Potassium is an electrolyte with symbol K and a mineral having 19 protons and 19 electrons. It aids in maintaining water balance of the body. Every living organism on earth; be it a plant, animal or human being, requires potassium in its body cells to function properly. Potassium is an important nutrient that is required for the proper functioning of nerve impulses, prevention of excess fluid retention, metabolism of carbohydrate and protein, functioning of the nervous and muscular system. Potassium controls the amount of fluid inside cells, while its cousin sodium maintains the balance of fluid outside cells. Approximately 98% of our body cells have potassium levels and even a little change in its level can lead to severe effects on heart, nerves and muscles.
Our blood requires an approximate level of 3.5- 5 mEq/L (miliequivalent per liter) potassium. If it goes below this level, it is considered hazardous for the body function. Low potassium in the body can result from a variety of reasons, ranging from medications used for treating ailments like asthma, certain antibiotics and kidney disorders to leukemia, vomiting and diarrhea. It can lead to a potentially fatal state for the body, called ‘hypokalemia’. In order to correct the low potassium level in our body, it is very necessary to recognize the symptoms that are associated with it. Go through the following lines, to explore the symptoms of low potassium in detail.
Signs Of Low Potassium Levels In Body
- Weakness and tiredness
- Tingling or numbness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Glucose Intolerance
- Extreme cases, cardiac arrest
- Salt retention
- Low blood pressure
- Irregular psychological behavior, like depression, psychosis, delirium, confusion or seeing or hearing things (hallucinations)
- Mental confusion
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle Fatigue, cramps and weakness, sometimes severe enough to cause inability to move arms and legs (similar to paralysis)
- Periodic headaches
- Impaired growth
- High cholesterol levels
- Insatiable thirst or passing large amounts of urine
- Abnormal drying of skin
- Abdominal cramping or bloating
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
Treatment Of Low Potassium Levels
- Eat potassium rich foods, including meats, fruits, and vegetables. Bananas, yams, citrus fruits, apricots, watermelon, raisins, dates, and cantaloupe are rich in potassium. Milk, whole grains, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, potato skins, carrots, salmon, sardines, and molasses can boost potassium levels in the body.
- Alcohol and caffeine should be taken in limit, as they can lead to electrolyte imbalance.
- Medications to treat high blood pressure, hypertension, and asthma can deplete the body of potassium by excreting salt and fluid. In case you are consuming any of them, ask your doctor to recommend you a potassium supplement.
- A salt substitute that contains potassium chloride can be taken for getting rod of the problem. However, people with kidney disease or asthma should avoid it, as their kidneys might find it difficult to excrete the excess potassium.
- Avoid excessive use of laxatives and aspirin, which can affect the balance of potassium in the body, in turn leading to an irregular heartbeat and muscle pain and weakness.