7 Signs You Are Not Getting Enough Potassium and What to Do About It
If you’re not getting enough potassium your body will tell you. Sometimes it will be subtle. At other times, it could feel like you’ve been knocked out – literally. Either way, you have no choice but to do something about it.
Potassium is a vital mineral that’s mostly found inside the cells of the human body. It helps maintain healthy functioning of the body’s cells, tissues, and organs. When there are variations in the level of potassium, it can significantly impact the nerves, muscles, and heart.
- But how much potassium is enough?
- How do you know if you’re running low on potassium?
- 1. You experience heart palpitations
- 2. You feel faint or dizzy – like you’re going to pass out
- 3. Your blood pressure is higher than normal
- 4. You are experiencing cramping, tingling, or numbness in the muscles
- 5. You’re experiencing constipation or bloating
- 6. You feel more exhausted than usual
- 7. You regularly eat for convenience rather than to maintain good health
- How to get more potassium naturally – From your diet
Potassium is an electrolyte, which means it conducts electricity in the human body along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. It’s a key nutrient for the heart, digestive system, and properly functioning muscles. It also speeds up the conversion of cholesterol to progesterone, assisting in a big way, the maintenance of a healthy hormonal balance.
But how much potassium is enough?
Age in Years Recommended Potassium Intake
(milligrams a day)
14 and over 4,700
Breastfeeding Mothers 5,100
The recommended dietary consumption of potassium in the above table was obtained from the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. They may seem like high numbers, but thankfully there are plenty of natural foods that can help you boost your intake. I’ll share some of the best options in this article.
How do you know if you’re running low on potassium?
The only way to know for sure is by having a blood test. But there are symptoms of potassium deficiency that you should be aware of.
Here are 7 of the most common symptoms:
1. You experience heart palpitations
An irregular or racing heartbeat for no apparent reason is a serious issue – at any point in time. It may or may not be related to having low potassium, but you don’t want to take a chance.
Never second-guess a symptom of this magnitude. It’s always in your best interest to seek expert medical advice as quickly as possible.
2. You feel faint or dizzy – like you’re going to pass out
Again, this could be a serious issue that may or may not be related to a lower than normal potassium level. When your level gets out of balance, it naturally causes the heart to slow down. It can get to the point where you feel faint – and that’s not a good feeling at all.
Though not all that common, it can and does happen as a result of potassium deficiency. Invariably, the best response with a serious symptom like passing out is to seek immediate medical attention. Let them rule out those other possibilities so you can focus on the underlying cause of your symptoms and restore your health and wellbeing.
If it is low potassium chances are you’ll be put on an intravenous feed to restore the levels in your system.
3. Your blood pressure is higher than normal
Blood pressure often changes based on a person’s activities, environment, and mindset. It could be work or family related. Even receiving a stressful phone call can send your blood pressure through the roof.
But if things seem relatively normal in your life and yet your blood pressure is anything but normal, a potassium deficiency could be the reason. That’s because potassium helps the blood vessels to relax.
When it’s in short supply, those blood vessels become constricted, providing a narrower passageway. This, in turn, causes the heart to pump harder and faster. It’s a good idea to check your blood pressure frequently and it’s easy to do with the tools that are available these days.
4. You are experiencing cramping, tingling, or numbness in the muscles
It could also manifest as a feeling of general weakness in the muscles. This feeling tends to come out of nowhere. Everything seemed fine just a moment ago. Now your arms or legs are cramping like he just ran 1/2 marathon, but didn’t. Or your arm goes numb. Whatever the case may be, it’s a scary situation that could be a sign of a potassium deficiency.
The reason is because that’s one of the things potassium does; it helps to smooth out the contractions of the muscles, like a can of WD40 does for your door hinges at home.
When potassium levels get too low, you may experience cramps, aches, and pains – even spasms. So be on the lookout for any of these systems. Do not ignore the warning signs.
5. You’re experiencing constipation or bloating
When your body’s supply of potassium dwindles, it slows down various functions, including the digestive system. You may feel bloated or experience stomach cramping. Or it may just seem like you need to “go” but your body just doesn’t feel like cooperating. Potassium deficiency isn’t the only culprit, but it could be the cause of your discomfort – so don’t count it out.
6. You feel more exhausted than usual
It may happen after routine exercise session where it feels as though you did three times the workout. Or it could happen in the middle of an “ordinary” day. Your body must have enough potassium present to work its magic – or you’re going to see one or more of these major symptoms appear – and sheer exhaustion is one of them.
Unfortunately, exhaustion can come from other triggers, like being overburdened by stress. But if you’re feeling drained, low potassium could be the major contributing factor.
7. You regularly eat for convenience rather than to maintain good health
Hey, it’s a sign of the times. Totally understandable. But it’s your life and you need to take charge – for your own good. Just know that you’re not alone. Many of us are busier than ever and more stressed out due at least in part to our larger workloads.
As a result of this constant push, we don’t always eat properly. Truth be told, mostly people eat poorly on a regular basis. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned through experience, it’s this: too much takeout can literally take you out of the game. And that’s never a good thing.
Let this be a wake-up call if nothing else. Health care starts at home. But it’s really an individual responsibility. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Pay more attention to your own health and wellness starting today. It’s not your doctor’s responsibility. It’s essentially up to you.
Try this: pay attention to every single thing you eat and drink for a week. Write it down. The idea here is to capture data in real time because we often make choices – particularly around food – based on emotion, rather than logical, clear thinking. Record it all and then take a closer look. Your findings could be telling.
If you eat lots of takeout, canned, or frozen meals, it’s time to change your ways. If you regularly consume processed foods like crackers, cookies, chips, and soda – you’re doing yourself and your body a huge disservice.
But you could use your data in a helpful way. It could actually be a sign that your potassium level is getting dangerously low, or it could lead to other health problems. But by recognizing your consumption habits, you can begin to make the changes that could lead to a much healthier future.
How to get more potassium naturally – From your diet
Potassium deficiency is a problem. But every problem has a solution and thankfully, getting more of this essential mineral is not that difficult.
Remember, the recommended daily amount of potassium is 4700 mg (for anyone aged 14 and over) and every glass of orange juice or handful of raisins adds to your supply.
Simply add more healthy, natural foods that are high in potassium to your daily diet. To help you get started, we’ve included an infographic of nourishing, potassium-rich foods;
Try adding more of these foods to your meals. And be sure to snack on things like fresh bananas, oranges, raisins, and dates. Next time you make a tossed salad; why not add a sliced avocado on top? It makes a delicious addition and it adds to your daily total of potassium.
Want to give your rice an excellent flavor? Instead of cooking your rice in water or broth, try coconut water instead. White beans are particularly helpful. Rice and beans can taste great anytime and even though most recipes call for either red beans or black beans, you can always switch it up and pack a more nutrient-laden punch.
But there’s an even easier way to get more potassium into your body and that’s by enjoying more smoothies. Focus on using ingredients that are rich in potassium – like bananas, oranges, kiwis and spinach, of course.
There are plenty of smoothie recipes out there – or you can mix and match ingredients to come up with your own. Either way – you’ll win every time – by getting more potassium and other life-giving nutrients into your diet.