unloved, feelings of insecurity, projecting into the future something that is not true, as if it were and  fear-based memories for future survival so as to avoid any repeat of traumatic events.

Cortisol is not all bad, it has some daily and life-saving functions. The problems lies when the body gets stuck in fear gear, cannot return to its natural state of homeostasis and subsequently has difficult with rest and digestion.

Normal Cortisol Function

Cortisol hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is released twice a day with blood levels peaking in the morning, and rising slightly again in mid afternoon.

Throughout the day, cortisol:

  • Helps provide energy; maintains blood glucose
  • Suppresses nonvital organ systems to provide energy to the brain, nerves and muscles
  • Is a potent anti-inflammatory hormone
  • Prevents widespread tissue and nerve damage associated with inflammation

Short Term Stress Response

In response to a moment of physical or emotional shock or trauma, the body releases three main chemicals: epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. In the short term, these chemicals trigger a series of events in the body to promote survival including anti-inflammatory actions and activation of energy to flee from the danger. Short term response has a clear purpose to better outcome (safety, life).

Once the epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol are released into the blood flow,

  • heart rate increases
  • blood pressure increases
  • respiration rate increases
  • arteries vasoconstrictor & release sweat.
  • pupils dilate
  • Pro inflammatory response so as to destroy antigens, pathogens, or foreign invaders; adrenoreceptor antagonists have been shown to inhibit stress-induced inflammation and cytokine production by blocking the proinflammatory effects of norepinephrine.

Long Term Cortisol Danger

Body’s release

When the brain feels you are in danger on an ongoing basis, cortisol release goes into overdrive. This can be things that threaten our survival like financial concerns, relationship problems, too many commitments, feelings of bitterness towards others, anger, resentment, being unhappy with yourself, lack of faith, hope, love, fear of loosing something you treasure… the list can go on.

Basically the body gets stuck in some type of survival mode. It is then difficult to re-establish to its natural balance.

Medications

Long term medications that end on “-sone” are often producing similar effects to cortisol in the body. These are drugs that suppress the immune system like prednisone, hydrocortisone.

Cortisone type drugs are used to treat pain, allergic disorders, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, or breathing disorders.

Be sure to also be aware of information on cortisone drug side effects. 

  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle wasting
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hyper irritability
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Vascular fragility including easy bruising
  • Striae or redish stripes over the lower abdomen (thinning of the skin structures)
  • Suppressed immune system, make it easier to get infections
  • Central obesity

If you feel like you are “always on” , have difficulty digesting food or feel “tired and wired”, chances are you are running the meter up on cortisol. As you can see the long term effects are not favourable for good health.

Have Hope

Don’t give up hope, however. The first step is to recognize what is stressing you out. This is more than relationships, it can be pain, inflammation, poor diet, lack of sleep, poor coping mechanisms or genetic wrinkles.

Resolution doesn’t happen overnight but can be improved on a steady course of treatment over time.  Treatment will look at things like sleep hygiene, a healthy diet, the right amount and type of exercise,  and new perspectives on managing yourself in relationships with yourself and others.

The Last “Peace”

Need more peace in your life?  Join me at Goodness Me! on Sept 19th in a presentation on Anxiety Antidotes.

 

References:

Constanzo LS. 2011. BRS Physiology Fifth Edition. Walters Kluwer|Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Philadelphia.

Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy. 2014;94(12):1816-1825. doi:10.2522/ptj.20130597.

Wright H. 2009. A More Excellent Way. Whitaker House. Pennsylvania.

Is Your Heart in Alignment?

If you are feeling anxious, have troubles sleeping or can’t seem to get your timing right, then your Heart and Spirit may be out of sync. You see, when the Heart does not get enough Yin or Blood, it lacks substance and then it cannot anchor the Spirit, causing the mind to wander.

heartcharkra

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Heart stores the Spirit. When the Heart and the Spirit are in harmony, one sleeps well, speaks kindly with compassion and their intentions and actions are shared, as the moment is right.

The Heart is also regulates the flow of blood, and when the Heart Qi and Blood are abundant and flowing, the pulse will be even and regular. The majority of Heart problems are a result of imbalance in other systems as the Heart relies on other organs for its nourishment and energy.

heartmeridian
picture from pinterest.com

Treating other organs to reduce heat and nourish Yin are also ways of ultimately supporting the smooth flow of Qi and Blood to the Heart.You may trace the acupuncture heart meridian by starting at your axilla (arm pit) and travel down along the inner aspect of your bicep, across the inside of your elbow, and go along your inner forearm toward and off the inside of your pinky finger.

By treating the heart channel with acupuncture, your mind will calm (reduce sadness fear, anxiety, hypertension, mental restlessness), your heat will clear (treat dry mouth, red eyes), and you will feel invigorated as we tonify Heart Qi and stimulate Heart Blood.

Another tool I use in clinic is a Heartmath monitor. With this we can see how thoughts can change the rhythm of your heart rate. We can also see how regulating the breath while going into a pleasant memory can bring the mind and the body into complete balance. This is something, which over a period of sessions and practice at home, can help you learn to bring yourself into a calm, peaceful state without any drugs or supplements.

Sometimes to help stimulate the body’s own innate mechanisms to heal I will prescribe a botanical short term to help calm the mind and nourish the Yin. This can help while the acupuncture is doing its thing and you are learning how to balance your energies with your breath and your thoughts. Nourishment in the diet can also help build Blood and strengthen the Heart, and we talk about this too.

So if you are feeling anxious, have troubles sleeping or can’t seem to get your timing right, maybe it is time to come in for an alignment of a different sort – one that has the love and care for your Heart and Spirit.

From the heart and mind of your local Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND.