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Can Potassium Cause Heartburn?

By Joseph Pritchard ; Updated August 14, 2017

Your body needs potassium to keep your cells, tissues and organs functioning properly. This includes facilitating the contraction of the various muscles in your body such as your heart, skeletal and smooth muscles, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. According to a review published in a 2003 issue of the “European Journal of Physiology,” potassium helps facilitate the production of stomach acid. Excessive amounts of potassium don't necessarily cause heartburn, but it may potentially elevate your risk.

Heartburn, Potassium and the Stomach

Heartburn is a symptom associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and is characterized by a burning sensation in your chest and throat. Eating large amounts of acidic foods generally causes temporary heartburn, particularly when you lift, bend over or nap immediately after the meal. Taking excessive amounts of potassium supplements also elevates your risk of heartburn because too much potassium causes your stomach to produce more acid than usual, increasing your risk of heartburn, according to the review in the 2003 issue of the “European Journal of Physiology.” Adults should take in 4.7 grams of potassium per day, according to MedlinePlus.com. Consider your food sources and any supplements you may be taking to make sure you don't exceed this amount without your doctor's direction.

Esophagitis

Esophagitis is a condition that occurs when stomach acid travels up into your esophagus and damages the cells in your esophagus. Heartburn is typically a symptom of esophagitis. Usually acid enters your esophagus when your lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, is weak or functionally impaired, according to GIHealth. Think of your LES as a sort of muscular valve that opens when food travels down your esophagus into your stomach and stays closed the rest of the time to prevent stomach acid from traveling up your esophagus. If your LES is weak or impaired, your risk of heartburn increases considerably when your stomach produces excessive amounts of stomach acid. Because excessive potassium causes your stomach acid to increase, it also elevates your risk of heartburn when this is coupled with a weak LES.

Possible Complications and Treatment

Treating heartburn and GERD can lower your risk of developing complications like bronchospasm, chronic cough or hoarseness, inflammation of your esophagus and cancer, according to PubMed Health. Seek medical advice if you have other symptoms such as choking, appetite loss, frequent vomiting or difficulty or pain with swallowing. Some medications that are used to treat GERD and heartburn are medications that inhibit acid, including omeprazole, esomeprazole and iansoprazole.

Prevention

There are also ways to prevent heartburn and GERD such as reducing your consumption of certain foods and beverages like caffeinated drinks, chocolate and alcohol that can encourage acid secretion. Eating acidic and fatty foods also elevates your risk of developing GERD. Increasing your intake of nonacidic fruits and vegetables helps lower your risk. Regulate your potassium intake so that you get only enough to meet your body’s daily needs; excess potassium often increases your risk for heartburn.

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