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Low Potassium & Nausea

by
author image Rachel Nall
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.
Low Potassium & Nausea
A woman leaning over a toilet about to be sick. Photo Credit GeorgeRudy/iStock/Getty Images

Potassium is one of the minerals required by your body for performing daily functions, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. The mineral is the most abundant one inside your body’s cells. Without this mineral, you may begin to experience symptoms, such as nausea.

Recommended Intake

The daily recommended potassium intake for adults ages 14 to 50 is 4,700 milligrams per day, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Breastfeeding mothers require a slightly higher intake--an estimated 5,100mg per day. Children ages 9 to 13 require 4,500mg per day. Those ages 4 to 8 should consume 3,800mg per day. Consuming this amount of potassium allows your body to maintain normal blood pressure and reduce sensitivity to sodium. If your potassium level is below 3.5 milliequivalents per liter, your potassium levels are too low, according to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine.

Causes

A number of factors may contribute to low potassium levels. Vomiting or utilizing diuretics or laxatives can result in lost potassium, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. A lack of potassium in your diet also can be to blame. Kidney diseases affect your body’s ability to utilize potassium in the cell. If you experience nausea symptoms related to potassium loss, your physician may recommend a blood test to evaluate potassium levels.

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Effects

Potassium helps to control functioning of the nerve and muscle cells, according to MayoClinic.com. If your body’s potassium levels are too low, your muscles may begin to cramp. This can result in nausea and abdominal distress. The result can be constipation or vomiting, but these actions can result in more potassium loss. This can be a precursor to other harmful symptoms, including abnormal heart rhythms, muscle weakness and intense fatigue, according to MedlinePlus.

Treatment

If your low potassium level is related to a temporary illness, such as diarrhea or vomiting, increasing your intake of potassium-rich foods can help, according to Linus Pauling Institute. Examples of high-potassium foods include bananas, baked potatoes with skin, prune juice, dried plums and orange juice. If your potassium levels are related to a more serious condition, such as kidney malfunction, your physician may prescribe potassium supplements. If your nausea has resulted in vomiting, your physician may give you a medication to reduce vomiting to prevent further potassium loss.

Warning

Potassium supplements can cause gastrointestinal distress, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. To reduce this risk, you should take potassium supplements with your meals. Because potassium supplements have been linked with intestinal ulcers, ask your physician for a micro-encapsulated form because enteric-coated caplets have been associated with an increased risk of developing ulcers.

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