Hypokalemia is a health condition characterized by low levels of potassium in the blood. This mineral is in fact an electrolyte, necessary for proper functioning of the muscles and nerves. The kidneys control the levels of potassium in the human organism, and remove the excess amounts through sweat and urine. The remaining part of this mineral is absorbed into the body, to enable various functions.
Hypokalemia is sometimes referred to as the hypokalemic syndrome, hypopotassemia syndrome, or low potassium syndrome.
Symptoms Of Hypokalemia
When the condition is mild, you’re likely not to exhibit any symptoms. However, when the potassium levels are too low in your blood, you might suffer from arrhythmia, muscle weakness, as well abnormal heart rhythms. These symptoms should reverse upon treatment.
It’s important to keenly observe your potassium intake, and make note of any of the symptoms, so that you can get treatment in good time.
Symptoms that require medical attention, following low levels of potassium, include constipation, bloating, weakness, fatigue, palpitations, and muscle cramping.
When the levels are even lower, below 2.5mmol/L, hypokalemia can be life-threatening. With such low levels, you could experience a breakdown of your muscle tissue, paralysis, respiratory failure, as well as lazy bowels.
In very severe cases, it can cause atrial or ventricular fibrillation, or even tachycardia, which is a condition that causes the heart to beat too fast. Potassium deficiency can also cause bradycardia, which is a condition that causes the heart to beat too slowly, as well as premature ventricular contractions, or premature heart beats. The strain on the heart muscles from these symptoms could be threatening for your life.
Depending on how severe it is, you might need hospitalization and multiple treatment approaches. But mainly, the treatment takes place in various steps.
- First, the doctor has to carry out tests and determine the underlying cause of the hypokalemia, before developing an appropriate course of treatment. For example, if you’ve lost a lot of potassium as a result of diarrhea or vomiting, from a previous illness, the doctor may decide to administer treatment to deal with the cause.
- The second step involves restoring the potassium levels. This could involve administering of potassium supplements, as well as incorporating an IV drip to help with the potassium intake.
- Thirdly, the doctors monitor you, to ensure that your potassium levels don’t drop or reverse after being administered in the second step. If your potassium levels are too high, it could also cause problems. Thus, monitoring the levels to ascertain they are normal is key.
- Once you leave the hospital, the doctor will advise on potassium rich foods. You should follow the advice, so as to ensure that your potassium levels will continue to move forward.
Depending on the cause and extent of hypokalemia, the doctor may also prescribe potassium supplements.
What To Eat For Optimal Potassium Levels
Too much of anything is poisonous for the human organism. The same rule applies to too much of potassium. The best and safest way to ensure you have enough potassium in your body, is by taking the right kinds of foods.
Some of the best sources of potassium include:
- Peanut butter
- Peas and beans
Sometimes, it’s possible to suffer from hypokalemia, without exhibiting symptoms. So, to be safe, ensure that you eat a diet healthy in potassium, by incorporating the foods listed above.