You rarely hear about potassium when there are discussions about health, but potassium is actually an essential mineral that is vital to our health. Not only does potassium help balance the body’s pH system, it is also excellent for maintaining consistent blood pressure levels, as well as bone density and muscle mass. That’s why it’s important to watch out for signs you’re not getting enough potassium in your diet and remedy the problem as soon as you can.
7 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Potassium
Potassium deficiency is more common than you think. A normal level of potassium is between 3.5 and 5.0 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). If your levels are below 3.5 mmol/L but higher than 2.5 mmol/L, symptoms can be subtle. If it’s below 2.5 mmol/L, you will definitely experience severe side effects.
Whether your symptoms are mild or more severe, some of the effects you may notice are:
All of the body’s cells need potassium to function properly, so if you’re deficient in potassium for a sustained period of time, you can experience an overall feeling of tiredness or sluggishness.
2. Muscle weakness, cramps, and spasms
Potassium plays a very important role in cell repolarization and muscle contraction. If you’re low on potassium, you could be experiencing muscles aches and spasms.
3. Heart palpitations or heart skipping beats
Potassium is essential to keeping the electrical balance of your heart. Having too much or too little potassium can cause heart failure or heart problems like palpitations and skipped beats.
4. High blood pressure
Potassium encourages blood vessels to relax, so if you don’t have enough potassium, your blood vessels may be constricted and cause increased blood pressure.
As discussed, potassium affects all cellular functions in the body, including smooth muscle contraction. If your potassium levels are low, smooth muscle in your digestive tract could slow down and you can experience issues like abdominal bloating and constipation.
6. Tingling and numbness
Like the muscles, the nerves are also affected by potassium levels. If you’re experiencing a deficiency in potassium, you may feel the “pins and needles” sensation, which translates to tingling and numbness.
7. Feeling faint or dizzy
If potassium levels drop very low, your heartbeat can slow down to the point where you feel faint and dizzy. It’s important to get prompt medical attention if this happens.
If you’re feeling any of these symptoms, consult your doctor for a simple blood test, which will reveal your potassium level and whether you have a deficiency.
How to Get More Potassium into Your Diet
While potassium supplements are available, these are best used under the supervision of a doctor. Just as potassium deficiency can cause problems in the body, so can too much potassium (hyperkalemia).
Potassium levels that are too high are harmful and are usually a result of potassium supplement intake rather than the foods you eat. Instead, if your symptoms are not that severe, you may find your doctor suggesting some dietary changes to increase your natural intake of potassium.
Some foods that are rich in potassium include:
- Beet greens
- White beans
- Lima beans
- Sweet potatoes
It’s best to visit your doctor and discuss your symptoms before attempting to remedy a possible potassium deficiency on your own. Many of the symptoms for potassium deficiency can be a result of other health conditions, so getting a test done at your doctor’s office is the best way to confirm whether you are indeed potassium deficient or not.
LD, M. W. (2018, January 10). Potassium: Health benefits and recommended intake. Retrieved March 06, 2018, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/287212.php
8 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Potassium. (2017, June 16). Retrieved March 06, 2018, from https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/symptoms-of-low-potassium/slide/9