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C. difficile infection; Benefits of Coconut Water and Foods High In Potassium

coconutwater2Potassium is one of the body’s most important minerals. It is present in every cell of the human body. In solution, as it is in the body, potassium carries a positive electrical charge and is one of the body’s four main electrolytes along with sodium, chloride and bicarbonate. As an electrolyte, potassium plays a crucial role in water balance and the maintenance of blood pressure. Potassium is also important for normal muscle and nerve function as well as conduction of the electrical impulses that control the heart. Potassium deficiency, also known as hypokalemia (low Potassium), which can produce various symptoms, which vary in severity depending in the degree of deficiency.

Symptoms of Hypokalemia:   (Low Potassium):  In order for muscle cells to contract, a marked difference in intracellular and extracellular potassium concentrations must exist. As potassium levels drop, this concentration difference decreases and the muscles are unable to function normally. This causes generalized fatigue and a variety of muscular symptoms including weakness, spasms, twitching and cramping. In cases of extreme hypokalemia, the muscles can go into a sustained involuntary state of contraction called tetany.  The involuntary muscles of the stomach and intestines can also malfunction when the potassium level is too low. Low Potassium levels can also cause an excessive loss of water through the kidneys. Frequent urination and extreme thirst are common symptoms when hypokalemia has been present for some time. Symptoms may also develop or include abdominal bloating, pain, and cramping . Constipation may also occur. In the extreme, intestinal activity may virtually stop, a condition called paralytic ileus. Heart Palpitations – The rhythmic, coordinated contractions of the heart are controlled by electrical impulses, which are ferried across the heart muscle by a specialized conduction system. Hypokalemia can disrupt this conduction system, causing heart rhythm abnormalities. The most common symptom is heart palpitations–an awareness of missed beats, extra beats, or a feeling that the heart is pounding too fast or too hard. These rhythm abnormalities can be life- threatening, and cardiac arrest may occur.  Additional symptoms of Low potassium may also include numbness, tingling or burning sensation in the hands and feet.

Coconut water is a very refreshing drink to beat tropical summer thirst. Its liquid is packed with simple sugars, electrolytes, and minerals to replenish dehydration within the human body. Research studies suggest that cytokinins (e.g., kinetin and trans-zeatin) in coconut water found to have significant anti-ageing, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-thrombotic (anti-clot formation) effects. (ndb.nal.usdagov)

Coconut water has been generally offered to patients with diarrhea in many tropic regions to replace the fluid loss from the gastrointestinal tract and to reduce the need for intravenous therapy. The osmolarity of tender coconut water is slightly greater than that of WHO recommended ORS (Oral Rehydration Therapy) solution. Presence of other biological constituents like amino acids, enzymes, minerals, and fatty acids may account for this higher osmolarity. Nonetheless, unlike WHO-ORS, its water is very low in sodium and chlorides, but rich in sugars and amino acids. This well-balanced fluid composition, along with much-needed calories, would be an ideal drink instead of any other kind of soft drink beverages to rectify dehydration conditions.

Coconut water is composed of many naturally occurring bioactive enzymes such as acid phosphatase, catalase, dehydrogenase, diastase, peroxidase, RNA-polymerases etc. In effect, these enzymes help in the digestion and metabolism. Despite being very light in consistency, its water has proportionately better composition of minerals like calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc than some of the fruit juices like oranges. (Compare the mineral composition of oranges). Its liquid is also a very good source of B-complex vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pyridoxine, and folates. These vitamins are essential in the sense that the human body requires them from external sources to replenish. Coconut water contains very good amount of electrolyte potassium. 100 ml (3.1 oz) of coconut water has 250 mg of potassium and 105 mg of sodium. Together, these electrolytes help replenish electrolyte deficiency in the body due to diarrhea (loose stools).

(6.2 oz) = 200 ml – Coconut water = 500 milligrams Potassium

The adequate intake of potassium as established by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine is 4,700 mg per day for * males and females over the age of 14                  * Children between the ages of 9 and 13 need 4,500 mg per day of potassium                                 * Children between the ages of 4 to 8 require 3,800 mg of potassium every day.                            * Toddlers between 1 and 3 years old need 3,000 mg daily.                                                                 * Babies between 7 months and 1 year old need 700 mg                                                                        * Babies under 6 months require 400 mg daily, which can be supplied through breast milk or fortified baby formula.                                                                                                                                    * Pregnant women also 4,700 mg                                                                                                                * Breastfeeding mothers need 5,100 mg a day

Less than half of adults in the United States meet the daily recommendation for potassium. Increasing your consumption of potassium-rich foods will help you do so.

CAUTION: Dietary Intake- In individuals with kidney failure or people on certain types of diuretic medications, excess intake of potassium can overwhelm the kidneys, so much so that they cannot process it out of the bloodstream. This leads to a condition called hyperkalemia (high Potassium) , which can cause symptoms of tingling extremities, muscle weakness or cardiac arrest caused by heart arrhythmia. Healthy individuals normally do not experience problems from high levels of potassium in the diet, so the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has not set an upper tolerable limit for this mineral. However, some people experience hyperkalemia when they take over 18 g (18,000 milligrams) of potassium a day, even when they have no kidney problems. Always discuss Potassium dietary needs with healthcare professionals and report any physical changes immediately to Physicians and/or seek medical attention at a local clinic/hospital as soon as possible.

Potassium varies in amounts in many foods and beverages.
Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of potassium and should be the main dietary source of this mineral. One banana has about 422 mg of potassium. A baked potato with the skin contains 926 mg of this mineral. There are 637 mg of potassium in 1/2 cup of prunes. A 6-oz. cup of orange juice contains 372 mg of potassium. Other good fruit and vegetable sources include tomatoes, raisins, artichokes, broccoli, peas, apricots, cantaloupe, kiwis, lima beans, spinach and acorn squash. Seeds and nuts, such as sunflower seeds and almonds, are other potassium sources in the diet. Fish, such as salmon, cod and sardines, also contain potassium. Beverages providing potassium include milk, orange juice, prune juice, carrot juice and tomato juice. Eating a variety of these foods and beverages can help you get enough potassium.

References: University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium, Linus Pauling Institute: Potassium, MedlinePlus: Potassium in Diet, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Potassium, Harvard School of Public Health: Shifting the Balance of Sodium and Potassium in Your Diet