Potassium is one of the most important minerals for the body and also one of the four main electrolytes, along with magnesium, sodium and calcium.
This mineral helps regulate blood pressure and maintain an optimum
water balance in the body. It is also important for the digestion of carbohydrates and proteins, nerve functioning, muscle strength, healthy cardiovascular system and proper digestion.
Some of the factors that lead to low potassium levels are excess use of laxatives, the use of some antibiotics, chronic kidney disease, vomiting, diarrhea, eating disorders, excess alcohol intake, folic acid deficiency or excessive sweating.
There are many symptoms related to potassium deficiency, but unfortunately, many of them are overlooked.
- Muscle Cramps and Weakness
Muscle cramps in the legs, arms and feet are a common symptom of potassium deficiency. When potassium is low in the body, the cells are no longer able to receive or send the proper electrical signals needed to control muscle contractions. This leads to muscle cramps which can last from several seconds to minutes.
The low levels of potassium can also impact your overall muscle health, damaging the muscle cells. You will experience tenderness, aching, weakness and muscle stiffness.
- General Fatigue
Another cause is the feeling of fatigue, which is not caused by overworking or overexertion. If you see that you need a little extra effort to perform regular daily activities, you might suffer from potassium deficiency.
- Tingling Sensations
The electrical impulses can also be affected by a low level of potassium. You might experience a loss of sensation or tingle sensation in the toes, feet, fingers, arms, and legs.
- Heart Palpitations
You heart health might also be affected by potassium deficiency. It can cause heart palpitations and an irregular heartbeat rhythm for no apparent reason.
- Mental or Emotional Issues
Potassium plays an important role in transporting serotonin, the neurotransmitter which promotes the feelings of happiness and well-being. A low potassium level can lead to confusion, depression, mood swings, delirium, and hallucinations.
Potassium helps the digestive system. The low levels of potassium can disrupt the function of the intestines and stomach muscles and lead to constipation, cramping, pain or abdominal bloating.
- High Blood Pressure
Potassium relaxes the blood vessels and balances the negative effects of sodium. Without potassium, the balance of sodium gets disrupted, leading to high blood pressure.
It is easy to increase you daily intake of potassium by consuming fruits and vegetables such as avocados, bananas, oranges, strawberries, apricots, mangoes, dates, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, red peppers, broccoli or Swiss chard. You can also eat salmon and sardines which are also rich in potassium.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, make sure you see your doctor as soon as possible. When your potassium level is low, try to avoid strenuous physical activities. This will help you prevent further loss of potassium through excessive sweating. Also, keep in mind that a high level of potassium is not good either. It can affect your kidneys and lead to other serious medical conditions.