Low Potassium Symptoms You Should Not Ignore

| Modified: Oct 24, 2020
Add New Post Low Potassium Remedies on Earth Clinic

by Deirdre Layne
Published October 15, 2020

Potassium is an essential mineral that assists your body in many ways. An electrolyte, potassium helps nerves function correctly, regulates muscle contractions, and assists fluid balance.

While people mostly have adequate potassium levels, it is not uncommon to get hypokalemia, or low blood potassium, throughout your life and regardless of age. Many things can cause low blood potassium.

This article explains what causes low potassium, symptoms you can get from low blood potassium, and the fastest way to fix it.

What Causes Low Potassium?

Hypokalemia occurs when the amount of potassium in your blood is lower than normal. Low blood potassium can be caused by the following:

  • Alcohol Use
     
  • Excessive Sodium from Junk or Fast Food
     
  • Detoxifying Herbs and Supplements
     
  • Heavy Metal Poisoning
     
  • Diarrhea
     
  • Diabetes
     
  • Folate Deficiency
     
  • Vomiting
     
  • Diuretics (any substance that reduces water retention like supplements, celery juice, and water pills)
     
  • Blood Loss from Menstruation or Wounds
     
  • Antibiotics
     
  • Laxatives
     
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
     
  • Low Magnesium
     
  • Sweating
     
  • Certain Diets
     
  • Bulimia
     
  • Bartter Syndrome
     
  • Hypokalemic Periodic Paralysis


Low Potassium Symptoms You Need to Know

The sudden onset of an ailment, such as tooth nerve sensitivity or debilitating muscle cramps that feel like bone fractures, can often indicate a potassium loss. Unfortunately, potassium deficiencies are frequently overlooked and blamed on other shortcomings, such as low magnesium or vitamin c.

Below is an extensive list of symptoms caused by low blood potassium that you should familiarize yourself with and share with family and friends. Some of these symptoms might surprise you!

  • High Blood Pressure
     
  • Frequent Urination
     
  • Polyuria (abnormally large production or passage of urine)
     
  • Thirst
     
  • Kidney Problems
     
  • Sudden Tooth Nerve Sensitivity
     
  • Muscle Cramps
     
  • Muscle Aches and Stiffness
     
  • Sudden Increase in Arthritic Pain
     
  • Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms)
     
  • Eye Twitches
     
  • Tingling
     
  • Numbness
     
  • Dizziness
     
  • Vertigo
     
  • Nausea
     
  • Brain Fog
     
  • Mental or Physical Fatigue
     
  • Overall Feeling of Weakness
     
  • Physical Fatigue
     
  • Constipation
     
  • Bloating
     
  • Breathing Difficulties (Shortness of Breath)
     
  • Irritability
     
  • Mood Changes


How to Treat Low Potassium Symptoms Fast

If you spend any time researching how to correct low potassium, you will find that every medical site suggests eating foods rich in potassium, like bananas, to increase your potassium. They also state that you should eat foods rather than taking a simple and inexpensive potassium supplement.

Indeed, even on Earth Clinic, many readers suggest eating a banana as a fast and easy way to treat potassium deficiency symptoms, like muscle cramps. The argument is that a banana contains 422 mg of potassium, whereas a potassium supplement contains only 99 mg max, unless it is prescription potassium.


Why Eating a Banana Doesn't Always Work

Research shows that potassium absorbed from some foods like a banana, which contains approximately 422 mg of potassium (4 times as much as an 99 mg. over-the-counter potassium supplement) is neither fast-acting nor enough to correct an imbalance.

One 2012 study entitled Plasma Potassium Concentration and Content Changes After Banana Ingestion in Exercised Men showed that eating up to 2 servings of bananas caused only marginal increases in plasma potassium concentration and that these small increases in plasma potassium concentration occurred 30 to 60 minutes following the ingestion of bananas.

The study concluded that eating bananas is unlikely to be an effective treatment for exercise-associated muscle cramping. (1)

Reader feedback on Earth Clinic also points to occasional potassium supplementation as an effective and straightforward way to treat low potassium.


Take a Potassium Supplement for Fast Relief

The simplest and fastest way to treat low potassium symptoms is to simply take a potassium supplement. A bottle of potassium tablets typically only costs around $5.

Our readers report that just one 99 mg. potassium supplement can often stop symptoms like tooth nerve sensitivity or severe muscle cramps typically within an hour.


Should I take a Potassium Supplement Every Day?

Taking a potassium supplement every day is generally not necessary unless you are taking a medication that is known to deplete potassium, like a water pill.

Those with symptoms of low potassium should consider eating foods rich in potassium every day. However, should symptoms remain, you should consider taking a potassium supplement until symptoms abate. Some people do find it very helpful to take a low dose potassium supplement every day.


What Foods Are Highest in Potassium?

1. Dried Apricots - 1/2 cup = 1,101 mg of potassium

2. Baked Potato - medium size = 941 mg of potassium

3. Leafy Greens:

  • 1 cup Swiss chard cooked contains 962 mg of potassium.
  • 1 cup of cooked spinach contains up to 838 mg. of potassium

4. Lentils - 1 cup cooked = 731 mg of potassium.

5. Prunes - 1/2 dried = 699 mg.

6. Tomatoes:

  • 1/2 Cup of Tomato Puree = 549 mg of potassium
  • 1 cup of Tomato Juice - 527 mg of potassium
  • 1 Medium Raw Tomato = 292 mg of potassium

7. Sweet Potato - 1 baked sweet potato contains 542 mg of potassium.

Contraindications

People with kidney problems should consult with their doctor before taking a potassium supplement. Consuming too much potassium can lead to hyperkalemia, high levels of potassium in the blood.

Summary

Potassium supplements can be an effective, inexpensive, and fast way to restore potassium levels in the body. While the supplements are generally not needed daily, they can offer fast relief for some symptoms like muscle nerve cramps and tooth nerve sensitivity.


Has a potassium supplement ever helped you with low potassium symptoms? Please send us your feedback!

Related Links:

Arrhythmia
Heart Palpitations
Muscle Cramps
Muscle Strains
Potassium


Avoid Caffeine

Posted by Anon (Not Canada) on 10/17/2020
5 out of 5 stars

Caffeine will cause your body to eliminate potassium (and conserve sodium) in order to protect your heart from dehydration.

Sorry I don't have the link handy.


Breathing Issues

Posted by Gail R. (Flushing, NY) on 10/15/2020
5 out of 5 stars

Some how I discovered that taking potassium helps me with sudden gasping for breath, usually at night while trying to go to sleep or while sleeping, waking me up. Perhaps this is related to panic attacks, so I have heard it might be and fear is involved.

I take the powdered form of Now potassium. For some reason, they say you can take a higher dose.

I take 1/2 tsp 3x a day that is 175 mg 3x a day. I have been doing this for several years. Sometimes I try to stop but the symptoms return so I continue. It says on the container you can take that dose 4x a day.

Replied by Karene
Connecticut
10/16/2020
3 posts

Hi Gail.

I am so thankful you posted this. My son and I have this problem and it is potassium for us also. For years I would have panic attacks and finally realized it was potassium that I needed. It can cause shortness of breath, because it affects the muscles in the diaphragm..at least for me it does. I actually need mega magnesium and potassium everyday..can never get a doctor to believe me, nor help me..my son either. We do not know why..but we have had stress like crazy in our lives.

I had pulmonary embolisms and dvt in 2015..and in the hospital they gave me both potassium and magnesium as well as blood thinners. I get so scared now when I get short of breath..just trying to stay ahead of it I take the same Now potassium powder as well as the capsules. I seemed to need 4000 to 5000 mgs a day..told my doc..he gasped and said nothing.

I also have severe pitted edema..adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, cfs/me..this weekend we are going to make an incline bed. So tired of living like this.

Thank you again for posting..it is nice in a sad way to know we are not alone.

Thomas
California
10/17/2020

The FDA recommends 4,700 mg per day.

I find if I do not get close to that I get severe Charlie horse cramps at night.

The most effective product I found is Pico-Potassium found at rnareset(dot)com by Dr. Carolyn Dean.

Gail
Queens, NY
10/18/2020

Hi Karene,

Good to read your reply. I have gotten that same reaction from a doctor. I also take 3000 mg of niacin for panic attacks and when I told my doctor she expressed disapproval but offered no help. I still take it. I also have CFS. I have been using the spray on magnesium oil which also helps with the panic attacks. Lately I have started experimenting with nootropics. They seem to be helping with mood and energy. I am still in the early stages and move forward slowly, monitoring the results. Right now I am taking Aniracetam and Alpha-GPC. I just ordered the nootropic sulbutiamine, which is a synthetic vitamin b1 that is supposed to be good for CFS. I also have that thing with tight muscles in the chest area causing rapid breathing or shortness of breath which got worse when Covid arrived. The thing that helps me with that is doing the bowing exercises that they do in Buddhism. It opens up your whole body. If that is not something you can or want to do the Miracle Ball Method is also good.

I hope you and your son continue to feel better. Yes, it is good to know you are not alone.

Best wishes, Gail

Replied by Sarah
Winter Park, Florida
10/19/2020

I too am very grateful for this article. My husband has been suffering with almost all of the symptoms of low potassium. I'm starting him on a cocktail tonight of 1/4 teaspoon of sodium carbonate (washing soda) plus 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of potassium citrate (or potassium bicarbonate) in 1/2 glass of water taken twice a day. If anyone has input on doing something different I'm all ears. We're both super hopeful this will alleviate his chronic hip/leg pain as well as foot pain, muscle cramps and peeing a river every 30 minutes.

Replied by Tina
Princeton
10/20/2020

Hi Sarah,

I am sure you did research before starting this therapy. Are you sure that starting with 1/2 tsp potassium citrate or gluconate twice a day is ok? I gradually built up over a period of 5 months from 1/8 to 1/4 to now 1/2 potassium citrate which I have with a tbs of apple cider vinegar. I have no plans in the near future to increase that amount. Potassium is wonderful but please use extreme caution while dosing. Best of luck!

Replied by Syd
New Mexico
10/24/2020

Also grateful for this post. I'm dealing with this at this minute. I've been thinking it was a brain stem issue. Wondering about my neck being out (I have neck pain), or a thiamine deficiency, as that can be sooo helpful for folks with brain stem issues.

I'll try some potassium and see if it helps. I don't have powder, but do have capsules.


Leg Cramps

Posted by Linda P. (EC's Facebook Page) on 10/16/2020
5 out of 5 stars

Fasted way to stop the leg cramp is to stick a 99mg potassium tablet under your tongue for about 10 seconds. Then drink water and swallow it. It works instantaneously. I've used this remedy for 10 plus years. I have low potassium at least once a month due to a chronic vitamin deficiency from Crohn's disease.


Potassium for Multiple Ailments

Posted by Diver Dan (Idaho) on 10/15/2020
5 out of 5 stars

Potassium has been used to treat arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and heart disease. An internet search should provide more information as will the book "Potassium Nutrition" by Charles Weber.

Replied by Wendy
Australia
10/15/2020
5 out of 5 stars

Over the years, am an aged female pensioner now, have discovered that some of these low potassium symptoms, as described above, become more evident during three days before and up to full and new moon cycles. With this knowledge, have now been able to forestall symptoms by taking a ground potassium gluconate tablet in juice. One should always be aware of how moon cycles can affect our bodies too.

Tina
Tx, USA
10/16/2020

hi Wendy,

Please explain moon phase 3 days before.

Jana
Chicago
10/17/2020

I think Wendy means that certain low potassium symptoms, such as arthritis, get worse 3 days before a full moon and 3 days before a new moon. Along these same lines, I have heard that nocturnal urination frequency also increases as you approach a full moon.

Dina
Ontario
10/17/2020

If you know anything about parasites, they are most active during a full moon...this explains most physical/emotional/psychological ailments we experience...


Severe Foot Pain

Posted by Robin (WA) on 10/17/2020
5 out of 5 stars

I too suffer from SEVERE cramps due to a gastric bypass surgery which can put you into malnutrition and even death eventually. My cramps begin in my feet and travel in seconds up to my hips leaving me paralyzed for hours. I have drank 1 cup of dill pickle juice for years now, getting relief nearly every time. I heard about taking 3 tbsp. of mustard and find within 1 min.my cramps subside. It always works. Please give it a try, and I guarantee you will find relief! Eating a hot dog helps it to go down. It can be hard to swallow but it is also a miracle remedy. Good luck!

Replied by Carol
OH
10/20/2020

For leg and foot cramps, I put lavender oil on. Within a few minutes, the cramp is gone. Works every time.


Posted by Deirdre (Earth Clinic) on 10/15/2020
5 out of 5 stars

About a month ago, I woke up in the middle of the night with intense pain in one foot. I thought it was a muscle cramp and got up to use the bathroom. As soon as I put weight on the foot, it became such searing pain, I was certain I had fractured my foot even though I had not had any injury earlier in the day to trigger such immense pain. I hobbled to the kitchen to get a balm to put on it.

At least an hour went by without any pain relief (which was a 9 on a scale of 1-10) almost bringing me to tears. I then thought to take a potassium capsule in case it was a severe muscle cramp since I hadn't injured my foot.

30 minutes after taking potassium, the pain started to subside, and an hour later, it was gone, never to return. Strange thing. Never have I had such a searing muscle cramp on my foot before! Glad I had potassium tablets on hand and that it worked.

Between this and my sudden tooth nerve sensitivity issue this summer that was also cured with just one potassium supplement in one hour, I knew I had to write an article for Earth Clinic and send it out in a newsletter. Please check out today's featured article at the top of our new hypokalemia (low potassium) page if you haven't seen it yet.

I think it's imperative for people to learn what symptoms can be brought on by a potassium deficiency AND what can cause a rapid loss of potassium (the list is long). Additionally, that eating a banana is not always going to be as effective as taking a potassium tablet even though a banana contains 422 mg. of potassium and a supplement only 99 mg. I ate 2 bananas for 2 days when I had my tooth nerve issue, and they didn't alleviate the nerve pain whatsoever. But a simple and inexpensive potassium tablet cured my symptoms and quickly!

Cost per tablet: About 20 cents.

While researching for today's article, I was perplexed to discover that no medical website recommends potassium supplements, even for short term use. They all warn against it. So I think this is one reason why people hesitate to take potassium supplements unless prescribed by a doctor.

Replied by Michael
New Zealand
10/16/2020

Hi Deirdre,

My sympathies to you on your latest afflictions! Bit in the wars lately aren't we?

I too, get severe muscle cramps occasionally, almost always when arising in the morning and if I get out of bed in a slightly awkward fashion.

It is usually my right thigh but sometimes my right calf muscles that go into spasm and send me through the ceiling and into the stratosphere. Painful? You could say that!

What I do (if I am able to hobble over to my furniture) is to immediately take a shot of Magnesium Chloride LIQUID in a full glass of water . This will often give relief from further spasms in a hurry. If I don't have access to that remedy, then I can take a dose of plain table salt in a glass of warm water (to dissolve the salt thoroughly).

I have had personal success with both methods.

I know that the latter is risky if one has high blood pressure but "any port in a storm"! Just be careful if you have high BP eh!

Cheers from Down Under, where we have our elections to-morrow. I am betting that a woman will get in!! (Pretty safe bet!! ).

Michael

Replied by Tina
Princeton, NJ
10/16/2020
5 out of 5 stars

Hi Deidre,

I'm so glad you got relief from intense foot pain and tooth pain. I love potassium! I've been taking it for about six months now. I started with one eighth spoon of potassium citrate in a glass of water to which I added a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and, after three months I've increased the potassium to half a teaspoon. I have it in the morning before coffee and it tastes delicious. The result is no more leg cramps at night and the bonus has been the cold sensitivity in my teeth that had crept up over the years has gone. I can drink cold water or eat ice cream with no problem. You read a lot of scary info on the web about overdoing potassium. If you're cautious and gradually build up your dosage there are only good outcomes.

GertJr
Madison
10/16/2020

Be very careful with potassium. Potassium, magnesium and calcium are critical for muscles to work properly. If you get them out of the proper ratio, you can heart rhythm problems. It concerns me that you say you can gradually increase your potassium without issue. I'm not saying stop taking it, just be careful.

Replied by Cjuan
Asia
10/16/2020

Hi Deirdre,

You mention potassium tablet but the shops here sell only potassium compounds - in citrate, bicarbonate and chloride forms. Are they all equally good and effective or does one look for just pure potassium and not the compounded form. Thanks.

Deirdre
Earth Clinic
10/17/2020

Hi Cjuan,

The two different forms of potassium that I have tried recently, which seem to work equally well, are Potassium Gluconate and Potassium Chloride. Perhaps you can start with a popular brand from your health food store and see how it makes you feel.

Best, Deirdre