Potassium is important for a person’s muscles to work effectively, including the heart. It also helps regulate blood pressure.
When we think of potassium we usually think of bananas, but many of us fail to realise the vital role this mineral plays in the body.
It is also important for muscle strength, and nerve functioning – but how do we know if we are really getting enough?
Low levels of potassium is known as hypokalaemia, and the symptoms of the condiiton can be mistaken for other health problems.
It can be tricky to tell whether or not you are getting enough, so to ensure that this common deficiency does not sabotage your health, nutritionist Sarah Flower has revealed the biggest signs that you are running low.
Your muscles feel weak
Potassium is essential for the conversion of blood sugars into glycogen (the fuel stored in our muscles and liver), so when levels are low, you might experience muscle weakness throughout the day or while working out, according to Sarah.
She added: “Lower levels of potassium can also cause too much calcium to be excreted in our urine, which can also impact your bone health.”
Your muscles feel crampy
Potassium is essential for the muscles to work effectively, so when levels are low you might experience aches, pains and even spasms, says Sarah.
You’re always tired
Tiredness can be a symptom when the stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles are compromised by low potassium.
Sarah explained: “Low levels of potassium can affect the efficiency of your nerve impulses and electrical signalling for good brain function, and can also contribute to brain fog, headaches, migraines and low mood.
The body needs potassium for good fluid balance inside the digestive tract.
“When levels are low, the acidity of your stomach acid becomes low, and you might be at risk of not absorbing enough nutrients, causing constipation, bloating and abdominal cramping,” explained Sarah.
You have high blood pressure
Potassium, along with magnesium and calcium, controls the fluid in our cells. Without enough potassium, there becomes a build-up of fluid and the blood vessel walls can become constricted, which in turn can cause blood pressure to rise. Low potassium can also cause heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat and in extreme cases cardiac arrest.
Sarah said: “Some trials have shown supplementing with potassium can help balance blood pressure, but I would avoid self-prescribing high potassium supplementation as this can be extremely dangerous. I would recommend using a low dosage supplement that provides on average 200mg of potassium, like Power Health’s potassium salts, New Era 6.
You feel dizzy, faint and tingly
One of potassium’s many jobs is to keep the nervous system healthy. When you don’t have enough, you may experience a tingling sensation in your arms and legs, as well as numbness.
Sarah recommends a large drop in potassium can also slow your heartbeat, making you feel light headed and as if you’re going to faint.
Potassium is found in most types of food. Good sources are included in fruit such as bananas, some vegetables, such as broccoli, parsnips and brussels sprouts, and pulses.
Nuts and seeds, fish, shellfish, beef, chicken and turkey are also good sources of potassium.
Are you efficient in calcium? What are the signs of a deficiency?