Potassium is one of the most important minerals and electrolytes the human body needs. One of its most important functions is to maintain the electrical activity of the body cells. Organs that are mostly affected by potassium deficiency are those with the highest electrical activity such as the heart, muscles, and nerves.


Normal potassium levels in the serum range from 3.5 – 5.0 mEq/liter in the blood.

Potassium deficiency may appear due to several reasons, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Laxative use
  • Diarrhea
  • Diuretic medications
  • Low magnesium levels
  • Renal tubular acidosis

People who are most prone to low potassium levels in the body are:

Alcoholics

  • People with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes
  • Those who exercise for more than 2 hours a day
  • People who are on a low-calorie diet

If you are deficient in this mineral you may experience certain health issues because it has a huge impact on the overall health. Here are the symptoms:

Weak muscles

Without potassium, our muscles become weak which may result in muscle cramps and aches that appear on a daily basis.

Fatigue

As we have previously mentioned, potassium is an electrolyte which means that its deficiency can trigger fatigue. This is especially noticeable after a heavy workout when you lose plenty of fluids due to excessive sweating.

Irregular heartbeat

The lack of potassium can provoke palpitations which are characterized by strong, rapid and irregular heartbeats. However, note that there are plenty of other reasons for palpitations too so in order to determine the real cause make sure you visit your cardiologist.

Lightheadedness

The heart is a muscle which contracts slowly and less efficiently if there is a lack of potassium in the body. Consequently, there is not enough oxygen-rich blood transported to the brain which, in turn, makes you feel lightheaded and dizzy.

Pins and needles in the extremities

Potassium is also necessary for optimal function of the nervous system. Therefore, its deficiency may trigger pins and needles in the extremities.

Constipation

Due to the low level of potassium in your body, some bodily functions may slow down, such as for example the bowel motility and evacuation. As a result, you may experience constipation accompanied by excess gas and abdominal pain.

Hypertension

This mineral has relaxing effects on the blood vessels which means it leaves them dilated. On the other hand, its deficiency prevents their dilation when necessary which, in turn, elevates the blood pressure and increases the risk of developing a heart disease.

In order to eliminate or avoid the occurrence of these symptoms, make sure you include potassium-rich foods in your daily diet, for example:

  • Fresh vegetables: peas, tomatoes, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables, beets, broccoli, lima beans, white beans
  • Fresh fruits: apricots, oranges, bananas, kiwi, cantaloupe, strawberries, avocados
  • Juices: grapefruit, apricot, orange, prune
  • Meat: turkey, fish (salmon, sardines), grass-fed beef