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Potassium Deficiency: A cause of Insomnia, Hypothyroidism, and more

Potassium is the mineral that NO ONE is talking about!

I think it’s safe to say that we have an epidemic of people in burnout these days.  Nearly every HTMA test I have seen shows low adrenal and thyroid activity, as well as tanked potassium. Ideal potassium on the HTMA is 10 and I get people with mostly 1’s and 2’s.  Potassium is also involved in 2 very important ratios on the HTMA: The thyroid ratio (calcium/potassium) and the Vitality ratio (sodium/potassium). Both of these ratios are important for energy levels, sleep, and overall health.

All about Potassium:

Potassium needs to be balanced with sodium and magnesium. Calcium and potassium are very antagonistic- most people have very high calcium with low potassium.  Most sources claim we need at least 4700 mg of potassium a day! In a modern diet, most people barely reach the 1000mg mark, so many people are lacking in this important mineral. It is very hard to get the proper amount without consciously making an effort. Downloading a free calorie counting app like My Fitness Pal can help you track your typical potassium intake so you can try to adjust it as needed.

Potassium is needed for the proper functioning of cell, muscle contraction, carbohydrate metabolism, nerve impulses, energy metabolism, and to balance hypertension.  We can lose potassium under stress and with detoxing.  We need Vitamin A (from animal sources- think cod liver oil, eggs, butter, and organ meats) to help retain potassium. Vitamin A is another underappreciated deficiency! Since potassium and vitamin A have such a close relationship, a lot of the deficiency signs overlap.

Low potassium levels are associated with:

  • excessive thirst
  • irregular heartbeat
  • insomnia (a potassium level under 4 on HTMA is a HUGE cause of insomnia)
  • depression
  • dry skin
  • salt retention
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • low cortisol
  • fatigue
  • brain fog
  • constipation
  • numbness/tingling (limbs constantly falling asleep)
  • Weak muscles
  • bloating
  • allergies
  • low blood sugar (especially upon awakening)
  • Sugar cravings

My list of high potassium foods: feel free to save and share!

I tend to not recommend potassium supplements because they aren’t worth the money. Most only have 99mg of potassium per serving because too much straight potassium can be hard on the gut, and can even cause heart issues. Food is safer and more abundant 🙂

Potassium Broth Recipe

One of the BEST ways to increase potassium is potassium broth! I usually go by this recipe as a base, but this is generally how I make it:

  • Organic potato peels from about 3-4 potatoes, with no eyes (can use sweet potato peels if needed)
  • 3-4 chopped organic carrots
  • 3-4 chopped celery stalks
  • 1 bunch fresh, organic parsley
  • Optional additions: garlic cloves, onions, or clean seaweed source (I use this dulse from Maine Coast Sea Veggies)

Put all ingredients (except the parsley) in a large pot and fill with water (anywhere from 2-4 quarts of water, depending on the size of your pot). Boil the contents, switch heat to low, and then simmer for about 30 minutes. Throw the parsley in there for another 5 minutes, and then you’re done.

Strain the veggies out (you can compost them!) and store the liquid in the fridge or freezer. You can reheat small amounts as needed or use them in soups, stews, etc. Aim for 1/2 cup-1 cup a day, and you can increase if it tastes good to you and if you’re feeling good with it! Some of my clients felt significant results within a few days of this broth: better energy, less brain fog, and better sleep are among the most common reactions!

More notes on Potassium:

On the HTMA, the thyroid ratio is for Calcium/Potassium. Ideal ratio is 4. I often see it at 30+, and every so often I see it at 200 or more! If you were to look at a list of hypothyroid symptoms next to a list of potassium deficiency symptoms you’ll see how identical they are. We need potassium to make our cells more permeable for thyroid hormones!  

Potassium is also the mineral most closely related to cortisol. For many people, low potassium correlates to a low overall cortisol output, while high potassium usually points to high cortisol. (Not in all instances, but it gives us a good idea on this.)   Excess, unbound copper can lower or waste potassium. Adding in extra potassium can also induce copper dumping, which is why I usually have people start low with introducing potassium.  

We need vitamin A for potassium retention, we need healthy livers and adrenals to properly utilize vitamin A (because everything is so connected!). Vitamin A sources include beef liver, cod liver oil, eggs. and butter.  

Potassium RDA depending on age: 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   Most people get *maybe* half of this if they are eating a typical healthy diet.  

Read more about potassium:

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