It is a mineral that performs fundamental functions in the body. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about potassium: deficiencies, causes, symptoms and useful foods. In this article, we will give you a complete guide about the symptoms of low potassium.
Potassium is a mineral involved in numerous metabolic processes. With the first heat, and even more so in the height of summer, thanks to a diet. That is not suited to the season and perhaps more intense physical activity, we risk eliminating potassium with excessive sweat. It becomes imperative to compensate for a diet. That ensures this mineral’s daily requirement to avoid a series of potassium deficiency disorders that can involve different systems and often occur in an insidious and apparently non-specific form.
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Potassium is also included among the micronutrients, the essential substances for the body, but to be taken in small quantities. Present in numerous foods of both animal and vegetable origin, it is essential for life because it participates in many physiological processes. Even very different from each other, from muscle contraction to blood pressure control.
Any excess potassium is eliminated in the urine produced by the kidneys. Therefore, the latter can be counted among the organs responsible for maintaining an adequate balance of this mineral’s levels in the body.
According to the Italian Society of Human Nutrition.
the adequate daily intake of this mineral is:
- 7 g for infants
- 7 g for children aged 1 to 3
- 4 g from 4 to 6 years
- 0 g between 7 and 10 years
- 9 g from 11 years onwards
Any deficiencies can trigger even serious symptoms and – on the contrary – an unbalanced diet, too rich in this mineral, can be dangerous for health.
Foods that contain potassium
Potassium is found in a large variety of foods. To take it, it is possible to consume both foods of plant origin and animal origin foods. For example, it is present in green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, aubergines, pumpkin, potatoes (especially in their peel) and carrots; it is also found in legumes (in beans, peas, soy and peanuts) and can be taken in the form of nuts (e.g. almonds), dried fruit (such as apricots and plums) and fresh fruit (in particular in citrus fruits, melon, bananas, kiwis and, once again, plums and apricots).
Foods that contain potassium: Symptoms Of Low Potassium
However, among those of animal origin are foods rich in potassium meat and poultry, dairy products and fish such as salmon, cod, plaice, and sardines. Finally, we must not forget that potassium is also present in the substitutes for traditional table salt based on potassium chloride.
Why it’s important to keep potassium levels right
The role of potassium in the body is prominent. Potassium is a mineral essential to life, mainly concentrated inside the cells. At the correct values at which metabolic functions can take place (the so-called acid-base balance). Together, these two minerals also preside over water balance and the transport of substances in and out of cells. Sodium and potassium are complementary, but also antagonists.
What is potassium used for?: Symptoms Of Low Potassium
When you think about the nutrients your body needs, the first word that comes to mind is hardly potassium. Still, it should. Potassium concentrates in the cells and performs various functions: it helps nerves and muscles to communicate, transports other nutrients, keeps the kidneys functioning properly and prevents sodium from reaching too high peaks.
Symptoms of Low Potassium
Without going into the complex labyrinths of physiology. It is essential to know that for the health of our cells and of the organism as a whole, we must introduce more potassium. The consequences are there for all to see: let’s think for example of hypertension – notoriously correlated with the consumption of foods rich in salt-and the less dangerous effects of water retention, such as cellulite, swelling and weight gain. By stimulating the kidneys to produce urine, potassium helps eliminate sodium, helps control blood pressure and purifies the body. Potassium is also a heart tonic: the right potassium values inside and outside the heart cells, susceptible to the concentrations of this mineral, oversee the heartbeat’s regularity.
The signals that your body needs potassium
Tiredness, cramps, abdominal bloating: some signs can be linked to a potassium deficiency and useful not to underestimate. Usually, a diet rich in fruit and vegetables should suffice to restore an adequate level of potassium. Eventually, it is possible to resort to the use of specific mineral salt supplements.
But what are the “symptoms” of a possible potassium deficiency?
About 98% of the total potassium in our body is found inside cells, particularly in muscle tissue: it is, therefore, essential for proper cellular functioning. Fatigue is a first sign of how the cells are functioning “undertone”. Sometimes we feel exhausted for no obvious reason: we sleep regularly, and our physical activity is neither more demanding nor more intense than usual.
Hypertension: Symptoms Of Low Potassium
Potassium is an excellent vasodilator. Its deficiency can, therefore cause a rise in blood pressure.
Beware of the “potassium-eating” diet.
Crackers, chips, frozen foods: the salt contained in certain foods accelerate the elimination of potassium and lower its level in the body. That is why it is always advisable to consume a limited amount of these foods.
When we do physical activity, especially if it is intense, our muscles need more of the nutrients that arrive through the blood. Potassium, an excellent vasodilator, favours blood flow and, therefore, of nutrients. In potassium deficiency, the muscles do not recharge adequately; they tend to count and, therefore, the chances of cramps can increase.
As we have already said, symptoms of low potassium act on the muscles’ contractions and consequently also on the heart functions. Moderate to severe potassium deficiency can, therefore cause arrhythmias or an abnormal heartbeat. Not really a sign of being underestimated, especially if you are already at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Dizziness: Symptoms Of Low Potassium
Speaking of a heartbeat: A sudden and excessive loss of potassium can slow your heartbeat so much that you feel like you’re about to pass out. However, arrhythmias and cardiac dysfunctions have several possible causes. So, if the phenomenon occurs, it is good to contact your doctor immediately.
Low potassium symptoms also mean reduced functionality for the abdominal muscles, intestines, and stomach, which can cause abdominal cramps and bloat, constipation.
The functionality of the nerves also depends on an adequate concentration of potassium in the blood. In case of deficiency, an annoying sensation of numbness may be felt, accompanied by tingling and tingling, with less sensitivity of a part of the body.
IF THE PRESSURE ALSO DROPS WITH THE HEAT
Potassium’s action against nerve impulses is also essential, proving to be decisive for preserving our complex neuropsychological system’s health. In the case of anxiety, mood fluctuations, and some forms of insomnia, increasing the nutritional intake of potassium can help.
When there is not enough potassium in the diet
What are the other conditions that raise suspicion of potassium deficiency? It must be said that proper nutrition can ensure the necessary dose, which in adults is estimated at just over 3 grams per day. As we said, there are frequent cases in which to foods that represent conspicuous potassium sources – such as fruits and vegetables – sweets and baked goods, cheeses and cold cuts are preferred, whose high sodium content reduces the amount of potassium to the inside the body.
8 signs of potassium deficiency
Potassium is an essential mineral that is essential for the healthy functioning of the body. It helps regulate muscle contractions, normalizes the brain’s functioning and the entire nervous system, and regulates fluid balance in the body. Nevertheless, numerous studies have shown that this mineral deficiency occurs (especially in the cold season) in most of our planet’s population. What are the signs to recognize the lack of potassium in the body and how to replenish it, we describe below?1
1. Chronic fatigue and weakness
Chronic fatigue and weakness during the day may be the first signs of potassium deficiency. Since the mineral regulates muscle contractions and brain function, a lack of it causes weakness throughout the body and impaired brain activity (thoughts seem to slow down, concentration disappears). Also, with a deficiency of potassium, the body will begin to distribute nutrients differently, leading to weakness.
2. Convulsions: Symptoms Of Low Potassium
Muscle cramps (or cramps) are uncontrollable muscle contractions that often cause unpleasant and even painful sensations. And the root cause is often a lack of potassium. These chemical reactions carry signals from the brain to the muscles, and vice versa.
3. Problems with digestion
Potassium deficiency can cause digestive problems, among other things. Returning to the previous point, it is important to say that the stomach is also a muscle and from a lack of a mineral, its work is disrupted. However, instead of seizures, you are more likely to experience indigestion or nausea. In any case, the symptoms are not pleasant, so you need to monitor your condition very carefully.
4. Rapid heartbeat
Each of us sometimes notices that the heart begins to beat faster. This may be due to stress, anxiety, fear, or, conversely, uncontrollable joy. But here we clearly see the connection with our emotional state, and there is no need to worry about this. And if in a state of relative emotional calm, without the participation of any external factors, your heart begins to pound madly, the reason for this may be a lack of potassium.
5. Muscle pain: Symptoms Of Low Potassium
Severe muscle pain is already a more serious symptom when the deviation from potassium intake is already significant enough. Since potassium plays an important role in regulating circulatory processes, blood (and with it oxygen) ceases to flow to the muscles in sufficient quantities when there is a lack of it. This can cause severe pain and muscle stiffness.
6. Tingling and numbness
Potassium deficiency can trigger paresthesias – sudden tingling or numbness in the arms, legs, and feet in particular. Potassium is essential for healthy nerve function. Symptoms of low potassium levels in the blood can weaken nerve signals, which can cause this unpleasant condition. While these symptoms are harmless, persistent tingling and numbness could be a sign of something more serious. If you experience persistent paresthesia, it is best to see your doctor.
7. Shortness of breath
Acute low potassium deficiency symptoms can cause difficulty breathing, as blood stops flowing to the lungs in sufficient quantities. When your blood potassium levels are severely low, your lungs may not expand or contract properly, which can cause shortness of breath.
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8. Mood swings
Since potassium plays an important role in normalising brain function, its lack can be reflected in our emotional state. If you notice unreasonable mood changes in yourself, the problem may be a lack of minerals.
Where is potassium found?
We figured out the symptoms, now let’s talk about what products can help fill this deficit. The undisputed leaders in low potassium content symptoms are beet tops, legumes, all types of potatoes (including sweet potatoes), bananas, and avocados. Just 100 grams of these foods contain 15-25% of your daily potassium requirement. First, try to balance your diet, and then (apart from rare exceptions) supplements will not be needed.
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Excess of potassium: Symptoms Of Low Potassium
Excess potassium can result from poor kidney function, causing muscle cramps or weakness, pressure imbalances, fatigue and rapid heartbeat. Let’s find out better how to cure it.
Symptoms of excess potassium
Potassium Monitoring the level of potassium (mineral K) in the human body is imperative. Symptoms of low potassium is a mineral that must never be lacking in the daily diet, but equally, it must never be in excess. Excess potassium, also defined as hyper kalmia or hyperkalemia, is in fact harmful, especially in cases of diseases that affect the elderly, such as arterial hypertension and heart disease. Symptoms related to excess potassium in the blood are muscle cramps or weakness, sometimes tremors, pressure imbalances, fatigue and asthenia, tachycardia up to stopping heartbeat, shock and death.
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The causes of excess potassium: Symptoms Of Low Potassium
One of the main causes of the increase in potassium is a physical disorder related to kidney function. The kidney patients, which do not filter out and not fully fulfil their task, cannot dispose of excess potassium. Which accumulates and is likely to cause serious damage to health. Renal failure and blood pressure imbalance are two contributing causes of the hyper kalmia. Other reasons may be dehydration, excessive dietary intake, diuretic therapies that prevent or reduce potassium’s excretion, Addison’s disease, and hyperaldosteronism (reduced secretion of the hormone called aldosterone by the adrenal gland), hemolytic crises caused by blood disorders or from transfusions.
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Excess of potassium and nutrition
The excess of potassium can also be regulated by observing the correct diet. For example, in chronic hyperkaliemia cases, tailor-made diets can be planned, with a good doctor’s help, based on the potassium contained in food. A food program capable of eliminating excess potassium primarily involves reducing tea, coffee, cocoa, fruit, and vegetables. Specifically, to reduce the intake of the mineral K, foods such as dried fruit, such as dates, plums, raisins or apricots should also be avoided; peanuts, olives, pine nuts, almonds; fruits, such as banana, kiwi, avocado, cherries, peaches, apricots.
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The consumption of vegetables such as beets, ripe tomatoes, artichokes, cabbage, fennel, endive, lettuce, rocket, spinach should also be limited; limit the consumption of dried legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, broad beans, peas and beans; sauces like ketchup, soy sauce, wine, beer. Say no even to potatoes, garlic, brewer’s yeast, brown rice. It is important not to combine foods that contain a lot of potassium: if you eat pasta and beans. For example, you should then avoid the side dish, at least not take tomatoes. Which contain high quantities.
What happens when there is an excess of potassium
When there is too much potassium in the blood, a symptom defined by the medical term hyperkaliemia or hyperkaliemia can lead to serious disorders. Symptoms of low potassium values are visible by undergoing simple blood tests. The first symptoms that define an excess of potassium are the same as those of a lack of it: weakness, fatigue, a manifestation of muscle cramps. The one who pays the most this time is the heart. You can therefore have heart rhythm disturbances, such as extrasystoles or slowdowns, even cardiac arrest.