Potassium Deficiency and You

May 20, 2010 No Comments

Insomnia, stress and irregular heartbeat keep this eye awakePotassium Deficiency – Who, Why and How?

Potassium is a mineral that is made up of water electrolytes. Potassium rich foods are the best way to get more of this vital mineral in your system. Around 98% of the potassium inside your body is kept within the cells. Potassium – if not regulated properly within the body – can result in cardiac irregularities. With a low level of potassium, you may be courting serious and sometimes fatal health problems.


Hypokalaemia describes a condition where your body is suffering as a result of low potassium levels. Since potassium is needed to regulate your heart, not having the appropriate levels of potassium is dangerous, and could lead to several potentially fatal illnesses.


If you are suffering from low potassium levels in your body, you may experience weakness, dizziness, muscle cramps, fatigue, irregular heartbeat and constipation. Some people even have excess sweating and breathing troubles, without any exertion at all.

Causes of Potassium Deficiency

There is a wide range of reasons you may be lacking potassium. The following are some examples:

Keep in mind that potassium rich foods not being a big enough part of your diet can lead to indigestion. This can further result in vomiting and diarrhea – also known as hypokalaemia. Normally, this is the result of having large amounts of potassium contained in your gastric fluids.

If insulin is secreted in large amounts, this too can cause hypokalaemia. When there is insulin in your body, it allows potassium to enter your muscle cells.

If you drink alcohol excessively, this unhealthy habit can also lead to hypokalaemia. Excess stress is another common cause of depletions in appropriate levels of potassium.

Elderly people and the debilitated, as a result of being on unhealthy diets, are often prone to having low levels of potassium. Sometimes such diets may be aimed at controlling other health issues, and be inadvertently low in potassium. Other times, it is simply difficult for older people to eat well, for any number of reasons.

Remember, that taking diuretics regularly – in the form of a drug – also may cause hypokalaemia. Physicians, at times, prescribe such drugs, for example, to lower high blood pressure. These drugs will increase your levels of urination, causing increased losses in renal potassium. Other potassium lowering medicines include thiazides, furosemide and ethacrynic acid.

Keep in mind that hypertension, congestive diseases and adrenal tumours all can lead to hypokalaemia. Also be aware that self administered laxatives, diuretic misuse and vomiting all allow potassium to be lost – and increase the chances of being victimized by hypokalaemia. This is one of the great risks to life faced by otherwise healthy young women who suffer from bulimia.

Quick Facts On Potassium

– About 80% of the potassium in your body is excreted through your kidneys.

– About 20% of the potassium in your body is expelled through sweat and bowel movements.
– If you have a case of severe hypokalaemia, this can lead to fatally weak muscles, which in turn can cause respiratory failure.
– You should have a potassium blood level of 3.5 to 5.5 mEq/L.
– If you are a person with an irregular heart condition, make certain that you continually have proper intake of potassium rich foods to safeguard yourself. This can, otherwise, lead to worse conditions.
– Lack of proper foods with potassium is a big reason there are so many cases of potassium deficiency. Since the advent of an industrialized food industry, people increasingly depend on processed foods over fresh foods. Along with your regular diet, make certain that you include fresh, potassium rich foods to stay healthy.

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Tags: Low Potassium, Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency

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