What Causes Low Potassium is a combination of factors. The main causes of low potassium are actually pretty simple- and fairly obvious - but there is one surprising fact about what causes low potassium that I'll bet that you didn't know about.
Many people, even young and seemingly healthy people, are mildly potassium deficient- yet most don't show any symptoms or have any problems. But people with heart problems and those who are ill very often have deficiencies that can cause heart rhythm abnormalities, cramps and other problems. But most of these problems could have been avoided by avoiding the causes of low potassium that will be outlined below.
Not getting enough Magnesium is actually VERY likely to be the most common cause of low potassium! The Signs of Low Potassium:
Are all the same as Signs of Magnesium Deficiency as well! So, many of the signs of potassium deficiency are actually signs of MAGNESIUM deficiency- and NOT actually caused from the potassium at all!
In fact, potassium and magnesium are SO closely linked that in some studies, they were actually able to give those with potassium deficiency a Normal Potassium Level by only giving MAGNESIUM. While that doesn't seem to make any sense, on the Magnesium Facts page, you'll see that magnesium is a 'master nutrient' that is responsible for the ability of many other nutrients to be absorbed as well.
Other studies have found that people with chronically low potassium levels were FINALLY able to maintain their potassium levels ONLYafter their magnesium was replaced!!
It might make you wonder why they didn't replace the magnesium in the first place. Well, blood Magnesium Levels are completely inaccurate and miss almost 90% of magnesium deficiencies. Yet doctors rely on these tests completely in order to determine whether to give magnesium or not. So most magnesium deficiencies end up getting missed while potassium levels suffer and often become 'chronic' problems.
As long as there are no metabolic or digestive problems present, the most common problem that causes low potassium is simply not getting enough in foods.
Since potassium is a water soluble vitamin and gets excreted into the urine and stool, you must get potassium every single day in your food in order to meet your needs.
Most people (including doctors) take it for granted that you are able to meet all of your nutrient needs in food. But the vast majority of people eat few fresh fruits and vegetables and they are the main food sources of potassium.
If you are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, then it's very likely that you are not getting enough potassium OR magnesium -and this is What Causes Low Potassium in most people eating highly refined 'Western' diets. If this sounds like you, then consider changing to a diet with whole, organic foods such as outlined in The Healthy Urban Kitchen .
Since magnesium is water soluble, drugs that cause more urination and/or bowel movements can lead to decreased potassium levels. In particular, the main drugs that can lead to low potassium levels are:
Few doctors are concerned about potassium levels due to prescription drug usage unless they are taking water pills. But this is a VERY real problem with many drugs that may be responsible for the Side Effects such as weakness, muscle cramps, and other problems that can be especially devastating to the elderly who may end up unnecessarily being hospitalized or even falling and breaking bones from these preventable side effects!
Many people who drink sodas often drink multiple sodas on a daily basis, but this could be what causes low potassium levels- especially in younger people. Drinking large amounts of soda and other sugary drinks can also deplete potassium in two ways.
The first way is that the sugary sodas themselves cause you to lose potassium. The second is that the empty calories fill you up and don't leave room for nutrient-dense foods that DO contain magnesium and potassium.
This could be leading to the all too common problem of sudden death in young and healthy athletes. This is often caused from a heart condition called Prolonged QT Interval. These athletes, who often drink sugar laden 'sports' drinks or sodas that contain almost no potassium OR magnesium, end up depleting these vital nutrients while exercising- which can end up being deadly.
Even sodas with artificial sweeteners can be one of the Causes of Heart Palpitations!! So, the moral is that there is just simply no place for soda of any kind in the diet of ANYONE- except on a very rare basis. Breaking the soda habit, if you have one, is probably one of the absolute best health maintaining habits you can make.
Digestive issues are a big cause of low potassium and magnesium levels. There are two ways that digestive issues can cause electrolyte imbalances.
The first way is through losses such as diarrhea and vomiting where the potassium is lost in the body fluid losses. This one is quite obvious and usually no one who has a severe case of 'food poisoning' is surprised to find out about an electrolyte imbalance from one of these.. ahem... uncomfortable problems.
But those with CHRONIC digestive losses to loose stools, such as in cases of Crohn's Disease or irritable bowel syndrome, will very often find that this causes low potassium on a chronic basis and have difficulty keeping their electrolyte levels up.
The other digestive problem that causes low potassium is usually more subtle and harder to figure out. Poor absorption of nutrients is not always such an obvious problem. But people with chronic fatigue, weakness and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia may simply have problems absorbing multiple nutrients.
If you have chronic:
Then you should consider that you may very well have digestive malabsorption issues and that may be what is Causing Low Potassium in your case. There are actually only a few reasons for low potassium levels, so consider this page carefully when you are trying to determine why you are having these problems.
If you have low potassium, you probably have other abnormal lab results as well. Keep reading to get help in Understanding Blood Test Results better...
Click below to see already answered questions about this laboratory test
Why Do I Have Low Potassium Levels
My question is, Why do my blood tests always show that I have low Potassium levels? I take diuretics for my heart problems. My Heart problems are not …
Will warfarin cause low potassium levels? I take a 20 meq tablet of Potassium CL ER twice a day, 400 mg. magnesium oxide twice a day, and 5 mg. warfarin …
What to do for a Low Potassium Level
Other than taking the drug Klor-con daily, what type of foods can I eat that are high in Potassium? The only one I know is bananas. E-mail email@example.com. …
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