Potassium Deficiency


An abnormally low blood plasma potassium concentration (‘hypokalemia’) is most commonly a result of excessive loss of potassium, e.g., from prolonged vomiting, the use of some diuretics, some forms of kidney disease, or metabolic disturbances.

Conditions that increase the risk of hypokalemia include the use of potassium-wasting diuretics (e.g., thiazide diuretics or furosemide), alcoholism, severe vomiting or diarrhea, overuse or abuse of laxatives, anorexia nervosa or bulimia, magnesium depletion, and congestive heart failure (27).

In rare cases, habitual consumption of large amounts of black licorice has resulted in hypokalemia.

Low dietary intakes of potassium do not generally result in hypokalemia (27).


The symptoms of abnormally low blood plasma potassium concentration (‘hypokalemia’) are related to alterations in membrane potential and cellular metabolism; they include fatigue, muscle weakness and cramps, bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain.

Severe hypokalemia may result in loss of muscle function (‘muscular paralysis’) or abnormal heart rhythms (‘cardiac arrhythmias’) that can be fatal (2, 25).