Do you feel your mouth is dry? Contrary to popular belief, there is no connection between low potassium or low sodium and dry mouth. This condition may result from dehydration, alcohol use, smoking or certain medications.
Low sodium or potassium levels don't cause a dry mouth. This symptom may be due to anxiety, dehydration, smoking or underlying disorders, such as diabetes and Sjogren's syndrome.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, occurs when the salivary glands produce too little saliva. You may experience a dry feeling in your mouth and throat, have difficulty chewing or speaking and develop mouth sores. Some people also report cracked lips and oral infections, notes the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
If you have a dry mouth once in a while, it's probably due to dehydration or certain drugs. Lifestyle habits, such as alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking and breathing through your mouth during sleep may play a role too. Sometimes, anxiety is the culprit. As the NHS notes, xerostomia is rarely a reason for concern.
Read more: Dry Mouth and Vitamin Deficiency
There are cases when this symptom may indicate an underlying condition. Diabetes, salivary gland disorders, HIV and other diseases may cause a dry mouth. According to the Mayo Clinic, xerostomia may be also due to nerve damage caused by surgery or injuries, as well as Alzheimer's disease or stroke. Another potential cause is a yeast infection in the oral cavity.
Xerostomia is not a disease in itself, but a symptom. If left unaddressed, it may lead to cavities and tooth decay, mouth sores and other complications. Plus, it can affect your ability to chew, making it harder to eat a balanced diet and meet your nutritional needs.
Low Sodium and Dry Mouth
Along with potassium, sodium helps maintain your fluid balance, regulates blood pressure and supports normal cell function. Some foods, like table salt, clams and scallops, are naturally high in sodium. Canned meat and vegetables, smoked fish, pickled foods and cooked dishes contain added salt, which increases their sodium content.
Since most foods contain sodium in one form or another, it's very unlikely to develop a deficiency. Even low-sodium diets provide sufficient amounts of this mineral, according to a March 2014 review in Advances in Nutrition. Dangerously low sodium levels are typically associated with chronic diarrhea, severe adrenal gland insufficiency, diuretics or some kidney disorders. This symptom is known as hyponatremia.
This mineral may also reach dangerously low levels if you drink too much water. Excessive fluids can dilute the sodium in your system, leading to hyponatremia. Low sodium symptoms may include headaches, seizures, confusion, fatigue, tiredness, muscle cramps or even coma.
There is no connection between low sodium and dry mouth. Sure, you may feel that your mouth is dry if you have too much salt on the lips, but this isn't something to worry about.
What About Potassium Deficiency?
Potassium, another key mineral, supports kidney and cardiovascular function, maintains intracellular fluid volume and helps your muscles contract. The recommended daily intake is 2,600 to 2,900 milligrams for adult women and 3,400 milligrams for adult men, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Abnormally low or high potassium levels are rare in healthy individuals.
Certain groups are more likely to develop potassium deficiency. These include people with inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis, as well as those with pica, a condition that triggers cravings for nonedible substances like sand, ice or clay. Furthermore, diuretics and laxatives may cause low potassium levels when used in excess, warns the NIH.
Low levels of this mineral can lead to hypertension and promote kidney stone formation. This condition may also increase calcium excretion in the urine and affect bone health. Fatigue, constipation, muscle cramps, difficulty breathing and heart palpitations are all potential complications. However, dryness of the mouth is not associated with low potassium.
Relieve a Dry Mouth
If your mouth is constantly dry, you may have an underlying condition. For example, a March-April 2018 case report featured in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism states that dryness of the mouth is a common symptom of Sjogren's syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disorder. This symptom is often accompanied by dry eyes, swollen salivary glands and difficulty swallowing.
The best thing you can do is to see a doctor. Your health care provider will assess your symptoms and order additional tests to rule out an underlying disorder. If everything looks fine, he may recommend dietary supplements or lifestyle changes to relieve dry mouth symptoms.
In the meantime, make sure you stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and fill up on hydrating foods, like cucumbers, kale, melons and berries. Cut back on alcohol, caffeine and salt and avoid sugary and spicy foods, recommends the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Chewing sugar-free gum may increase saliva flow and help ease a dry mouth. Sugarless hard candy has the same effect. You may also use a humidifier at night to add moisture to the air in your room.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Dry Mouth"
- NHS: "Dry Mouth"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dry Mouth Overview"
- USDA: "200 Foods Highest in Sodium"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Sodium"
- Mayo Clinic: "Hyponatremia"
- NIH: "Potassium"
- Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism: "Hypokalemic Paralysis Due to Primary Sjogren Syndrome"
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: "Dry Mouth"