Certain minerals in the body work together as a pair for the body to be healthy and normal. Such minerals are sodium and potassium, collectively known as electrolytes, which play a huge role in regulating blood pressure, nerve impulses and muscle contraction. These electrolytes also aid the kidneys to work properly. Energy production and fluid balance are also the roles of sodium and potassium. Getting to know more about these two minerals will help us be more aware of their functions in the body.

What is Sodium and Potassium?

Sodium is the major ion outside the cells, also called as extracellular ion. It is involved in regulating blood pH and water balance in the body. A suggested intake of 200 mg sodium per day is needed to activate neurons, contract muscles and maintain cellular homeostasis.  Abnormal high concentration of sodium in the body can result to high blood pressure and water retention (often leads to kidney disease). High blood pressure happens due to the ability of sodium to cause body fluids to travel from cells to bloodstream increasing blood volume.

On the other hand, potassium is the major ion on the fluid inside the cells, also called as intracellular ion. Like sodium, it is also involved in regulating blood pressure and muscle contraction. But this mineral is more important in nervous system function and nutrient regulation in the cell membrane. High potassium levels may lead to cardiac arrest and death. However, low potassium levels may lead to low blood pressure, acne problems, dry skin, nervousness, constipation and water retention. An abnormal level of potassium whether high or low can be considered a serious case right away.

Sodium - Potassium Balance

Sodium and potassium work as partners to transport nutrients into the cell and carry out waste product outside of the cell. They made up the sodium-potassium pump, wherein sodium ions are carried outside and potassium ions are drawn inside the cell, creating a magnet-like effect called membrane potential, which is important for heart function, nerve impulse and muscle contraction. When there is an excess of sodium with a little amount of potassium present, the pump finds it hard to maintain the balance of both minerals resulting to some sodium to enter the cell. Healthy people tend to flush excess sodium in the body together with the urine, but this also tends to flush out potassium as well. Excess of sodium leads to increase amount of water and blood volume in the body, making the heart work harder. If there is low potassium in the system, the condition will lead to worse since potassium must compensate with the amount of sodium in the body.

Maintaining the Balance

It is always said that proper diet will prevent oneself from diseases but it’s getting hard to switch back to fruits and vegetables again these days. Keeping the heart healthy and maintaining normal blood pressure may be easy with the help of eating fruits and vegetables such as beans, bananas, tomato, oranges, spinach and garlic just to name a few. Fish, meat and poultry are also good sources of potassium. Sodium can be found in table salt, processed meats and noodles. Lack of sodium in the body rarely happens, so one must focus on potassium instead. Just remember not to overload your body with potassium. Sodium must be always higher than potassium with a ratio between 2.5:1 to 4:1.