Potassium is important for a person’s muscles to work effectively, including the heart. It also has a role in regulating blood pressure. Low potassium levels (hypokalaemia) can cause weakness as cellular processes are affected. – WebMD
Many of us are told, in one way or another, that potassium is important. What many of us are not told is exactly why. We may be aware that a banana has high potassium, but what about other foods? Do we know the functions of potassium?
Potassium is classified as a macromineral, the most important type of mineral. Also within this class are calcium, chloride, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium and sulfur. Potassium is also an electrolyte – a mineral that carries an electric charge. This helps to partially explain why the mineral is important to neural capabilities.
In terms of function, potassium is essential to nerve and muscle network, such as allowing each to communicate with each other. Potassium is also important for transporting nutrients into cell bodies, and for elimination of waste products from cells.
Potassium deficiency is exactly that: minimal to low levels of potassium. We’re going to cover eight of the most prominent signs of potassium deficiency.
We’ll also list some terrific sources of this important nutrient to get all of us potassium neglectors back on the right nutritional track.
Here are eight signs of potassium deficiency:
1. Abdominal cramping or bloating
The digestive tract is lined with smooth muscles tissue and controlled by the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. As mentioned, potassium is an electrolyte that helps stimulate functions of the neural network – including digestion. When potassium is lacking, intestines do not function normally which in turn compromises healthy digestion.
Since we’re on the topic of digestion, it may be best to get this one out of the way. As some of you have undoubtedly guessed, yes, abnormal levels of potassium can cause constipation. It’s also worth mentioning that too much potassium can cause the same effects.
3. Brain fog
Low levels of potassium can also interfere with normal electrical activity in the brain. When this happens, it may lead to brain fog – overall feelings of confusion, sluggishness in thinking, and inability to concentrate. Getting enough potassium is essential to brain function, especially for individuals with demanding occupations, or when in school.
This is perhaps the most common symptom of potassium deficiency: feelings of fatigue and/or exhaustion. Potassium is involved is involved in the functionality of every cell in the body. Every. Single. One. Potassium is an important part of a well-balanced diet, and a critical component of energy production. Of course, not consuming enough of something that produces energy can result in…well…less energy.
5. Feelings of thirst or frequent passing of urine
Feeling thirsty or frequent passing of urine can occur when the blood’s potassium levels are too low. This is particularly true when the body’s sodium levels are also low. When this happens, the kidneys ability to retain water is suppressed, which needs to be released in the form of urine. The body loses its ability to regulate water balance, which can create feelings of frequent and/or extreme thirst.
6. Heart Palpitations
Potassium is important for proper regulation for blood pressure. Blood pressure directly affects our heart rate, which means that adequate levels of potassium are important to our heart rate. As such, low levels of potassium can potentially result in irregular heartbeat and even heart palpitations.
7. Skin Problems
According to Dr. Elson M. Haas, author of over a dozen nutrition-based books, chronic potassium deficiency can manifest into skin problems including acne and dry skin. As potassium is involved in the healthy functioning of every cell in the body, it is probable that this nutrient also serves some capacity in keeping our skin healthy.
8. Ringing or vibrating in ears
Since potassium has such an effect on blood pressure and heart rate, inadequate levels of potassium can indirectly result in ringing or vibrating of the ears. These are often a secondary symptom of irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations. Therefore, maintaining healthy levels of potassium consumption can indeed assist with two problems related to potassium deficiency.
Now that we have a list of potential symptoms, here are some great sources of potassium. Nearly every case of potassium deficiency is diet-related; in other words, extraneous factors (e.g. genetics or environment) have minimal effect. That said, here is a list of some great sources of potassium:
Avocados, bananas, carrots, bran, peanut butter, tomatoes, oranges, plant-based milks, baked potato, spinach, seaweed.