For the healthy growth and normal functioning of the body, we require some essential dietary nutrients such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chlorides, etc. are necessary for the normal functioning of the body parts and processes. Potassium is one of the most important minerals that play a significant role in maintaining good health.
Potassium is involved in the cellular as well as the electrical impulse functions in the body. It maintains the water balance as well as the acid-base balance in the blood and tissue cells, transmits electrical signals between nerves and cells, and assists in muscle-building, besides playing a major role in proper digestion, transmission of nerve impulses, regulation of heartbeats and muscle contraction. Potassium is important for the normal functioning of the kidneys and heart and is also needed for the normal muscular functioning of both, involuntary and voluntary muscles. Potassium is involved in the storage of carbohydrates, which are used by the muscles as fuel for the day-to-day activities.
Potassium Deficiency Symptoms
Deficiency of potassium can result in a fatal medical condition, known as hypokalemia. It can happen as a result of the aging process or in people suffering from a chronic disease. The most common problems associated with decreased potassium levels are the following.
- Congestive heart failure
Potassium deficiency increases the acid levels in the body, which lowers the natural pH of the body. It also affects the formation of connective tissues, thus making the body tissue vulnerable to various other health problems. The signs of this deficiency appear when the level of potassium in the body decreases to a great extent. Some of the common symptoms of potassium deficiency are listed below.
- Muscular weakness
- Unusual anxiety and confusion
- Improper digestion leading to constipation
- Weakness in the body
- Excessive thirst
- Dry skin
- Acne and other skin problems
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular heartbeat
- Abnormal psychological behavior
Causes of Deficiency
Given below are the main causes of potassium deficiency.
- Excessive sweating.
- Poor dietary habits can be the main cause of this deficiency in the body. Prolonged exclusion of potassium from a person's diet can lead to long-term defects.
- Excessive discharge of potassium from the body through bowel movements, vomiting and diarrhea is another reason for this deficiency.
- Certain medications including cortisones, diuretics and drugs for controlling hypertension can lead to low potassium levels in the body.
- Kidney diseases (such as Liddle syndrome, Cushing syndrome, Bartter syndrome)
- Improper sleep
Potassium can be obtained in large amounts from a variety of foods such as fresh unprocessed foods, chicken, beef and fish (such as salmon, flounder, cod and sardines), vegetables (such as broccoli, lima beans, peas, potato skins and leafy greens), tomatoes, melons, bananas, apricots and citrus fruits. Dried fruits such as dried apricots are concentrated sources of potassium.
You can also get sufficient amounts of potassium from potassium supplements that are available in the form of potassium chloride, potassium citrate, potassium gluconate, potassium bicarbonate and potassium acetate. Low levels of potassium in the body can be detected using a blood test for the determination of serum potassium (level of potassium in the blood). It can be treated with potassium supplements that are available in the market or in the form of dietary supplements.