Low Potassium

Potassium is an electrolyte that is critical to the function of nerve and muscles cells, including those in your heart. Low potassium (hypokalemia) has many causes. The most common cause of low potassium is excessive potassium loss in urine or from the gastrointestinal tract, such as happens during eating disorders.

Hypokalemia can be caused by overuse of laxatives; by eating disorders such as bulimia, which involves self-induced vomiting; and by prolonged fasting and starvation. This can cause weakness and irregular heart rhythms, fatigue, anorexia and decreased bowel motility. The normal potassium level is 3.5-5.0 mEq/L (this is a measure used to evaluate the level). Low potassium is defined as a potassium level below 3.5 mEq/L.

Increasing potassium in your diet and using potassium supplements are both forms of treatment. Sometimes, hospitalization may be required to add potassium. If you cannot move your arms and legs or you feel as though your heart has an irregular heartbeat, then call a medical provider immediately.

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

Find a Treatment Facility Near You

Click on a state below to find eating disorder treatment options that could be right for you.

The information provided on EatingDisorders.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes and we encourage all visitors to see a licensed physician if they believe that they have an eating disorder. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of EatingDisorders.com nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

Copyright © 2008-2017 EatingDisorders.com.
Company Information

© 2017 EatingDisorders.com. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of EatingDisorders.com's terms of service and privacy policy. The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.