Potassium is a mineral which is vital for the proper functioning of the human body. It plays a pivotal role in the building of muscles, conversion of glucose to glycogen and overall development of the body. Deficiency of potassium in the blood levels leads to a condition known as ‘Hypokalemia’. Some of the characteristics of this condition are fatigue, allergies, formation of kidney stones and acne.
Causes of potassium deficiency:
Potassium deficiency in human beings usually occurs due to consumption of a diet which is low in fresh fruits and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables, fruits like bananas and apples, whole grains, seafood, and certain herbs are all potassium-rich foods. The loss of fluids in the body due to vomiting, diarrhea or excessive sweating, flushes out potassium which can also lead to its deficiency. Use of certain prescription medications or complications in health due to diabetes or malfunctioning of the kidneys may also cause the expulsion of this mineral from the body.
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Potassium deficiency Symptoms:
- Tenderness or weakness of the muscles.
- Aching of the muscles due to stiffness.
- Abdominal bloating or cramps.
- Heart palpitations.
- Spells of dizziness and fainting.
- Extreme thirst and frequent urination.
- Numbness and tingling sensation.
Potassium deficiency diseases and treatment:
1. Kidney disease:
Potassium maintains fluid, electrolyte and pH levels in the body. It is a crucial mineral which helps the kidneys in filtering blood. Healthy potassium blood levels are between 3.5 – 5.0 mEq/L. Any drastic changes in these levels may be unsafe for the kidneys.
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2. Irregular functioning of the heart:
Potassium is important for the effective functioning of muscles including heart. Low potassium levels cause irregular heartbeats and in extreme cases may even lead to cadiac arrest.
3. High blood pressure:
Adequate levels of potassium in the bloodstream are essential to control blood pressure. Hypertension or high blood pressure is a medical condition in which the pressure of the blood flowing to the heart is elevated. This happens when the kidneys expel potassium but retain sodium. Shortness of breath, fatigue, heart palpitations and dizziness are some of the symptoms associated with high blood pressure.
A deficiency of potassium is one of the reasons for the repeated occurrence of headaches or migraines in people who are prone to this chronic condition. Increasing the amount of potassium in the diet could provide some relief.
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5. Muscular degeneration:
When potassium levels in the bloodstream drop significantly, it leads to hypokalemia. Muscle weakness is one of the predominant features of hypokalemia, in addition to fatigue, cramps and heart palpitations. In extreme cases, owing to a breakdown of the muscular fibers it may lead to paralysis.
6. Diabetic Complications:
Diabetic patients who suffer from low levels of potassium generally have high blood sugar levels. This reduces the sensitivity of the body to insulin.
7. Alopecia or Hair Loss:
A diet deficient in potassium can cause your hair to fall out. Loss of hair or ‘Alopecia’ can also occur due to fungus, ingestion of certain drugs, chemotherapy, or iron deficiency too.
[ Read: Potassium Rich Foods ]
8. Stomach disorder:
Lowering of potassium levels in the body can cause an upset stomach by weakening the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract. Nausea, vomiting, bloating and constipation are some of the other side effects of potassium deficiency..
9. Mental fatigue:
Low levels of potassium can affect the psychological health of a person too. It can manifest itself as depression, mood swings, irritability, disorientation or bipolar disorder.
10. Skin problems:
Potassium deficiency can cause skin problems like skin eruptions, dryness of skin, blistering, acne etc.
Treatments for Potassium Deficiency:
- In order to ensure that there is no deficit of this mineral in your body; include plenty of potassium-rich foods in your daily diet.
- Supply your body continuously with fluids to supplement any loss due to body secretions.
- Treat diarrhea or vomiting without delay to avoid further loss of potassium.
- If your body is dangerously low on potassium, you can take supplements to up the levels. Make sure you consult a doctor before you do the same.