8 Signs You Are Deficient in Potassium
As many as 98% of Americans don’t get enough potassium, so how can you tell if you are one of them? Potassium is a vital mineral responsible for a wide variety of functions in your body. It regulates blood pressure, muscle contractions, fluid balance, and it’s essential for a healthy functioning nervous system.
Despite all of these benefits, it’s estimated that a whopping 98% of Americans aren’t getting enough potassium in their diet (4). Adding to the issue is the fact that diuretics like coffee or tea cause your body to get rid of potassium. To find out if you’re in desperate need of more potassium, there are 8 common red flags to watch out for.
1. Muscle Aches, Cramps, and Spasms
Potassium plays an important role in muscle contraction. Within nerves, potassium helps send signals from the brain to muscles. These signals tell muscles to contract when they’re needed. Potassium is also the primary mineral that allows muscle cells to relax after a contraction.
So, when your body doesn’t have enough potassium, your muscles go haywire. They have a hard time relaxing once stimulated. Usually, this results in uncomfortable muscle aches, cramps, and spasms.
2. High Blood Pressure
Potassium is an important mineral involved in blood pressure regulation. And since high blood pressure is a risk factor for severe outcomes in COVID-19, getting enough potassium is vital for your overall health.
Evidence suggests that a diet low in potassium can increase blood pressure (5). This happens because potassium lessens the effects of sodium, which stiffens and narrows blood vessels (6). Diets that are higher in salt often need more potassium to maintain a healthy blood pressure level.
3. Unexplained Fatigue
When you don’t have enough potassium, it compromises virtually every cell in the body. This is why a potassium deficiency can cause you to feel inexplicably tired. In addition to muscle spasms, fatigue is one of the most common early indications of a potassium deficiency.
4. Digestive Issues
Potassium also plays a critical role in the communication between the brain and the gut. It stimulates contractions that allow the digestive system to rhythmically contract (7). These contractions are essential for digestion, nutrient absorption, and waste elimination (8).
When the body lacks potassium, these contractions become compromised. The digestive system then gets weak and less effective at moving food along. Once this happens, it can result in digestive problems such as bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain (9).
5. Irregular Heartbeat
Arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat, is another indicator of a potassium deficiency (10, 11). Similar to the way potassium regulates muscle and intestinal contractions, it also regulates your heartbeat.
When levels of potassium are low, the heart has a difficult time maintaining a consistent heart rate. There’s also evidence that a lack of potassium can lead to heart palpitations (12). A heart palpitation occurs when you have the feeling that your heart is racing, skipped a beat, or fluttering.
6. Tingling or Numbness
Potassium is a critical mineral involved in nerve function. Without this mineral, nerves have a difficult time relaying their signals. This, in turn, can result in numbness or tingling in the limbs (13). Sometimes this numbness and tingling can be an indicator of other issues. So, if you do experience this symptom, it’s best to talk to your doctor.
7. Brain Fog and Mood Changes
Since potassium is essential for healthy nerve function, evidence suggests that low blood potassium levels can disrupt signaling in the brain that’s needed for optimal brain function (14, 15). When the brain doesn’t function as it should, it can make you feel mentally sluggish and affect your mood.
8. Increased Urination
Moderate to severe cases of potassium deficiencies can increase urination. When levels of potassium get low enough, it interferes with the kidneys’ ability to balance the amount of fluid in the body. Since increased urination could be a sign of several other underlying conditions, talk to your doctor if you experience this symptom.
Getting More Potassium in Your Diet
It’s generally not recommended to take potassium supplements unless you’re told to do so by your doctor. Potassium supplements have several safety concerns and typically contain only a very small amount of potassium. But the good news is, it’s easy to get potassium when you eat enough healthy fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds (16).
The goal is to get 4,700 mg of potassium daily to reach the adequate intake (AI). Here’s a list of some of the best dietary sources of potassium, along with the amount of potassium they provide…
- Avocados (1 florida avocado = 1470 mg potassium)
- Bananas (1 medium banana = 422 mg potassium)
- Beans (1 cup white beans = 829 mg potassium)
- Broccoli (100g cooked = 343 mg potassium)
- Coconut water (1 cup = 600 mg potassium)
- Spinach (100g of fresh leaves = 558 mg potassium)
- Peanuts (1 ounce raw = 211 mg potassium
- Pomegranates (1 fruit = 363 mg potassium)
- Potatoes (1 medium potato = 632 mg potassium)
- Sweet potatoes (1 medium sweet potato = 686 mg potassium)
- Swiss Chard (1 cup cooked = 961 mg potassium)
- Watermelon (2 wedges = 640 mg potassium)
If you have trouble consistently eating potassium-rich foods, you may want to consider an organic green juice powder. Green juices contain numerous superfoods that are naturally rich in potassium.