The menstrual cycle refers to a period of physiological changes that help prepare a woman’s body for the chance of pregnancy each month. The average cycle lasts for 28 days, although it may range from 21 to 35 days. A number of problems can occur with menstruation, ranging from heavy, painful periods to no periods at all. Treatment depends on the underlying cause; this may include hormonal imbalance, family history, a clotting disorder or pelvic disorder. Low potassium levels may also lead to certain complications associated with the menstrual cycle.
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Potassium is an important mineral essential for proper heart function, skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, and normal digestion. Your body requires 4,700 milligrams of the mineral per day, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. You can get potassium from foods such as bananas, citrus fruits, avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, chicken and salmon. Your doctor may recommend potassium supplements to treat several conditions including potassium deficiency, high blood pressure, stroke and inflammatory bowel disease. The recommended dose varies for different individuals. Ask your doctor about the dose and form of potassium that is right for you.
Low potassium levels may lead to menstrual cramps in some women, and taking potassium may be helpful, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that certain diuretic medications prescribed to relieve bloating, breast tenderness and food cravings associated with premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, may deplete the potassium levels in the body, thereby increasing the risk of arrhythmia and heart disease. Ask your doctor if you need potassium supplements while taking diuretic medications for PMS. Carolyn Levett, author of the book “Reclaim Your Life,” also recommends a potassium-rich diet to overcome the deficiency of the mineral that may occur in women who experience bouts of diarrhea during the menstrual period, and have bloating and fatigue.
No side effects are associated with potassium obtained from dietary sources. The supplements may, however, lead to side effects such as diarrhea, stomach irritation and nausea. High doses of potassium may also cause muscle weakness, and increase the risk of heart disease. Potassium supplements may also interfere with certain pain, blood pressure and corticosteroid medications.
You must not use potassium supplements without consulting a doctor because both low and high levels of the mineral may lead to serious complications that affect your heart, muscles and nervous system. Make sure that the supplements have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the United States Pharmacopeial Convention for safety and efficacy.