What is potassium deficiency?

Despite its importance, many adults don’t get their recommended daily amount of potassium. This is often attributed to diets high in processed foods. Potassium deficiency can also occur from prolonged sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting.

Getting too little potassium can increase blood pressure, deplete calcium in bones, and increase the risk of kidney stones. Potassium deficiency is common in hospitalized patients who take medications that cause the body to excrete too much potassium. It is also seen in people with inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis) that may cause diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients. 

Another reason is a deficiency of magnesium, as the kidneys need magnesium to help reabsorb potassium and maintain normal levels in cells.

Potassium Deficiency Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Muscle paralysis
  • Irregular heart rate

What causes a potassium deficiency?

  • A diet lacking in potassium-rich foods
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Diuretics
  • Laxatives

Further reading: Harvard School of Public Health, National Institutes of Health