Articles by Natural Health Author Barbara Minton
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Raising Potassium Levels Thwarts Cancer and Other Degenerative Disease
by Barbara Minton
(The Best Years in Life) Dr. Max Gerson had a great talent for understanding cancer that was seldom seen in others. He was able to cure half of the terminal cancer patients who came to him as a last resort after being told the medical establishment had given them up to die. One of the first things he did for a new patient was to raise levels of potassium, because this is the mineral critical to both cellular and electrical function. Based on his work, we now know that anyone wanting to prevent or cure cancer must achieve optimal levels of potassium.
What Gerson knew was confirmed in 1996 at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in a review of data. According to the abstract,
“Agents known or believed to be carcinogenic were found to decrease the concentration of potassium and increase the concentration of sodium in the cells. Agents that were anti-carcinogenic have the same effect [in reverse]. In all cases where we have information on an agent’s effects of cellular potassium and sodium concentrations the above relationships have been found to be true. Dietary carcinogenic agents studied include sodium, cadmium, fat, cholesterol, calories, and alcohol; dietary anti-carcinogenic agents include potassium, vitamins A, C, and D, selenium, and fiber. The effect of calcium intake is less clear as that effect depends on the concentrations of sodium and potassium. Not only dietary agents but also other carcinogenic and anti-carcinogenic agents work in the same way. The cancer-causing drug dimethylhydrazine increases sodium and decreases potassium in the cells, whereas, for example, indomethacin, an anti-carcinogen, has the opposite effect. In aging, potassium leaves the cells, sodium enters them, and the rates of cancer increase. Patients with hyperkalemic disease [too much potassium] (Parkinson, Addison) have reduced cancer rates, and patients with hypokalemic diseases [not enough potassium] (alcoholism, obesity, stress) have increased cancer rates.”
There is more to potassium than cancer
Potassium, known as K on the Periodic Table, is one of the three minerals referred to as electrolytes, meaning they carry a small electric charge. Potassium is the predominant positive ion found in cells, where the majority of it is housed in the body.
The intricate balance between potassium and sodium can make the difference between good health and degenerative disease or even death. When a doctor cautions a patient to cut down on salt, he is only telling part of the story. Raising potassium levels is just as important or maybe even more so.
Researchers have found that a diet high in sodium but low in potassium influences vascular volume and will most likely elevate blood pressure. For this the usual response of the medical establishment is to prescribe diuretic drugs that can cause even more loss of potassium, thereby further aggravating the problem. A better response would be to have the patient begin a diet high in potassium, restoring the balance between the two. Beginning an exercise regimen would be helpful too, because it would improve cardiovascular tone.
The healthy human body contains about nine ounces of potassium and about four ounces of sodium, but the standard American diet consisting of salty processed foods has turned that ratio upside down. To right the ship again will require switching to a diet that features vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and maybe a few whole grains. A tablespoon of blackstrap molasses each day can help raise potassium levels a bit quicker, and so can the use of the new ionic potassium on the market today. Traditional supplements of potassium contain only 99 mg and are not well absorbed. When it comes to the produce counter, potatoes have the highest amount of potassium.
Although potassium is readily absorbed into the body, it is also readily lost in cooking. A person can’t get too much potassium because what is not needed is eliminated in urine and sweat. When sweating, the usual response is to consume salt, but potassium is also lost and should be replaced by drinking vegetable juice. Sugar, unbalanced estrogen, and diuretics drugs are the enemies of potassium, as are alcohol and drinks with high caffeine content. Vomiting and diarrhea also cause loss of potassium. Canned foods will have lost much of their potassium, while frozen foods retain most of theirs.
Warning signs of potassium deficiency include abnormally dry skin, acne, chills, cognitive impairment, constipation, depression, diarrhea, diminished reflexes, swelling, nervousness, excessive thirst, glucose intolerance, growth impairment, hypoglycemia, high cholesterol, insomnia, low blood pressure, muscular fatigue, headaches, salt retention and hypersensitivity to salt, respiratory distress, and irregular heart beats.
What else can this mighty mineral do?
The theme of balance is so pervasive in nature! Potassium works with sodium to regulate the water balance and the acid-base balance in blood and tissues. In nerve cells, this yin and yang generates the electrical potential for conducting nerve impulses and the generation of muscle contractions and regulated heartbeats.
Other functions of potassium include
Potassium chloride has been used with some success in the treatment of infant colic, allergies, and headaches. Taking potassium during weight loss is also helpful. Elderly people experiencing weakness or fatigue often feel better with a combination of potassium and magnesium.
Potassium deficiency is associated with some other chronic diseases, including hypertension, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrythmias, fatigue, depression and altered mood. Infants and young children who are ill should be watched for signs of low potassium. There are several prescription and over-the-counter drugs that cause low potassium.
Prolonged deficiency of potassium can cause muscle weakness, bone fragility, central nervous system changes, decreased heart rate, and death. Anyone with these symptoms should be treated without delay with ionic potassium.
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