Got potassium? The following signs of potassium deficiency (hypokalemia) are clues that you're just not getting enough:
- Numbness and/or tingling
- Excess water consumption
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fatigue (my favorite 8 fatigue tests)
- Mental impairment
- Abdominal cramping and/or bloating
- Fainting due to low blood pressure
- Heart palpitations (irregular heart beat)
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle cramps
These signs of potassium deficiency are strikingly similar to those of low thyroid function of hypothyroidism. I don't find this too surprising, considering self-induced hypothyroidism is a real issue, and it is common among those who have a history of dieting or excessive exercise habits. It is especially problematic in both paleo and low carb diets because they restrict potassium intake by limiting potassium rich fruits, fresh juices, and starchy vegetables.
There are other reasons your potassium can be low. Certain medications such as diuretics, laxatives, aspirin, certain types of antibiotics, blood pressure lowering drugs, bronchodilators, and steroids can lower potassium levels. It can also be caused by a magnesium deficiency, diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive sweating.
From a clinical perspective, I also find my clients that are overdosing on vitamin D supplements to have lower potassium levels.
Role of Potassium
Potassium has many important roles in the body. It's a critical mineral in the body for maintaining healthy function of cells, tissues, and organs. Potassium is also an electrolyte, meaning it conducts electricity along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium in the human body. Heart, digestive, and muscular function rely on this key nutrient.
According to the mineral laws of hair analysis, low potassium levels in the hair can disrupt your thyroid and stress mineral ratios. This can manifest as subclinical thyroid symptoms as well as a low tolerance or inability to deal with stress.
Getting enough potassium is also extremely important for proper digestive motility. Potassium plays an important role in regulating muscle contractions in your digestive tract, helping you stay regular in the bathroom.
In addition, healthy hormonal balance depends on potassium because it helps speed the conversion of cholesterol to progesterone.
How to get more in your diet?
If you need another reason to eat more food (I find most women don't eat enough) and nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources here it is: the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for potassium is between 3,500-4,700 mg, a value your healthy eating habits probably don't come close to!
Boost your intake with the following potassium-rich foods:
White Beans (1 cup): 1,004mg
Potato (1 medium with skin): 926mg
Avocado (1 medium): 689mg
Coconut Water (1 cup): 600mg
Raisins (½ cup): 598mg
Prune Juice (6oz): 528mg
Halibut (3oz): 490mg
Acorn Squash (½ cup, cubed): 448mg
Banana (1 medium): 422
Orange Juice (6oz): 372mg
Molasses (1 tb): 293mg
Sheep Yogurt (¾ cup): 244mg
Orange (1 medium): 237mg
Kiwi (1 medium) 237mg
Spinach (½ cup cooked): 420mg
Date (1 piece): 167mg
Broccoli (½ cup): 147mg
Apricots (1 piece): 91mg
Prunes (1 prune): 70mg
Lentils (1 cup): 731mg
Supplements for potassium deficiency?
I know what you're thinking, "This looks like hard work. What about supplements?"
Over the counter potassium supplements are typically limited to 99mg in the US due to safety concerns. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, "Because of the potential for serious side effects, the decision to use a potent potassium supplement should be made in collaboration with one's health care provider."
My translation here should be no surprise: there is no shortcut to health. Real food is the safest supplement.
Testing for potassium deficiency
My favorite way to assess your own potassium level is by completing a simple hair analysis test. It's a non-invasive test that can give you so much information about your mineral levels and how you can go about balancing them for optimal nutrition!
Ready to find out your potassium level?
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Are your potassium levels falling short? Please share in the comments!
- Total Wellness by Joseph Pizzorno, ND
- Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com/ElizavetaLarionova