Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that performs many important functions in the body. It regulates the heart's contractions and helps maintain muscle mass and function. Insufficient potassium levels—hypokalemia—are associated with an array of symptoms.
Potassium plays a crucial role in regulating muscles function, and a deficiency can impair this action. The cessation of muscle function doesn't start right away but can escalate quickly. In some cases, an individual with a severe potassium deficiency may go from muscle fatigue to paralysis.
Potassium plays a role in regulating the digestive tract. A deficiency can interfere with proper function, resulting in many unpleasant symptoms. Among the most common are severe nausea and recurring vomiting. If probiotics or other over-the-counter or prescribed treatments do not correct digestive issues, a doctor may advise blood tests to confirm or rule out hypokalemia.
Digestive problems affect more than the esophagus and intestines; they can also cause abdominal pain, which can adversely affect one's ability to go about their usual routine. Anyone who regularly experiences unexplained abdominal cramps should see a doctor.
Hypokalemia affects the gastrointestinal tract and can result in excessive vomiting and abdominal cramps. In a digestive system that functions normally, a small amount of gas is generated as food is broken down. Without sufficient potassium levels, the body is unable to completely digest food. This can lead to excessive bloating because more gas is generated when the food dissolves.
Potassium is one of the chief regulators of cardiovascular health. The flow of the mineral in and out of the cells of the heart facilitates a regular heartbeat. Without sufficient potassium, one may develop heart palpitations that can be serious if left untreated.
Excessive urination is one of the most reliable indicators of low potassium. The electrolyte is essential for maintaining fluid levels and keeping toxins in check. It aids the kidneys in flushing out excess nutrients, bacteria, and other matter. When potassium levels are too low, the kidneys go into overdrive and eliminate more fluids than they should.
Because potassium affects heart health, it also impacts blood pressure. When there is too little potassium in the body, low blood pressure is often a result. This can lead to recurrent loss of consciousness, especially in situations that are particularly stressful or that cause mental strain.
Low levels of potassium can impact how efficiently blood circulates through the body. In many cases, this can cause disruptions in the production of hormones, including the mood-regulating hormone serotonin. A potassium deficiency may manifest in prolonged depressive periods and severe changes in mood and behavior such as increased anxiety or irritability.
A deficiency in potassium means the muscles are not receiving the nutrients they need for maintenance. Without sufficient potassium, the brain cannot send muscles the nutrients that they need, resulting in prolonged numbness.
A tingling sensation often follows muscle numbness. This is a second signal that the central nervous system sends to the brain, requesting more nutrients. Regular tingling sensation in the muscles calls for medical attention, and many doctors will immediately suspect a nutrient deficiency.
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