Potassium is a vital electrolyte in the body that is necessary for the correct function of nerve and muscle cells.
If you have Hypokalemia, your potassium levels are low, and you are likely to feel some weakness in your muscles as well as aches and cramps.
You may also be constipated and feel a general tiredness that is out of proportion with your activity level.
The heart is a muscle and low potassium can cause palpitations or an irregular heartbeat. In cases of severe depletion of potassium in the blood, there could be heart arrhythmia or a disturbance in the heart rhythm.
It is unusual for Hypokalemia to be caused by not getting enough potassium in the food you eat. There are many more common causes of low potassium, like the use of some diuretic medications, which help the body remove excess fluid in people who are fluid retentive.
In fact, about 80% of people who regularly take diuretics have a potassium deficiency; doctors will often prescribe potassium supplements at the same time as diuretics.
Another common cause is severe vomiting or diarrhoea, because they cause the level of potassium in the kidneys and intestinal tract to drop.
Other less common causes of Hypokalemia are faulty kidney function, over-use of laxative medications, some prescription medicines, over-production of the hormone, aldosterone, which prompts the kidneys to remove too much potassium, a low level of magnesium in the body and certain eating disorders.
What is the treatment for Hypokalemia?
Your doctor will look for the underlying cause and treat it, and you may be prescribed a potassium supplement to help bring your potassium levels back to normal. Your Hypokalemia will be confirmed by a blood test or an electrocardiogram.
There are also some things that you can do yourself to raise your potassium levels. There are several potassium-rich foods that you should include in your diet if you have been diagnosed with Hypokalemia or if you have been unfortunate to have suffered from a gastro attack with vomiting and diarrhoea. These foods include the following:
- Meat – fish, beef and turkey.
- Fresh vegetables – tomatoes, peas, greens, beets and mushrooms.
- Fresh fruit – bananas, oranges, apricots, cantaloupe, strawberries, avocado and kiwi fruit.
- Fruit juices – grapefruit, orange, apricot and prune.
Try to include several of these foods in your diet every day until your potassium levels return to normal.
You can further help yourself by maintaining a healthy, nutritionally sound diet with an emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables and small portions of lean protein.
Eat the potassium-rich fruits as snacks through the day and limit the amount of fatty, sugary and fast food you consume.
Make sure you get sufficient rest, sleep and relaxation, and take steps to avoid a build-up of stress.
Get into the habit of having 30 minutes of moderate exercise on at least 5 days of the week and you will feel and look great while you get your Hypokalemia under control. [30 minute workout plan]