The importance of electrolytes is vital for good health and optimal performance. Hence, it’s important for you to know what happens to your body when you have a potassium deficiency and what causes it. Also, you need to learn how to avoid putting your health at risk.
For athletes, it’s essential to have a balance of electrolytes. But, even if you’re not an athlete, this is necessary in order to maintain a good state of health. This is why potassium plays an important role in maintaining a balance.
This mineral works in conjunction with sodium, and it helps regulate the body fluids and heartbeats. Now, let’s start with a brief introduction.
Importance Of Potassium
This is an essential mineral, which helps us maintain good health. It’s responsible for maintaining normal pressure inside and outside the cells, it helps regulate the balance of fluids in the body, decreases the effects of excess sodium, and participates in the mechanism of contraction and relaxation of the muscles.
Most of the potassium in the body is in the cells, and only 2 percent of this mineral is in the bloodstream.
Muscle function is based on the availability of potassium in your body. If there’s not enough, the muscles may stop functioning properly.
In addition, this mineral plays a very important role in supporting the heart function.
Causes Of Potassium Deficiency
As we already mentioned, the human body needs this mineral to function properly. Medically, low levels of this mineral are classified under the term hypokalemia.
If you have a healthy and balanced diet, in general, the levels of this mineral won’t be affected. However, a poor diet and bad eating habits can make you potassium deficient.
In addition, there may be other factors causing this deficiency:
- The use of certain drugs, such as antibiotics
- Diuretics (for arterial hypertension, cardiac insufficiencies)
- Prolonged episodes of diarrhea and vomiting
- Chronic kidney disease
- Bulimia (eating disorder)
- Increased sweating
- Low magnesium levels
In the case of diuretics, this deficiency may occur because the body releases the excess fluid, to help eliminate the body tension. But, if you urinate too often and much more than necessary, it can affect the balance of electrolytes, and especially the levels of potassium.
Potassium Deficiency Symptoms
Among the most common symptoms, which you need to address immediately, are the following:
- Chronic fatigue
- Heart palpations
- Muscle problems
When the muscles do not have enough potassium, the cells that make them do not work efficiently, so the following symptoms may present:
- Muscular weakness
- Tingling sensation and numbness
- Muscle cramps
- Extreme thirst
- Abdominal cramps
- Discomfort and bloating
- Low blood pressure
- In extreme cases, loss of consciousness
- Hallucinations, delirium, confusion
- Runner’s knee (irritation and pain in the knee)
In the case of people suffering from heart disease, the heart rhythm can be abnormal, causing dizziness and even fainting. In extreme cases, it can even cause the heart to stop.
Although the symptoms are clear, to be able to identify the deficiency, you need to carefully observe your body. Also, you should visit your doctor, to do a blood test and find out your potassium levels. And, if necessary, order other tests, such as an electrocardiogram.
Once the deficiency has been diagnosed, you should start with a proper treatment. To do this, you need to know the probable causes of your deficiency, and attack them directly.
Generally, the treatments consist of an administration of certain supplements, usually a combination of magnesium and potassium.
You can also enrich your diet with potassium-rich food. You can find this mineral naturally in fruits, and especially in those with bones. Here’s a list of the foods we recommend:
- Nuts like walnuts, almonds
- Sunflower seeds
- Legumes like lentils
- Brussels sprouts
Remember, cooking can destroy potassium. Thus, it’s recommendable to consume raw foods rich in this mineral. Also, get the daily requirements through supplements.