Potassium Deficiency: 4 Signs You May Have It

April 4, 2019
Both cramps and fatigue can be clear indicators of a potassium deficiency. Add foods that contain this mineral to your diet to avoid major health problems.

Potassium deficiency can affect your nerves and their interaction with your muscle cells in your digestive tract, the heart, and other bodily systems.

Most of the potassium in your body is found in your cells.

When you have a balanced daily diet you keep your potassium levels stable with ease.

If your diet is very poor, on the other hand, choosing unhealthy products or missing some key sources, you’ll have a deficiency in potassium.

But how do you know if you have a potassium deficiency? In today’s article we’ll explain the signs.

Pay attention to see if you have any of them.

1. You feel potassium deficiency: you’re tired and weak


The first symptoms of a potassium deficiency are usually muscle aches, cramps, and abnormal weakness. This weakness will not just affect your arms and legs, but also your respiratory and gastrointestinal muscles.

Low potassium levels prevent your muscle cells from rapidly recharging their energy stores. This causes them to have difficulty contracting.

Weakness, muscle spasms, and tingling or numbness in the muscles could indicate that your potassium deficiency is getting worse.

If you already have any of these symptoms, we recommend that you go the doctor immediately for an evaluation.

2. You have an irregular heartbeat

A prolonged lack of potassium in the body can affect your heart by altering its normal function. The first symptom of this will be an irregular heartbeat with no apparent cause.

It’s normal for this to happen if you run too hard when you’re not prepared, for example. What’s not normal is for it to occur when you’re simply following your normal routine.

If you have a prolonged potassium deficiency, you can eventually develop structural and functional changes in your kidneys.

A lack of potassium can also slow down your heart rate and cause dizziness, as a result.

There are different types of arrhythmia. Some cause the heart to beat too fast, while others make it work more slowly. In the most severe cases, your heart could begin skipping beats.

All types of arrhythmias can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from dizziness to fainting. An irregular heartbeat due to any cause can be accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pain, and sweating.


3. Potassium Deficiency and high blood pressure

There are many factors that influence your blood pressure, including family history, being overweight, and your consumption of salt. A deficiency of potassium can also be a cause.

In fact, both too much and too little potassium can trigger changes in your blood pressure.

According to several studies, eating too much salty food and too few fruits and vegetables can lead to high blood pressure.

4. Potassium Deficiency and Cramping

The activity and resting states of your muscles depend on potassium. Relaxation can be voluntary or involuntary, depending on the type of muscle you are working.

When you have a deficit of potassium, the muscle is kept in a contracted state that causes cramping. If you’re familiar with frequent muscle spasms in your legs, for example, it could be due to a lack of potassium.

This is very common in athletes who train a lot. If this is the case for you, it’s a good idea to consume sports drinks that are rich in electrolytes and potassium from time to time.

Foods that prevent potassium deficiency

Whenever we talk about potassium, people always think that bananas are the best source of it. Although it’s true that this fruit does have a good concentration of potassium, it’s not your only option.

Among the foods that can naturally help you get the amount of potassium you need, you’ll find:



This vegetable is easy to grow at home and everyone should try it. Just 100 grams provides 380 mg of potassium. You can consume it in salads or smoothies.


It’s well-known that bananas are rich in potassium, providing 370 mg per 100 grams of flesh.

Just remember that if you’re diabetic, you shouldn’t consume too much of this fruit.


If you’re the type of person who enjoys some good mashed potatoes, you’ve probably never experienced any of the above symptoms.

  • Potatoes pack 418 mg of potassium in every 100 grams.
  • To keep from losing this mineral, it’s best to consume potatoes that have been baked, grilled, or steamed.
  • Remember to avoid fried potato dishes.


This is another seasonal vegetable that provides 450 mg of potassium per 100 grams.

Our favorite options for this vegetable are in salads or baked dishes.


The avocado provides 487 mg of potassium per 100 grams. You can enjoy it in guacamole, on top of a salad, or in a sandwich.


Spinach is an excellent vegetable that you can add to a variety of dishes, which provides 554 mg of potassium per 100 grams.

It’s likely that potassium deficiency doesn’t run through your mind when you’re thinking about the nutrients your body needs to be healthy.

But don’t forget this mineral, as it plays a fundamental role in many of your bodily functions.

Now that you have a list of the foods that contain it, it’s a good idea to start adding them to your regular diet.

  • Ellison, D. H., & Terker, A. S. (2015). Why Your Mother Was Right: How Potassium Intake Reduces Blood Pressure. Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association.
  • He, F. J., & MacGregor, G. A. (2008). Beneficial effects of potassium on human health. In Physiologia Plantarum. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1399-3054.2007.01033.x
  • Terker, A. S., Zhang, C., McCormick, J. A., Lazelle, R. A., Zhang, C., Meermeier, N. P., … Ellison, D. H. (2015). Potassium modulates electrolyte balance and blood pressure through effects on distal cell voltage and chloride. Cell Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2014.12.006
  • Viera, A. J., & Wouk, N. (2015). Potassium disorders: Hypokalemia and hyperkalemia. American Family Physician. https://doi.org/10.1364/JOSA.39.000343