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Phosphates, Phosphorus

Phosphate is an intracellular ion and is derived from salt of phosphorus. Phosphates are the most common form of phosphorous. Phosphorous is a mineral widely spread in many foods like peas, dried beans, milk, cheese, colas, nuts and peanut butter. Phosphorus is an important mineral that makes to 1% of our total body weight and plays vital functions in the body like maintaining calcium balance, energy metabolism and storage, buffer body fluids, formation of healthy bones, teeth and soft tissues (85% of body phosphorus is found in bones and teeth), proper muscle and nerve function and hydrogen ion excretion from kidneys. Low levels of phosphate in diet can lead to hypophosphatemia which can cause long term serious complications.
On the other hand in conditions like compromised kidney function there might be serious electrolyte imbalances due to excess phosphorus levels in blood.

Phosphate supplements are given to those who are unable to get enough phosphorus from their regular diet due to some disease or illness. Phosphates are used for hyperphosphatemia, hypercalcemia treatment, to prevent formation of calcium stones in the kidneys, constipation (oral form as well as enema), diabetic ketoacidosis cure, laxative or preparing bowel before any procedures. Phosphate can be administered intravenously to prevent refeeding syndrome in patients with anorexia nervosa where the period of malnutrition or starvation is long. Replacement of phosphorus is required in burns patients due to severe losses. Patients with multiple sclerosis and vitamin D resistant rickets may also benefit from phosphate supplements.

Phosphates should be administered in appropriate doses as excess can cause toxicity and potentially serious problems. These include hypocalcemia (low calcium blood levels), hyperphosphatemia (high phosphorus blood levels), hypomagnesemia (low magnesium blood levels), or hypokalemia (low potassium levels). Severe hypotension (low blood pressure), dehydration, acute kidney failure, metabolic acidosis or calcification of non-skeletal tissues (particularly in the kidneys) can also occur.

Those at increased risk of electrolyte imbalance should take phosphates (oral, rectal, or intravenous phosphates) with caution. Rare or late complications may include confusion, abdominal pain, tongue coating, foul breath, vomiting, limb aches, convulsions (seizures), yellow conjunctivae (whites of the eyes), headache, tingling, pain, dizziness, numbness, muscle cramps, weakness, anxiety, increased thirst, bloody vomiting and diarrhea or fatigue. Management of toxicity is very important, this may include hourly doses of Epsom salts in water, oxygen inhalation, camphor, old oil of turpentine or potassium permanganate and external heat has been recommended.
Phosphorus and phosphate supplements should be taken in recommended amounts under the guidance and supervision of a health care professional as it has to be monitored carefully and may even interact with certain drugs, herbal or dietary supplements.

Submitted on January 16, 2014