✓ Evidence Based

Symptoms of Low Potassium (Hypokalemia)

Potassium is a mineral that plays a role in the electrical activity of your heart, helping it to contract and relax. It also helps regulate the amount of fluid in your body, so it’s important to get enough potassium in your diet.

Having potassium deficiency is most commonly caused by kidney disease or type 1 diabetes, which are both associated with high blood pressure. However, an insufficient intake of this nutrient can also cause a deficiency if you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. In severe cases, it can cause cardiac arrest, but this is rare.

Signs of Potassium Deficiency

A potassium deficiency can occur when the body loses more potassium than it takes in, or when it’s unable to absorb enough of this mineral from the digestive tract. As a result, potassium levels become too low, which can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, and other health problems.

1. Muscle weakness and cramps

Potassium is found in many foods such as beans, potatoes, and bananas, but it’s difficult to consume enough potassium unless you eat these foods every day.

The recommended daily allowance for potassium is 4,700 milligrams for adults. If you’re not getting enough of the nutrient from your diet, it may cause you to become deficient in this essential mineral. The most common symptom of low potassium is muscle weakness.

If your muscles are weak and crampy, it may be because your body doesn’t have enough potassium to keep them functioning properly. Muscle weakness may also be due to an inadequate intake of magnesium, which is another mineral important for muscle health. But this isn’t as common as low potassium levels.

Some people are at greater risk for developing a potassium deficiency than others. These include people who take diuretics or laxatives, those with high levels of aldosterone, people who eat excessive amounts of salt, and women with heavy menstrual periods due to pregnancy or birth control pills.

2. Fatigue

Potassium deficiency may occur as a result of excessive loss of body fluids, such as during prolonged diarrhea, vomiting or sweating. When the body is unable to replace potassium lost, symptoms of potassium deficiency will develop.

The symptoms of potassium deficiency include excessive fatigue. People with this mineral deficiency tend to feel lightheaded after standing up quickly, or weak during physical activity such as climbing up the stairs.

Fatigue can be caused by many different things. If you’re feeling tired and lethargic all the time, it’s important to visit your doctor or a healthcare professional to determine the cause of why you’re feeling this way.

3. Digestive problems

Potassium deficiency can cause digestive problems such as gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining. This may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. The lack of this nutrient affects the muscles of your intestines and colon, including the muscles that push food through your digestive tract.

Potassium helps regulate the movement of food through your digestive tract by stimulating the release of digestive juices from your stomach and pancreas as well as bile from your gallbladder.

If you don’t get enough potassium from your diet, these organs may not produce enough digestive enzymes to break down food properly and some parts of food may move too slowly through the digestive tract or leave too quickly without being digested properly.

4. Constipation

Constipation is a common complaint. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons people go to their doctor. Constipation can have many causes. It may be the result of poor diet, lack of exercise, or dehydration.

The kidneys need at least a 2:1 ratio of potassium to sodium to work properly. Most Americans get too much sodium and too little potassium from their diets. This can lead to dehydration and constipation.

One cause of constipation is low levels of potassium in your blood. Your body uses the mineral to help regulate muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract. When there’s not enough potassium in your blood, it can impact how well you digest food and how well your intestines absorb water.

5. Abnormal heartbeat

Abnormal heart rhythms are caused by a disruption in the normal electrical activity of the heart, which results in a change in the heartbeat rate.

In a recent study, researchers found that potassium deficiency can cause abnormal heartbeat. The study was conducted to evaluate the relationship between serum potassium levels and heart rate in healthy individuals.

The study included 63 male participants who were divided into three groups according to their serum potassium levels. The study results revealed that high serum potassium levels were associated with decreased heart rate, while low serum potassium levels were associated with increased heart rate.

If you’re experiencing an irregular heartbeat, you mustn’t try self-diagnosing or treating yourself for any possible underlying conditions, especially if it involves taking medications without first consulting your doctor.

6. Bone loss and numbness

Potassium deficiency is most common among people who eat a high-protein diet. If you don’t get enough potassium from your diet, your body will steal it from your bones to meet its needs. This can cause bone loss and osteoporosis, which makes you more prone to fractures if you fall or bump into something.

Potassium deficiency can also cause numbness in the arms and legs because of nerve damage caused by low blood potassium levels. The exact cause of this nerve damage isn’t known, but it may be related to low blood pressure related to potassium deficiency.

7. Breathing difficulties

Potassium deficiency may cause breathing difficulties, especially if you have kidney disease or an eating disorder that causes potassium loss..

Potassium is essential for muscle contraction, including the muscles of your heart, lungs, and digestive tract. A lack of the nutrient may cause a condition called hyperkalemia, which increases blood acidity and lowers the ability of your body to pump blood. This can lead to breathing difficulties.

8. High blood pressure

The human body contains about 20 grams of potassium, which is distributed throughout the body’s cells and fluids. Potassium is necessary for normal muscle function, including breathing and heartbeat. It also helps maintain healthy blood pressure.

Potassium deficiency can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure by causing your body to retain sodium. Sodium increases the amount of water in your blood vessels, which increases their volume. This makes it harder for your heart to pump blood through your body.

The kidneys regulate blood pressure by controlling how much sodium and water your body retains. When your kidneys detect low levels of potassium in the blood, they respond by retaining more sodium and water to compensate for this deficit. This action leads to high blood pressure or hypertension.

9. Polyuria

Polyuria is a condition in which the person has to urinate too often. It can also be defined as an abnormally increased volume of urine.

Potassium deficiency causes polyuria or excessive urination due to increased sodium absorption by the kidneys. Potassium also helps regulate water balance in the body by acting as a counterbalance to sodium and chloride. When there is an insufficient amount of potassium in the blood, excess fluid may be lost in the urine. This can result in dehydration, which can lead to other health problems such as weakness and fatigue.

How to treat a potassium deficiency?

If you have a potassium deficiency and are considering taking supplements, you should consult your doctor first. Potassium deficiency is a serious condition that can lead to death if it goes untreated. You should always seek medical advice before taking any supplements, including potassium, because of the potential side effects. If your doctor approves, there are several ways you can treat potassium deficiency.

  • Eating bananas. One way is to eat more bananas and other fruits that contain high levels of potassium. Bananas have an average of 450 milligrams per serving, which is about 10 percent of your daily recommended intake for adults. Other foods rich in potassium include potatoes, tomatoes, beans and broccoli.
  • Drinking milk. You can also drink milk because it contains about 300 milligrams of potassium per serving. You can add milk to cereal or use it in cooking recipes instead of water to increase its nutritional value.
  • Using a salt substitute. Sodium substitutes contain potassium chloride instead of sodium chloride. These products can be used in place of regular salt in recipes and at the table, but they do not provide any nutritional value beyond their potassium content and may have other health risks when used in large amounts. Talk with your doctor before using salt substitutes if you have high blood pressure or heart disease.
  • Drinking water. As mentioned above, dehydration can lead to low levels of potassium in the body, so staying hydrated can help your body get rid of excess sodium and replace it with more potassium.


The good news is that the body can store potassium for up to 24 hours. That means if you have a potassium deficiency, it’s not going to progress overnight. It may take a few days or even weeks before you start experiencing symptoms of low potassium levels.

If you feel fatigued or weak, experience vomiting or muscle weakness, or are losing spinal and leg reflexes, then you should definitely check your potassium levels and make sure that they’re normal.

A potassium deficiency is fairly easy to prevent. If any of these symptoms mentioned in this article sound familiar, try increasing your dietary intake of bananas, spinach, avocado, beans, fish, potatoes, or a supplement prescribed by your doctor. Take care of your body’s potassium levels as soon as you can and your mind will thank you later!