Potassium is a mineral that is often found in fruit and nuts. The mineral is an electrolyte, meaning it helps electrical signals to pass easily through the body. These signals are essential to our survival as it allows the brain to send messages to the body, and back again.
With insufficient potassium, these signals can become affected. Potassium is usually plentiful in our diets, meaning that a lack of potassium intake is rarely the cause for a potassium deficiency.
Instead, it is often a result of a problem with the kidneys which are responsible for regulating potassium levels in the bloodstream. It can also be caused by a rapid loss of fluids, which can lead to an excessive loss of potassium.
Low Potassium Side Effect #1: Cramps And Spasms
While we are able to move most of our muscles knowingly, the vast majority of our movements are done subconsciously. As we go through our day to day lives, our bodies go into autopilot for many of the tasks we perform. Even walking, for example, is done without even thinking about it. We just decide where we want to go and the brain does the rest.
Sometimes, though, the messages coming to and from the brain can become faulty. Cramps and spasms are caused when the brain causes the muscles to contract out of control. We will have no control over them ourselves, and they can be very uncomfortable. They are a common symptom of potassium deficiency.
Low Potassium Side Effect #2: Constipation
As the food that we eat passes through our digestive system, the nutrients within are gradually absorbed from it. This means that it needs to pass through fairly slowly to allow time for the nutrients to be absorbed. Sometimes, though, the food can pass through too slowly, resulting in constipation.
Constipation can be caused by a lack of potassium in the body. With the food passing too slowly through the body, it results in dry, hard stools that can be difficult, and even painful, to pass. If you are suffering from constipation, you can try using remedies that will help. You should speak with a doctor in prolonged cases.
Low Potassium Side Effect #3: Heart Palpitations
We don’t usually notice that our hearts are beating at all. This is despite them beating all day, every day and even when we are sleeping. Occasionally, though, our heartbeats can be very noticeable indeed, particularly when we have just been exercising. We can also sometimes experience feeling that our hearts are skipping a beat or beating harder and faster. These are known as heart palpitations.
Potassium plays a role in helping to regulate your heartbeat. This means that if you don’t have enough potassium in your body then your heartbeat can be affected. Bear in mind that irregular heartbeats can be a sign of something serious, meaning you should check with a doctor to be sure.
Low Potassium Side Effect #4: Fainting
Fainting is not an uncommon phenomenon. It will often happen when we have received a shock or encountered something particularly unpleasant. It is a defensive reaction that helps to protect our brain from damage. Under certain conditions, our brain will shut down other non-essential parts of our body and mind in order to protect itself.
Fainting is also often caused by an abnormal heart rhythm. If the heart is not beating efficiently then the brain may be receiving inadequate oxygen. This will cause the person to faint or feel dizzy.
Low Potassium Side Effect #5: Feeling Thirsty
Our kidneys do an excellent job of helping to keep our blood clean from toxins and any other unwanted items. The toxins are filtered and then stored in the bladder with water and other liquids. Once the bladder is full, we pass the toxins out of the body by urinating. The kidneys also help to regulate the potassium in our bloodstream.
Low potassium levels will cause the kidneys to excrete more water via urination. This will cause increased thirst. Chronic low potassium levels can cause further issues with the kidneys and so if symptoms persist, you should arrange to speak with your doctor as soon as possible.
Low Potassium Side Effect #6: Fatigue
None of us are able to keep on going constantly without a rest. While the fittest and strongest will have more stamina, even they will need to stop for a rest at some point. Once you do begin to feel fatigue, though, you know that a good meal and plenty of sleep will leave you feeling fresh again the next day. Sometimes, though, food and sleep do not do the trick.
Potassium directly affects the signals that are going from your brain to your muscles. If these signals are weak due to a lack of potassium, you are likely to feel tired and week. A lack of potassium could also affect the body’s ability to process energy-giving nutrients such as carbohydrates.
Low Potassium Side Effect #7: Numbness
Our nervous systems run throughout our entire bodies. They help us to touch and feel the world around us, relaying important information back to the body. Even our extremities such as our fingers and toes are loaded with nerves ready to let the brain know what is around us.
Potassium is important for helping to ensure that these messages are able to flow freely and strongly. If there is not enough of it, then these signals can become weakened or broken. This can result in numbness and tingling as information is not being relayed as it should be. These symptoms can also be the sign of something serious, so they should not be treated too complacently.
Low Potassium Side Effect #8: Aching Muscles
If you’ve not exercised for a while and then you go to the gym, you’re likely to find that your muscles can ache quite a bit the next day. Aching muscles are not common for people that are in good shape, though, and even unfit people should only experience it after some form of exercise.
A potassium deficiency can cause the patient’s muscles to ache and become stiff. This could be down to rhabdomyolysis, which is when the muscles begin to break down rapidly. This is because potassium helps to regulate the flow of blood, and an irregular flow means that the muscles are not getting the oxygen they need.
Low Potassium Side Effect #9: Breathing Difficulties
When the muscles controlling our lungs contract, they squeeze the lungs, forcing out the air that was in them. When the muscles pull the lungs open, they cause air to be sucked into the lungs, and the oxygen in that air can then be processed. This is a cycle that we know as breathing, and it is essential to our survival.
Potassium helps to send messages that cause our lungs to expand and contract, allowing us to breathe. If we don’t have enough potassium then these messages can become weak or absent, meaning we have difficulty breathing. Severe cases can result in fatality so it should be taken very seriously.
Low Potassium Side Effect #10: Psychosis
Our brains are like powerful computers that make sense of all the information around us. All information about everything that we see, touch, smell and hear is sent to the brain and then translated into images that we can make sense of. This system is very effective, but it can go wrong.
A lack of potassium can affect the signals flowing to and from the brain. This might cause us to see, hear and feel things that are not there. This is known as psychosis. It can also cause mood disorders such as depression. These symptoms are potentially very serious and a medical professional should be seen as soon as possible.
Source: 10FAQ HEALTH
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