Clearly Potassium impacts vital functions of our bodies. So what would cause you to have low potassium levels (a condition known as Hypokalemia) in your body?
What is Potassium?
Potassium is a micronutrient and electrolyte that works with sodium in your body to distribute and maintain the fluid balance on both sides of the cell wall. You'll find fruit, fish, and whole grains are all excellent sources of the mineral potassium. It is absorbed into the body through your intestines and is stored for use in the kidneys and cells. Healthy potassium levels are essential for maintaining nerve transmission, proper fluid balance in your body, and even a proper heartbeat.
Why Your Potassium May Be Low
1. Medication sides effect: Some medications for illnesses like asthma or emphysema can lower your Potassium levels. If you're taking water pills or Aminoglycosides (an antibiotic for serious infections) you may need supplemental Potassium.
2. Kidney's lose Potassium: For patients who've had a kidney transplant or disorder like tubular acidosis, kidney disorders can cause low Potassium levels.
3. Low Magnesium or Sodium: Both Magnesium and Sodium are important to aid the body in Potassium metabolizing. An inadequate intake of Magnesium or absorption issues in the body can produce low levels of Potassium. Although less common, low sodium issues in the body from a low salt diet or inadequate absorption will also require less Potassium.
4. A medical illness: Both Leukemia and Hyperaldosteronism (producing too much Aldosterone in the pituitary gland) often lead to low Potassium levels in the blood.
5. Stomach or intestines lose Potassium: Excessive vomiting or diarrhea, the use of laxatives or enemas, or patients who've had a Ileostomy (operation removing a small segment of the small intestine to provide a new path for waste elimination) can experience low Potassium levels.
6. Decreased food intake, a low Potassium diet, or malnutrition: These conditions can all cause low Potassium levels.
7. The body has difficulty shifting Potassium across the cell leaving less in the blood: Insulin users and people with a metabolic disorder called Alkalosis can show signs of low Potassium because their bodies may have difficulty at the cellular function level.
Symptoms of Low Potassium Levels
Some symptoms you may experience if your potassium levels are low include:
- abdominal bloating and cramping
- weakness or tiredness in your extremities
You may even experience:
- muscle cramps
- numbness or tingling in your arms and legs
- Vomiting and queasiness
- extreme thirst
- heart palpitations
If you experience abnormal psychological behavior, excessive urination, or have fainting spells attributed to low blood pressure, it's a good idea to have your potassium level checked.
Although potassium rich foods are an excellent source for our bodies, the effectiveness of potassium supplements is still in question and the possible interactions with medications present a serious concern. Always consult your doctor before adding a supplement to your diet.