You may have heard of natural medicine maverick Max Gerson, MD, and his pioneering work around cancer and metabolism in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. If so, you may also know that one of the conditions Gerson focused on in preventing and healing cancer was potassium deficiency. Gerson discovered that balanced potassium levels are vital for prevention. Here’s why.
The Importance of the Electrolytes
“Electrolytes” are minerals that have an electrical charge; they will separate into negatively and positively charged ions when dissolved in water. The major electrolytes in your body include calcium, magnesium, sodium and, of course, potassium. They exist in bodily fluids like blood, sweat, and urine but are not produced in the body. They must be obtained through what you eat and drink.
Electrolytes are especially important for nerve function. Nerves communicate with each other through electrical and chemical exchange. Electrolytes also help with blood clotting, bone building, maintaining a steady heart rhythm and muscle contraction. Studies such as a 2015 Swiss investigation published in the Journal of Hypertension have also found that daily potassium intake and maintaining potassium-sodium balance can help keep blood pressure stable.
The Cancer-Potassium Deficiency Connection
Gerson noticed that a large percentage of his cancer patients were severely deficient in potassium. This led him and others to inquire about potassium-sodium balance in the body and what this has to do with cancer progression. The answer can be found in how electrolyte imbalance and low potassium levels effect cellular processes.
Research beginning in the 1970’s discovered that when cells are stressed through exposure to toxicity, three things happen. First, the cell loses potassium. Second, the cell accepts more sodium. Third, the cell swells with too much water. This is called cellular edema. The result of this is that normal cells lose the ability to generate energy (ATP) in a healthy way. They become vulnerable to mutation—and cancer.
Normal function is turned upside down when cells turn cancerous. Cancer cells do not generate ATP, i.e. energy, in the normal (through balanced mineral input and oxygenation). Instead, they generate their version of energy through consuming glucose in an anaerobic environment.
Signs of Potassium Imbalance
According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), normal potassium intake is 4,700 mg/day for adults and 3,000 mg/day for children. Anything below that could result in a deficiency. Some signs that you may be low in potassium include:
-fatigue and weakness
In addition, individuals with cancer commonly suffer from two other potassium-related conditions. Hypercalcemia is when high levels of calcium are found in the blood. It is most often seen in individuals with breast cancer as well as lung cancer and multiple myeloma. Tumor lysis syndrome sometimes happens after chemotherapy. This is when cancer cells spill their intracellular contents upon destruction, which can cause severe electrolyte imbalance. Both conditions can be dangerous and even deadly if left untreated since they can affect the kidneys and result in a seizure.
Almost Everyone is Potassium Deficient
According to the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the daily average intake of potassium for most Americans is about half the USDA recommendation. This means that more than likely you are low in potassium!
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above or if you are being treated conventionally for breast cancer, you may consider getting an electrolyte balance test. Including potassium-rich foods such as nuts, squash, lima beans, broccoli and salmon in your diet is also a great idea.
Minerals play such a huge role in the body and potassium is a vital one. Take measures to get enough potassium from healthy sources every day. Staying in electrolyte balance is crucial for those on a healthy breast journey as well as anyone who wishes to stay vital at any age.