6 Signs of Low Potassium

Posted by Nicole on August 15, 2020

Having suspicions that you might be lower on potassium than is optimal? In this article, we will discuss some of the signs and symptoms which can point toward low levels of potassium.

Mayo Clinic says, “Normally, your blood potassium level is 3.6 to 5.2 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). A very low potassium level (less than 2.5 mmol/L) can be life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention.”

Even if you do not have a life-threatening low level of potassium, you could still have suboptimal potassium.

Keep in mind that all of the symptoms and signs below can be associated with a wide range of different physical and psychological health issues, and do not necessarily mean that you definitely have low potassium.

Regardless, if you have several of these signs and/or you have other reasons to suspect suboptimal potassium, it might be worth looking into.

1. You are feeling weak or tired.

Blood sugar levels can increase when you have low calcium. Your muscles also may not function as effectively.

As a result, fatigue and weakness are common manifestations of low potassium.

2. You are constipated.

Your digestive tract needs to produce contractions in order to move your food along. It cannot do so as efficiently when you are low on potassium, which slows down the entire process.

As a result, you might experience constipation and/or other digestive issues.

3. Your muscles are cramping or spasming.

You require potassium for your muscles to work properly. As the University of Rochester Medical Center explains, “We need potassium to keep the electrochemical balance across cell membranes. This is vital to transmit nerve signals. This leads to skeletal muscle contraction, hormone release, and smooth muscle and heart contraction.”

For that reason, if your potassium levels are low, you might experience more cramps and spasms in your muscles than usual.

4. You’re experiencing unusual heartbeats.

Because your heart is a muscle, it also requires potassium for proper contractions. If you have been experiencing palpitations, you may want to ask your doctor whether you could have a heart arrhythmia. This may be associated with low potassium levels.

5. You have paresthesia.

Because nerve function relies on potassium, low levels of this nutrient can also result in paresthesia, which is the scientific name for sensations of prickling, and tingling, or numbness. You are most likely to feel this sensation in your extremities when it is associated with low potassium.

6. You are having mental problems.

There is a high prevalence of potassium deficiency among psychiatric inpatients. So, sometimes mental problems also may be associated with low potassium.

Ask a Doctor About Low Potassium

What should you do if you think you might have low potassium levels? First of all, you can increase the amount of potassium in your diet with foods such as tomato paste, avocados, potatoes, navy beans, prunes and dates.

But you should also consider consulting with a medical professional to test your levels of potassium. In some cases, it might be necessary to treat an underlying condition, change the medication you are taking, or permanently increase your potassium intake.