Potassium deficiency, also known as hypokalaemia, can be deemed serious, as the mineral is necessary for the heart, kindness and other organs to work normally. Having low levels can increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis and digestive disorders.
Most people who eat a healthy diet should get enough potassium naturally, so for people with low potassium may be recommended improved diets, as well as to take potassium supplements.
Symptoms of a potassium deficiency are usually mild, and at times can be vague, but thee may be more than one symptom involving the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, heart and nerves.
According to Boots WebMD, there are nine signs that indicate you are low in the mineral.
The first is weakness, tiredness and cramping in arm or leg muscles, sometimes severe enough to cause inability to move arms or legs due to weakness (much like paralysis).
Other symptoms it lists include: tingling or numbness, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramping and bloating, constipation, palpitations, passing large amounts of urine or feeling very thirsty most of the time, fainting due to low blood pressure, and abnormal psychological behaviour, such as delirium and confusion.
Potassium is important for a person’s muscles to work effectively, including the heart. It also helps regulate blood pressure.
Dehydration, diarrhoea, excessive sweating and laxative abuse are common causes of low potassium levels.
In rare cases it can be due to poor diet. Fruit, particularly bananas, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds, milk, fish, beef and chicken are all good sources of potassium.
Nutritionist Sarah Flower said some trials have shown supplementing with potassium can help balance blood pressure, but she would avoid self-prescribing high potassium supplementation as this can be extremely dangerous.
She added: “I would recommend using a low dosage supplement that provides on average 200mg of potassium, like Power Health’s potassium salts, New Era 6.
If you are having symptoms of low potassium you should seek medical advice.
I you have muscle cramps, weakness, palpitations or feel faint and you are taking a diuretic drug, seek urgent medical advice.
The normal potassium level is 3.5-5.0 mmol/L (millimoles per litre).
Low potassium is defined as a potassium level below 3.5 mmol/L.
Vitamin B12 is also important for many body processes, but if it is in short supply the body won’t make as many red blood cells, they will be abnormally large and won’t last for as long as they should.
If you do not have enough red blood cells your tissues and organs may not get enough oxygen and this can lead to the symptoms of anaemia.
According to Bupa, your body may lack vitamin B12 if the foods you eat don’t contain enough vitamin B12 – a common problem for vegetarians and vegans – or your body can’t absorb the vitamin – an immune condition called pernicious anaemia can cause this.