Bananas are just one of the delicious sources of plant-based potassium.
I am really embarrassed to have to admit this, but recently I was in the Emergency Room due to severe abdominal cramping with diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and throbbing and muscle spasms in my left leg. Of all my worries, I was most concerned about my left leg throbbing and having muscle spasms. It throbbed from my knee to my pelvis area. I am paranoid of throbbing and burning sensations in my leg because those are signs of a new blood clot. (I’ve discussed my prior experience with a blood clot here.)
I was not happy about waiting two hours to be seen and then being greeted by a medical doctor with horrible bedside manner. I honestly I wanted to leave. However, I stayed and I was glad I did so.
After taking labs and a urine sample, I was notified that my potassium level was extremely low. It was 2.3 mmol/L. According to the Mayo Clinic, low potassium (hypokalemia) refers to a lower than normal potassium level in your bloodstream. Potassium is a chemical (electrolyte) that is critical to the proper functioning of nerve and muscles cells, particularly heart muscle cells. Normally, your blood potassium level is 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). A very low potassium level (less than 2.5 mmol/L) can be life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention.
There are many causes for hypokalemia. For me, it was likely caused by excess sweating during my long runs and weight lifting. I know I have not been eating enough of my green vegetables or including my red bananas in my protein smoothies or drinking my coconut/electrolyte concoction after my workouts. Getting leaner and gaining more muscle for a natural competition has been challenging. As I noted in my previous article, I was going to have to drastically change my diet. In adding more protein and more carbs in addition to taking supplements, I forgot about some of the important foods I needed to make sure I included in my diet.
In looking up hypokalemia, I realize I have been experiencing some of these signs intermittently over the last couple of weeks. I wish I would have paid more attention, but I am glad I forced myself to go to the hospital, and I will do my best to never have this problem again!
Low Potassium levels can be fatal, so please take the time to get your potassium levels checked if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
1. Muscle cramps or weakness
4. Frequent urination
6. Low blood pressure
10. Changes in heart rhythm
It is recommended that adults consume 4,700 mg of potassium each day. That sounds like a lot, but remember it is in milligrams, a relatively small unit of measurement. Some vegan foods that will help make sure you are including potassium in your diet include white beans, prunes, raisins, tomatoes, squash, dark leafy greens, baked potatoes (with skin), dried apricots, baked acorn squash, avocados, mushrooms, nuts, and bananas.
I also want to share a Coconut and Lemon Sports Drink Recipe that I drink during and after my workouts. It has a wonderful amount of electrolytes in it to make sure I maintain a healthy balance of fluids in my body during my workouts (especially long runs), normal muscle contraction, and a normal pH level in my body.
Coconut & Lime Sports Drink
–2 cups of coconut water
–1 cup water (or more, based on how strong you prefer the flavor to be)
–1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
–1/4 teaspoon Celtic salt
–1 tablespoons of liquid sweetener of choice
–a few drops of mineral drops
Whisk/shake the ingredients to blend and enjoy during and after your workout. Cheers to your health!
Have you ever experienced health complications associated with intense physical training? How do you keep yourself well while working out?
Also by Enjunaya: How I Coped with Regaining Weight after Major Weight Loss
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Photo: Lotte Lohr via Unsplash