As mentioned earlier, potassium plays an important role in the maintenance of energy in the body. As one of the main electrolytes, potassium assists in transferring energy to the nervous system, brain, heart, and muscles. In cases of hypokalemia, the heart will send nutrients and oxygen to these areas at a much slower pace. This results in tiredness, dizziness, and feeling lightheaded. In more severe cases, a decline in heart rate may increase the risk of heart failure.
You may further feel dizzy and faint because of hypokalemia, due to the minerals’ essential role in regulating kidney function. If you have an electrolyte imbalance in your body, your kidneys are no longer able to concentrate waste products from your blood. As a result, only water is eliminated from your body. This results in extreme fluid loss and a decline in blood pressure (hypotension). This will lead to dizziness, especially while standing, and can lead to fainting. If you are feeling lightheaded, it is best that you don’t try to stand up on your own before consuming a food rich in potassium.
These symptoms, however, are typically triggered by sharp and severe drops in potassium levels, and not a gradual decline. At first, you may only feel slightly clumsy or unsteady, but these issues will only worsen if left untreated. Over time, the severe fatigue and confusion caused by hypokalemia can cause one to faint.
Insufficient potassium levels are only one cause of fainting. Regardless of the cause, fainting can put you at risk of a severe injury or concussion. Hence, it is important that you consult a doctor immediately if there is no reasonable explanation for you fainting.
Mental Health Conditions
It is important to remember that hypokalemia does not only affect physical health but also influences mental health. Episodes of hallucinations, depression, and psychosis, can be triggered by low potassium levels. Some of the symptoms associated with these mental conditions are often caused by fatigue from hypokalemia. Extreme tiredness can affect your quality of life as it hinders basic functions and activities.
However, mental health problems can also be directly caused by hypokalemia itself. Potassium deficiency can cause hormonal balances in your body that result in episodes of mental conditions. In fact, research has shown that depression and mood swings can develop with changes in nutritional deficiencies. Potassium deficiency is one of these. Furthermore, several studies have shown that subjects with mild depression symptoms, experienced an improvement in their mood after they increased their intake of potassium.
This is not surprising as potassium plays a central part in maintaining neurotransmission and the conduction of electrical impulses in the brain. In fact, potassium handles the transporting of serotonin to the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of happiness and well-being. This explains why the subjects in the study experienced better moods after they attended to their potassium levels.
Mental lethargy is another symptom of hypokalemia to look out for. This symptom is common because potassium is important for the functioning of our nerves, brain, and energy levels. Thus it is necessary for learning processes and cognitive functions. If you experience difficulty in concentrating, finishing tasks, and retaining information, you may have a potassium deficiency. Mental fatigue can end up leading to stress and frustration at the inability to perform at the desired level. These can, in turn, lead to depression and irritability, if left unaddressed.