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Low potassium is caused by the kidneys not filtering out enough water and salt from the blood. This can cause muscle cramps, fatigue, irritability, confusion, and more. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or know someone who does, it’s time to get them some food that will help replenish their electrolytes.
If your potassium levels are too low, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, muscle cramps, or confusion. Foods that can help overcome these symptoms include bananas and avocados.
Potassium is a vital electrolyte and the body’s third most prevalent mineral. Potassium is the primary molecule that interacts with sodium to conduct various vital actions in the body daily, including regulating fluid and mineral levels. It’s for this reason that low potassium levels are so harmful.
Potassium is present in all body cells, and the kidneys regulate its levels. As a result, it is required for various cellular processes, including regulating cardiac rhythms and nerve impulses, letting muscles contract, reducing muscular pains, promoting digestive health, and increasing energy levels.
Consequences of a Low Potassium Diet
Potassium deficiency affects many children and adults in the United States and other industrialized countries. According to the USDA, all groups in the United States consume less potassium than the daily recommended amount.
Many people do not obtain even half of the potassium they need! According to USDA studies, individuals in the United States consume around 2.8 to 3.3 grams of potassium per day for males and 2.2 to 2.4 grams per day for women, even though the recommended daily requirement is 4.7 grams.
Fortunately, low potassium levels may be avoided by increasing your potassium intake naturally via whole, potassium-rich meals. Potassium is found in many foods, including practically all meat, fish, and unpasteurized, high-quality dairy products, as well as many vegetables, legumes, and fruits.
Low potassium levels are more common in the following people:
- Those who are prescribed diuretics to treat high blood pressure or heart disease.
- Anyone who uses laxatives on a regular basis
- Anyone who has lately had vomiting and diarrhea as a result of an illness
- Those who have problems with their kidneys or adrenal glands
- Diabetic patients who are uncontrolled
- Athletes who work out for more than 1–2 hours each day are considered high-intensity athletes.
- Anyone who is following an extremely low-calorie diet
Potassium deficiency is quite frequent in the general population, and it generally causes symptoms such as:
- blood pressure has risen
- increased risk of heart disease, particularly if you’ve had a stroke
- heightened sensitivity to salt/sodium
- a greater chance of kidney stones
- exhaustion and inability to obtain a decent night’s sleep
- memory and attention problems
- diabetes and insulin resistance are more likely to occur.
- Due to increased calcium excretion in urine, bone growth is inhibited.
- muscular spasms and weakness
- joint discomfort
Low potassium levels may lead to severe potassium shortage, which is defined by hypokalemia. Hypokalemia causes cardiac arrhythmias, muscular weakness, and glucose intolerance, which are all significant and potentially fatal symptoms. Hypokalemia is usually caused by circumstances other than not eating enough potassium-rich foods, such as renal difficulties, diuretic usage, or being extremely unwell and losing fluids.
One of the most serious consequences of a low potassium intake is that the body’s ability to neutralize acids is impaired. Plant and animal proteins, such as meats, dairy, and cereals, produce non-carbonic acids during digestion and metabolism. Potassium’s role is to balance these acids in order to maintain a correct pH in the body since insufficient potassium may cause the body to become overly acidic.
Acid-neutralizers are naturally present in fruits and vegetables but not in meats, grains, or other animal foods. Because the Standard American Diet is heavy in animal proteins and grains but low in fruits and vegetables, most individuals accumulate a lot of acid in their bloodstream.
What’s the end result? Poor digestion, reduced cognitive ability, frequent tiredness, lowered immunity, worse heart health, and a slew of additional dangers are all possibilities.
Potassium Consumption Recommendations
An expert group of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine revised potassium intake guidelines in 2019, which might vary depending on age and gender.
The following are the most current potassium recommendations:
- 400 milligrams each day for 0–6 months
- 860 mg each day for 7–12 months
- 2,000 mg every day for 1–3 years
- 2,300 milligrams per day for children aged 4 to 8.
- 2,500 milligrams per day for men and 2,300 milligrams per day for girls between the ages of 9 and 13.
- 3,000 milligrams per day for men and 2,300 milligrams per day for girls between the ages of 14 and 18.
- Over the age of 19, men should consume 3,400 milligrams per day, while females should consume 2,600 milligrams per day.
- 2,800–2,900 milligrams per day for pregnant or nursing women
Some individuals, such as athletes who train out for more than an hour most days of the week, may need even more potassium than these amounts. They need more potassium-rich meals because they have more muscle mass and their bodies rely on adequate blood flow to assist supply nutrients to essential organs, bones, and broken-down muscle tissue.
How to Avoid Low Potassium
To avoid the problems of low-quality supplements and ensure that the nutrients are entirely absorbable, it’s always ideal to receive vitamins and minerals from dietary sources whenever feasible. For example, potassium is often added to processed meals, such as cereal grains, breads, and certain sports drinks, but this potassium is not the same as natural, whole foods.
For example, some of the most advantageous potassium molecules (particularly conjugate anions) are not as absorbable and effective in processed meals enriched with synthetic potassium. These anions are often required to protect bones from acid. However, potassium added to packaged meals in the form of potassium chloride does not operate as a good bone buffer.
Fortunately, generally, healthy humans absorb roughly 85 percent of dietary potassium. As a result, the issue is more likely to be a lack of potassium-rich whole meals than a problem with potassium use once it enters the body. Always attempt to get adequate potassium from meals that are also rich in a variety of other nutrients that assist in regulating potassium levels.
- 1 cup cooked white beans — 1,004 milligrams
- 1 cup cooked lima beans — 955 milligrams
- 6 avocados (whole)— 690 milligrams
- Broccoli — 458 milligrams per cup cooked
- 1 medium Sweet Potato — 438 milligrams
- Bananas — 422 milligrams in 1 medium banana
- Salmon — 416 milligrams per 3 ounces
- 1 cup boiled peas – 384 milligrams
- 365 milligrams sardines — 1 can/3.75 grams
- Grapefruit — 354 milligrams per entire grapefruit
- 1 cup raw milk — 260 milligrams
- 3 ounces Grass-Fed Beef — 237 milligrams
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if your potassium is too low?
A: If your potassium level is too low, you will begin to experience muscle weakness and cramps. In more severe hypokalemia cases, you can go into cardiac arrest or develop a coma as the condition worsens.
What are the most common signs of low potassium?
A: One of the most common signs that someone might have low potassium is fatigue. This can lead to dizziness, muscle weakness, and cramping. Some other symptoms include dry skin, constipation or diarrhea, heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, euphoria followed by exhaustion or depression.
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