How many of you reading this have blood sugar issues, possibly even a diagnosis of diabetes? A staggering 28.7 million people of all ages have a diagnosis of diabetes, 28.5 million being adults ages 18 years and older. That is quite an amount, and it’s only growing as we hit the twenty-first century.
Blood sugar is an important component to being able to utilize glucose within the cell as a source of energy. Without having adequate glucose within serum, we would die, however too much or too little of it can be harmful. The problem that many people encounter is that they struggle to utilize blood sugar due to poor sensibility to insulin, something blocking the cell from utilizing glucose, or their blood sugar is constantly going up and down too dramatically stressing the body out.
Insulin is a hormone that we excrete from the pancreas to signal to our cell to uptake glucose. It’s usually produced from a signaling response we have with two other hormones that we all recognize as our “hunger and satiety” hormones, known as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is our “hunger” hormone, meaning when it elevates it sends a signal to our body to eat, whereas leptin does the opposite. When blood sugar dips, ghrelin rises, and when blood sugar elevates and is absorbed by the cells, receiving energy, our leptin goes up. Essentially, there is a see saw effect we want to constantly keep in check. However, many people obviously struggle with this delicate system, considering that fact that over 28 million Americans are having a hard time with blood sugar issues.
This is where we come in and thought “Hey, maybe we should chat a little bit about potassium and its influence on blood sugar!”
Not too many people know about this because so many connect potassium to heart palpitations, muscle cramps, or simply hydration. Yet no one talks about blood sugar and potassium. Potassium, in fact, is essential to helping balancing blood sugar and most Americans struggle to reach the optimal intake (averaging at about 4000mg) let alone the RDI of 2600mg-3400mg for women and men.
So how does potassium help support blood sugar levels? Well, for starters, potassium helps drive glucose into the cell for it sensitizes cells to insulin in the first place. Why is this important? For two reasons; first, leaving glucose circulating in the blood stream for too long can make one feel awful and individuals can experience things like fatigue, irritability, nausea, and in the long run weight gain, as well as potential damage to organs. This is something we call hyperglycemia, when blood sugar levels are too high. The second reason this is important is because we need blood sugar to enter our cells to provide energy. We need glucose as a source of energy to fuel both aerobic and anaerobic cellular respiration within our cells and make ATP. Potassium supports this mechanism by telling our cells “Hey, open up, insulin is here instructing we need more glucose to enter in”.
Another reason potassium is needed for blood sugar balancing is that it supports glycogen storage, specifically in the liver. The liver is in fact both stores and manufactures glucose depending on our needs at that time. The need to store or release glucose is signaled by our hormones insulin and glucagon. As we eat, our liver will store glucose as glycogen for a later time when your body needs it. However, during fasting periods, the liver produces and releases glucose mainly through glycogenolysis as it breaks down tissue to release glucose. During prolonged fasting, glycogen is depleted since we have used up the reserves we would typically have had from what we consumed. This then triggers hepatocytes to synthesize glucose through gluconeogenesis using lactate, pyruvate, glycerol and amino acids. We typically don’t want this to happen too often because by activating gluconeogenesis frequently, it can act as a stress on the body and affect the adrenal glands and directly hinder the nervous system by increasing stress hormones, such as aldosterone and cortisol. This is why eating regularly is important to provide consistent glucose for the liver so it doesn’t have to start breaking other tissue down for energy.
Lastly, potassium is responsible for carbohydrate metabolism, meaning it is a co factor to an enzyme called pyruvate kinase, which is involved in something called glycolysis. Glycolysis is one of the methods we use to make energy from glucose, and is a process in which glucose is partially broken down through enzymes that do not need oxygen. Pyruvate kinase is the enzyme involved in the last step of glycolysis and catalyzes the transfer of a phosphate group from phosphoenolpyruvate to adenosine diphosphate, creating one molecule of pyruvate and one molecule of ATP. Hence, potassium helps activate this specific enzyme in the glycolysis process. Without potassium, we would struggle to metabolize carbohydrates.
So now I am sure many of you are thinking "Alright, so where or how do I get enough potassium?" Lucky for you, we have our Upgraded Potassium to help you along! The starting dose is at 1/2tsp a day offering 99mg, but if you want a more tailored recommendation to your specific needs, we always recommend getting an HTMA test done with us and then booking a call with one of our certified nutritionists. If you're interested click here!