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Potassium imbalance

Category: Illnesses and disabilities



Introduction and description

Potassium is a chemical element with symbol K.  It is the eighth or ninth most common element by mass (0.2%) in the human body, so that a 60 kg adult contains a total of about 120 g of potassium. The body has about as much potassium as sulphur and chloride, and only the major minerals calcium and phosphorus are more abundant.

Illness due to potassium can occur from having too much or having too little - a deficency.  In effect, illness is caused by imbalance.

  • Hypokalemia - The correct name for Potassium deficency is Hypokalemia (American English) or hypokalaemia (British English). It refers to the condition in which the concentration of potassium (K+) in the blood is low. The prefix hypo- means "under" (contrast with hyper-, meaning "over"); kal- refers to kalium, the Neo-Latin for potassium, and -emia means "condition of the blood."
  • Hyperkalemia (hyperkalaemia, hyper- high; kalium, potassium; -emia, "in the blood") refers to 'the condition in which the concentration of potassium (K+) in the blood is elevated'. The symptoms of elevated potassium are 'nonspecifi'c, and the condition is usually discovered on blood tests performed for another reason. Extreme hyperkalemia is a medical emergency due to the risk of potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia).

Potassium ions are necessary for the function of all living cells. It is one of the key minerals used by the Physical nervous system. Potassium is an essential macromineral in human nutrition; it is the major cation (positive ion) inside animal cells, and it is thus important in maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Sodium makes up most of the cations of blood plasma, potassium makes up most of the cell fluid cations. Sodium pumps in the kidneys operate to conserve sodium. Potassium must sometimes be conserved also, but, as the amount of potassium in the blood plasma is very small and the pool of potassium in the cells is about thirty times as large, the situation is not so critical for potassium.


Potassium is essential for many body functions, including muscle and nerve activity. The electrochemical gradient of potassium between the intracellular and extracellular space is essential for nerve function; including the nerves and cells in the heart and the cells in the brain. In the heart, both hypokalemia and hyperkalemia cause arrhythmias. In general the symptoms are thus

  • Blood pressure - elevation of blood pressure or other blood circulatory problems
  • Heart problems - Potassium ion diffusion is a key mechanism in nerve transmission, and potassium depletion results in various cardiac dysfunctions including Heart arrhythmias - cardiac arrhythmias. In extreme cases hyperkaelemia caused by ACE inhibitors has led to cardiac arrest
  • Cramp and muscle problems - Muscular weakness, myalgia, muscle cramps - Thus if you have cramp this may be a sign you have potassium imbalance. More severe hypokalemia produces “flaccid paralysis and hyporeflexia”. Rhabdomyolysis has also occurred with profound hypokalemia.  Potassium is also important in preventing muscle contraction - in the extreme case seizures can result from Potassium imbalance - see also Epilepsy.
  • Constipation - and other intestinal problems
  • Mental problems - Inability to concentrate and think clearly – at severe levels it can cause severe confusion hallucinations, delusions and delirium.  Potassium cations are important in neuron (brain and nerve) function, and in influencing osmotic balance between cells and the interstitial fluid, with their distribution mediated in all animals (but not in all plants) by the so-called Na+/K+-ATPase pump. This ion pump uses ATP to pump three sodium ions out of the cell and two potassium ions into the cell, thus creating an electrochemical gradient over the cell membrane. In addition, the highly selective potassium ion channels are crucial, in for example neurons, after an action potential is fired. So to put this crudely if you have a potassium imbalance your brain doesn't function properly, neither does your nervous system.
  • Shortness of breath and wheezing - “Respiratory depression from severe impairment of skeletal muscle function is found in many patients” - difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
  • Erectile dysfunction - and other reproductive system problems
  • Stomach problems - including indigestion
  • Kidney and other renal problems
  • Liver disease


Potassium inbalance can be caused by one or more of the following:

  • Illness - which depletes the body of potassium, for example
  • Inherited genes - Rare hereditary defects of muscular ion channels and transporters can precipitate occasional attacks of severe hypokalemia and muscle weakness
  • Pharmaceuticals - This LINK takes you to the eHealthme site and provides a list of all the pharmaceuticals that have been implicated in causing high potassium levels.  This LINK takes you to the same site and provides a list of all the pharmaceuticals that have been implicated in causing low potassium levels.  The lists were derived from Adverse Drug reports submitted to FDA and SEDA.  The types of drugs implicated include:
  • Laxatives
  • Diuretics, including thiazide diuretics (e.g. hydrochlorothiazide) and loop diuretics (e.g. Furosemide) – these are a common cause of hypokalemia
  • Antibiotics
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Anti-parasitic drugs
  • Antifungal drugs such as the antifungal, amphotericin B
  • Chemotherapy drugs – such as the cancer drug, cisplatin
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Other drugs – a number of drugs can cause transient shifting of potassium into cells including insulin, epinephrine, and other beta agonists (e.g. salbutamol or salmeterol), and xanthines (e.g. Theophylline).
  • Surgery where fluids are lost during the process
  • Gastric bypasses
  • Other sorts of physical damage
  • Activities
  • Frenetic exercise and/or heavy perspiration
  • Menopause - which can cause excessive perspiration and blood and thus fluids
  • Stress, stress, stress - Aldosterone is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland. It plays a central role in the regulation of blood pressure mainly by acting on the distal tubules and collecting ducts of the nephron, increasing reabsorption of ions and water in the kidney, to cause the conservation of sodium, secretion of potassium, increased water retention, and increased blood pressure. Under stress aldosterone can be produced in too high amounts leading to excessive potassium secretion and the characteristic problems associated with high blood pressure
  • Drinking Colas - There have been a few published reports describing individuals with severe hypokalemia related to chronic extreme consumption (4-10 L/day) of colas. The hypokalemia is thought to be from the combination of the  effect of caffeine and copious fluid intake, although it may also be related to diarrhea caused by heavy fructose ingestion. 


The most important treatment in severe hypokalemia is addressing the cause, such as improving the diet, treating diarrhea or stopping an offending medication.  See Healing yourself and also Eating for health.

Potassium intake can be obtained from potassium-containing foods, a list can be found derived from the USDA Nutrients database in the section on Potassium.

Medically, in an emergency, there are pharmaceuticals - potassium deficiency treatments, however, I have provided some extra Pubmed papers for you in this section, showing they are not being used wisely.

How it works

Physically  - this activity works via the diseases it results in, it is in effect poisoning

Logically - this activity works because mineral deprivation or overload is a threat.  You need to have the Model of the Mind open and have read How spiritual experence works.
If we look at this from a logical point of view, what we see is that the Will is being assaulted by a Threat.
The 5 senses along possibly with the nervous system are telling it that it is in danger, that the threat is both real and serious.  Thus the Will is being told DO SOMETHING.
But what if it can do nothing?  It has searched the Memory for a learnt function to deal with it and finds nothing and the Threat is there now, it has no time to learn.  If you do nothing about the imbalance and it gets worse, the messages get louder and louder – THREAT ,THREAT ,THREAT – we are sick captain we don’t want to die, your little cells and organs want to live.
There is little input from the Reasoning function – after all what can it do?  And the intensity of the messages being sent it from Perceptions tends to overwhelm the reasoning function anyway – DO SOMETHING, DO SOMETHING!!!  The Will may first tell the Autonomic system [via Endorphins] that it can do nothing and to cease complaining, but there comes a point where the Will gives up, exhausted, and lets the Composer take over.  The ego has been squashed.
And we get our spiritual experience.

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