Is not eating potassium dangerous?

Lets assume you eat 5-20g of sodium a day but almost no (0-500mg) potassium a day. Will that kill you or will your kidneys just adjust to the diet and hold onto potassium better?

potassium deficiency

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Extremely low potassium diets will make one sick and can lead to death, as a certain level of potassium is needed for nerves to transmit and muscles to fire. Low potassium can also lead to fatal cardiac arrhythmias.

The kidneys can only conserve so much potassium. If losses via kidneys and sweat and other routes exceed intake, debility and death will follow. Just what level of intake would lead to dangerously low potassium probably depends on a lot of individual factors like your own kidney efficiency.

Paging KarlGauss! A little help? Got any numbers on when potassium intake restriction becomes dangerous?

Hey there, Qad! Howya doing?

You’re right, of course, that low potassium can be fatal (especially if you’ve got underlying heart disease, other salt imbalances [eg. low magnesium], or take digoxin).

One of the consequences of low potassium besides its effect on nerve and heart electrical activity is that the blood pH will rise (alkalosis). Since alkalosis can also lead to cardiac arrythmias, it’s a double whammy.

AFAIK, there is an obligate potassium loss of about 5 to 10 meq in the urine daily. There is also about 5 to 10 meq lost in each of the stool and sweat. So, let’s say there’s a 25 meq total obligate loss. Any intake less than that will lead to problems.

If someone’s taking diuretics or is vomiting or has diarrhea, problems will come much sooner.

Qad: As an aside, I’ve seen levels of 1.1!! (hypokalemic periodic paralysis)

:eek: :eek: :eek:

Otherwise, life’s OK in the Big House. Had a guy 4 weeks ago with a potassium of 7.5 and a heart rate of 12 and he was conscious!!! but he sure didn’t feel good! I couldn’t get a pulse in his wrist, I tried his shunt (dialysis patient of course), still couldn’t get one, yet he’d talk to me (“Doc, I don’t feel good”) when I hollered at him. I tried my stethoscope, and NOTHING! I thought the damn thing must be plugged with earwax! Stat EKG showed 5 seconds of asystole before a spike came along. A little emergency pacing and dialysis, and he was back to his normal self, bitching about not being allowed a TV.

It was the med student’s first day too. Lotsa laffs!

Potassium imbalances are just sooooo wacky! :smiley:

Personally, referring to the OP I would have thought that eating potassium would be pretty dangerous, too!