Potassium is one of the vital minerals that regulate many important functions in your body. People often underestimate the importance of potassium. Studies show that 98% of Americans and a lot of people across western countries suffer from potassium deficiency. Potassium deficiency or hypokalemia is rarely caused by diet. It mostly occurs when your body loses a lot of fluid suddenly. Sudden fluid losses can happen when you have chronic vomiting, excessive sweating, diarrhoea and blood loss.
How do you know you have potassium deficiency? Look out for these 7 symptoms:
7. Mood Changes
Some mood changes and mental fatigues are caused by lack of potassium in your body. The signals that are required from sensory nerves can be disrupted by low blood potassium. Although more research is needed in this area, it is better to take your mood changes as a sign of potassium deficiency and act accordingly.
6. Breathing Difficulties
If you are suddenly having breathing difficulties, it can be caused by severe potassium deficiency. Potassium helps receive and pass signals that stimulate the lungs contraction and expansion. So when your body undergoes severe potassium deficiency, your lungs may not contract and expand as it should. This results in shortness of breath, which in turn can cause your heart to beat abnormally. Abnormal heart beating can mean less blood, hence less oxygen is delivered to your body. This can be fatal.
5. Numbness And Tingling
Persistent numbness and tingling is another symptom of potassium deficiency. This usually occurs in the legs, feet and arms and called paresthesia. Numbness and tingling can result from weak nerve signals as potassium is important for nerve functions. You don’t need to be too worried if you are experiencing these symptoms occasionally. But if you experience paresthesia persistently, you should see your doctor.
4. Stiffness And Muscle Aches
Rhabdomyolysis or rapid muscle breakdown can be indicated by muscle aches and stiffness. Blood flow to your muscle is partially regulated by potassium levels in your blood. When the levels are very low, your blood vessels can contract which then may restrict blood flow to your muscles. This may cause the muscle cells to rapture and leak as they receive less oxygen because of the restricted flow.
3. Digestive Problems
Potassium deficiency may be one of the causes of digestive problems.
Digestive system muscles need signals from the brain to function properly. Potassium helps relay those signals. These signals tell the digestive system muscles to contract. With the help of contractions, the digestive system churns and properly the food so that it can be digested.
The brain cannot send these signals effectively when the blood potassium levels are low. This causes a weaker digestive system. Bloating and constipation can be caused by this.
2. Muscle Cramps And Spasms
Muscles cramps happen where there are sudden and uncontrolled contractions of the muscles. Low potassium levels in the blood can cause this. Low potassium levels in your blood mean irregular signals from your brain to your muscles. This results in contractions that are prolonged. This is when muscle cramps happen.
1. Fatigue And Weakness
One of the first signs of potassium deficiency is weakness and fatigue.
There are multiple ways potassium deficiency can cause fatigue and weakness.
Your muscles produce weaker contractions when the blood potassium level is low because potassium helps regulate muscle contractions.
The usage of other nutrients in your body is also affected by a lack of potassium in your blood. This causes fatigue.
These are some potassium-rich foods:
Bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit (some dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and dates, are also high in potassium)
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