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The Expansionist
Monday, January 07, 2013
 
Potassium and Birch Beer
I generally, in this blog, speak to political issues. But I have discovered what are plainly NOT generally-understood realities about health issues. Let me now speak to two such issues.
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(1) I did mention, on December 27, 2011, that a potassium deficiency could explain muscle aches or pains in many elderly people.
I also drink a lot of juices, mainly for the potassium to fite muscle pains that old people (esp. but not exclusively old people) can get from a potassium deficiency. I mix carrot juice with the store-brand mix of vegetable juices that approximates V8, for a richer flavor, and hopefully for some help with eyesight, tho I now admit that I must get distance glasses. ... Both Pathmark and ShopRite have a good house-brand vegetable-juice mix. Orange juice is also rich in potassium. But even with these vegetable and fruit juices, I still sometimes have debilitating muscle aches (pains, really) in my upper arms unless I also eat a banana or some dried apricots in a given day, and take a potassium-supplement tablet. The potassium gluconate carried by, say, Walgreens, is a really feeble supplement, providing only 3% of the daily requirement for people in general. Old people may need much more than younger people, to fite awful muscle pains, inasmuch as utilization of potassium by older people may be inefficient. 8 ounces of carrot juice, v8 (in my notation, lowercase-v indicates store brand), or orange juice supplies 13%. Other sources of potassium include lentils and kidney beans.
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If I get enuf potassium, my muscle pains entirely vanish. By contrast, massage won't do a bit of good with muscle aches or pains that result from a deficiency of potassium (or magnesium; less frequently consequential). My brother Brian read somewhere that vitamin D can help the body make the most of ingested potassium, but only if the vitamin D is in higher concentrations than is found in the typical multivitamin. So I might also have to take two multis a day to get enuf vitamin D to make best use of my potassium intake.
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Younger people who can't get rid of muscle pains thru hot showers, baths, or massage, might try boosting their potassium. It might work wonders.
I think, however, that I grossly understated how common and oppressive such potassium-deficiency-related physical consequences might be.
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A couple of days ago, I was in a Pathmark supermarket in South Orange, NJ, to deposit a money order at the Bank of America branch within that supermarket (which branch, alas, is to close on February 22nd). I then walked some 15 feet to ask the pharmacists there "Do you have a potassium supplement greater than 3% of daily requirement?" (3% is the 'strength' of the potassium gluconate supplement available over-the-counter). One of the two women there plainly did not know, so deferred to the other, who said she didn't think so, because it is possible to take in too much potassium, so you'd have to have a prescription from a doctor, who would then monitor your potassium level. I mentioned that I had a friend who had a potassium excess, once, but he's dead now — from another cause (heart attack). I was being playful, and made them smile, if ill-at-ease. The death of my BEST friend at the time, however, was nothing like funny, and too much potassium in his blood may have contributed to his death from a heart attack. But he was very overweight, and I mentioned his morbid obesity to him on more than one occasion.
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His response was, "I'm going to be dead a lot longer than I am alive." And so he died, before his 49th birthday. I cannot, right now, even check when that was, because I culled out the dead from my electronic address book. I am now sorry I did that, and may, if I find the necessary data, restore dates of death to friends and family in that word-processing file. In any case, my best friend, Jay Friend, died years and years ago, and I miss him still. (He had no one in his family to miss him, unfortunately, because he had become estranged from his immediate family, something I told him, at the time I heard of it, that I did not understand. My remaining family is frequently in touch, more than once a week by email. I suspect that even as he lay dying in his bed, from a heart attack, he didn't think that he had not reconciled with his brother, Sandy. That strikes me as unspeakably sad.)
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In any case, I want to pass on to other people things that few will have heard of thru friends, doctors, or even the Internet.
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Potassium is an indispensable nutrient to prevent muscle pains, at least in older people. I do not know why this is, for all practical purposes, a profound and carefully kept secret. But if you have muscle pains or aches that no other measure, be it hot showers or topical lotions or massages relieve, you may just have a potassium deficiency. And if you up your potassium intake enuf, those pains may disappear entirely, so that within two days you will not even remember having had such muscle pains. And they will not recur as long as you continue to take in a healthy measure of potassium.
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What IS a healthy measure of potassium? Potassium is expected, by health professionals, to be one of the most commonly, and heavily, ingested nutrients anyone will, in the ordinary course of a day, take in. That would explain why NO manufacturer of dietary supplements offers a potassium supplement of greater strength than 3% of daily requirement. My multivitamin's potassium content is 2% of the daily requirement. Absurd, at least for old people.
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Unfortunately, many people need MUCH more than a 3% supplement of daily requirement to stave off muscle pains. But almost nobody talks about this, in person or online. Yes, you can get this information, but only if you know to search for it. A potassium deficiency is called "hypokalemia", and it can be serious, not just hurtful in terms of pains to muscles of the back and shoulders. I do not know why this is very well hidden information, such that people in general do not know to try eating or drinking foods high in potassium (e.g., dried apricots or salmon). There is, in any case, almost certainly no need for (old) people to suffer truly debilitating muscle pains, such that they cannot pick up anything heavy, if their problem is only insufficient potassium.
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(2) I also discovered, absolutely inadvertently, that BIRCH BEER soda may have medicinal qualities. The area of the (older, male) body on which birch beer may have medicinal effects is the prostate. But studies and folk medicine suggest that things present in birch beer soda may fite other common problems in the health of older men. I started drinking birch beer again recently after several years when it was not available in my local supermarket. The Pathmark chain had a great, store-brand birch-beer soda during my first couple of years in Newark, NJ, but stopped offering it in, perhaps, 2004. I don't know why.
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Recently, I noticed that Pathmark offered "Pennsylvania Dutch" brand birch beer, at a higher price than Pathmark had offered for its own. I tried it, first, only when it was on sale, and loved it. After drinking some for several days (give it some time, and perhaps a few liters' consumption, if you try this), I noticed a change in my bodily functions. I am now, as of late December, 68 years old. I have had trouble with my prostate. But since I have been drinking birch beer, those problems have subsided. Am I the only one on Earth to have noticed this correlation?
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"Correlation is not causation" is advice worth heeding. But that does NOT mean that one should ignore a physical effect you notice that you have not seen confirmed elsewhere. Even if no medical website, or doctor you consult, tells you that birch beer has helpful effects as to reducing the size and obstructiveness of your prostate, you nonetheless experience improvement in your life from drinking birch beer, ignore the naysayers and reap the benefits of birch beer. If your results are truly noteworthy, tell your doctor. Despite what you may believe, doctors know only what they're told, be it by medical schools or patients. And if the real world tells them things that med school had not, SOME doctors will heed their patients, and even report their feedback to med schools.



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