Reply To: Lots of Questions

March 23, 2012 at 3:53 am

Further to potassium: Before taking this supplement, ask your doctor to check your blood level of potassium. On a lab report, the value is recorded beside the letter K (which is the chemical symbol for potassium).

My lab tests verify I need the supplement: The normal range for K is 3.5 to 5.1 mmol/L. My level varies between 3.6 to 4.2 mmol/L when I am taking Potassium Gluconate tablets daily. That is called “low-normal” (meaning inside the normal range, but at the very low end). When I don’t take the supplement, my blood level quickly goes down to 3.2 or so (below the cut-off for normal). Note: Use the normal range printed on your own lab report; this reflects the specific equipment used in your lab.

Potassium supplements are useful and necessary for me. But I would like to know WHY. What process causes me to lose the potassium I have in my body, and why do I need so much replacement? Researchers are looking into this topic. The GBS/CIDP Foundation Newsletter (Fall/Winter 2011, page 5) published “Treatment of the Residual Effects of GBS with Dalfampridine” which says:

“In incompletely remyelinated axons the potassium channels are exposed and potassium leaks out of the axon, leading to loss of the ability of the axon to conduct the electrical impulses. Dalfampridine (4-AP) partially prevents leakage of potassium and improves nerve conduction. Recently Dalfampridine has been shown to improve walking in MS patients, presumably by blocking potassium channels and improving nerve conduction. Since MS is characterized by demyelination and incomplete remyelination in the CNS, it is plausible that Dalfampridine may also help Guillain-Barre patients with residual weakness, sensory loss or fatigue due to incomplete remyelination and also patients with CIDP.”

“There are important differences between CNS and peripheral nervous system (PNS) myelinated axons… It is possible there is not significant potassium leakage in the PNS because those axons remyelinate more effectively than CNS axons… Despite the caveats, Dalfampridine could produce meaningful improvement in GBS patients who have incompletely recovered, particularly those in whom fatigue is the most disabling symptom. A clinical trial will be necessary to determine whether there is any benefit; at present the med can only be prescribed for MS patients.”