Potassium deficiency, or Hypokalemia, is a condition in which a person does not get enough potassium for their body. It can be due to a poor diet or loss due to diarrhoea or vomiting. Potassium deficiency can result in medical conditions like high blood pressure, constipation, muscle weakness, and fatigue.
Potassium is an important mineral that plays a number of roles in our body. Our body derives it primarily from our diets. Its main functions are:
Small changes in levels of potassium can affect our bodily functions. Potassium maintains the electrical activity in the cells in our bodies. When this level drops, it affects the cells high in electrical activity - like nerves, muscles, and the heart.
Potassium deficiency is characterised by potassium levels lower than 3.6mmol/litre.
Although we source most of our potassium from our diet, a low-potassium diet is hardly ever the reason for a deficiency.
More often than not, potassium deficiency occurs due to loss from the Gastrointestinal tract (GI) or the kidney.
Potassium deficiency caused due to loss from GI tract may be because of:
Potassium deficiency caused due to loss from the kidneys may be because of:
Signs and symptoms of Potassium deficiency are not always noticeable. A routine blood test can tell you about the levels of potassium in your body.
However, below are some symptoms that may suggest a potassium deficiency.
The treatment method for potassium deficiency will depend on the severity and your medical history.
For mild hypokalemia, your doctor may suggest:
However, excessive doses of potassium may lead to a condition called hyperkalemia - which can also cause serious muscle and heart damage.
The recommended daily intake of potassium is 3400mg for adult males and 2600mg for adult females.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hypokalemia or potassium deficiency, ensure you eat foods like:
A balanced and healthy diet can be the best source of potassium for your body. Consult your doctor and plan out a food diary if you have potassium deficiency.
Potassium is an important mineral in our body. Potassium deficiency can lead to medical conditions that may be life-threatening. It is usually caused due to a loss in potassium from the GI tract or kidney. One can manage potassium deficiency with a balanced diet and prescribed medications.