A closer look at the Sodium – Potassium Ratio
Across the globe, studies have proven that our sodium-potassium ratio is one of the most important factors we should consider when looking at our overall health. The sodium-potassium ratio has also been known as the ‘life-death ratio’, the ‘vitality ratio’, or our ‘internal ratio’ because of the important role it plays in our body.
Today, it is not uncommon for humans to consume more sodium than potassium, leading to imbalances that can be detrimental to your health. For example, if you consume too much sodium through excess processed or packaged foods, your body will start hoarding potassium in attempt to rebalance levels. This may cause your body to start retaining water. Additionally, it may create a higher chance of developing abnormally high blood pressure, which happens to be one of the leading health burdens in Korea. The high sodium levels and low potassium levels cause your heart to work harder than it should and sometimes will lead to more fatal consequences associated with elevated blood pressure and/or physical strains on the heart.
Sodium and potassium work closely together through a mechanism called the sodium pump mechanism. This pump pulls potassium into the cell and pushes sodium out, driving signals in the nervous system and powering muscle contractions. This process also assists in energy production, balancing fluids in your body, regulating blood pressure and – it may come as a surprise – also encourages healthy bone development and maintenance. Calcium loss is more prevalent with high sodium levels and if your body already has low calcium levels this can be detrimental to bone health and may lead to a loss in bone density. A high sodium-potassium (Na:K) ratio will affect other mineral levels in your body as well, including zinc and magnesium, causing imbalances across the board.
Both high and low sodium-potassium (Na:K) ratios will have unwanted effects on your body because of the different roles each mineral plays in your body. A high Na:K ratio will increase the electrical charge and oxidation in your body while a lower Na:K ratio has a discharging effect and causes slowed oxidation.
You may recognize the effect of a higher ratio if you experience acute stress, inflammation, water retention, higher blood pressure or an increase in common menstrual related symptoms in women such as anger, acne or excessive bloating. Lower ratios can lead to chronic stress or an overall negative outlook on life. Stress is harmful to your body because it increases adrenal gland activity, increasing the secretion of hormones leading to a constant state of ‘fight or flight’. When this happens sodium retention increases leading to further imbalance.
If your body continues to operate with an imbalanced Na:K ratio you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Emotional conflict
- Lowered vitality
- Increased anxiety
- Unexplained anger
- Feelings of being ‘stuck’
Physically, this can lead to higher blood pressure, suppressed adrenal function and liver problems. Mentally it may lead to feelings of excessive fatigue or lethargy.
The effects that this ratio has on your body, it is no surprise it is also known as the ‘life-death’ ratio. If you believe that you may be one of the many across the globe that is consuming too much sodium and not enough potassium, you can work towards balancing the levels by changing your diet. Introducing more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet is a great start. Additionally, including beans, fish, homemade foods and low-salt versions of prepared foods will lead you in the right direction.
To reach a higher potassium level while keeping sodium levels at bay it might look like this:
- Breakfast: Regular oatmeal, orange juice and coffee
- Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and milk
- Dinner: Baked halibut, baked potato with skin, spinach salad and half an avocado
- Snacks: Peanuts, raisins, bananas and low sodium vegetable juice
A great way to determine the best diet for you would be taking a mineral hair analysis test as this will give you a comprehensive guide to reach better nutrition including supplementation recommendations.