Can Low Potassium Cause Foot Cramps?

One folk cure for leg or foot cramps is to eat a banana. This is because bananas are high in potassium, and according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, one symptom of low potassium levels is muscle cramps. Athletes or those on certain medications are more at risk for low potassium levels. Foot cramps can have other, more serious causes, too, so you should talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.

Potassium and You

Potassium and sodium work together to regulate the amount of water in your body. Potassium is necessary for all cells in the human body and proper potassium levels are essential for good blood pressure, nerve function, digestive health, muscle control and bone health. People with irritable bowel disease might have trouble absorbing enough potassium into their system. Diarrhea, vomiting, too much salt in the diet, chronic alcoholism, and extreme diets of less than 800 calories a day also can result in low potassium levels.

Other Symptoms of Low Potassium

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In addition to muscle cramps, serious potassium deficiency, also known as hypokalemia, also can cause weakness and a lack of energy, stomach upset and an irregular heartbeat. Hypokalemia is only rarely caused by poor diet but instead is more often the result of your body not properly processing potassium. If left untreated, hypokalemia can be life-threatening, and you should talk with your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms.

Sources of Potassium

Many fresh fruits and vegetables are good sources of potassium. According to Colorado State University, a single serving of bananas, sweet potatoes, raisins, carrots, greens, cantaloupe and tomatoes will provide 300 mg or more of potassium. Potassium also can be found in milk, molasses, chicken and tuna. Most people can maintain healthy potassium levels by eating a varied, well-rounded diet.

Other Causes of Foot Cramps

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Medline Plus, a service of the National Institutes of Health, reports that cramps or spasms in your feet, hands or other parts of your body can be caused a wide variety of ailments, from simple dehydration to brain disorders like multiple sclerosis. Kidney disease, nerve damage and low levels of calcium or magnesium also can result in foot cramps. Too much or too little physical exertion also can cause cramps, spasms or muscle soreness. If your cramps are not resolved by stretching, or if your foot cramps are recurrent, talk to your doctor about your diet, activity levels and the severity and regularity of your foot cramps.