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What are signs of hypokalaemia, and what should I take in my diet to treat it?

Kidneys Diet & Nutrition Health & Fitness
DOCTOR’S ANSWER (1)

The normal range for potassium in the blood is approximately 3.5 to 5.2 mmol/L, though these values can vary slightly between different laboratories and countries.

Hypokalaemia or low levels of potassium can occur for many reasons. Commonly, this occurs due to losses from the gastrointestinal tract due to diarrhoea, vomiting or laxative use. Certain medications such as insulin which pushes potassium into cells or diuretics which increase losses through urination could also contribute. Lastly, there are specific medical conditions that could lead to hypokalemia such as Cushing’s syndrome which is a disorder of the adrenal gland.

A slight decrease in potassium usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. However, when levels drop below 3.0 mmol/L, signs and symptoms can start to appear. The severity and manifestations of hypokalaemia tend to be proportionate to the levels in the blood.

Symptoms could include:

  1. muscle cramps,
  2. muscle weakness,
  3. twitching,
  4. and if severe enough could even lead to paralysis.
  5. Abnormal heart rhythms may also develop due to hypokalaemia.
  6. If the hypokalaemia is prolonged, kidney problems could present with increased frequency of urination and increased.

Diagnosis is made with a simple blood test only but there are occasions in which an ECG (electrocardiogram) or urine sampling may be warranted.

Treatment depends on the severity of hypokalaemia. Some patients may require oral supplements but if severe enough, there may be a need for IV replacement.

Foods that have been known to have a high potassium content include but are not limited to:

  1. avocados
  2. sweet potatoes
  3. spinach
  4. pumpkins
  5. coconut water
  6. edamame
  7. beets
  8. fruits such as oranges, watermelons and of course bananas.

Dr Dheeraj Khiatani
MBBS (UK) BSc (Hons) (UK)

The Iron Suites Medical Centre

160 Robinson Rd
#04-11 SBF Centre
Singapore 068914


42 views 31 Aug 2019
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