Hypokalemia means the level of potassium in the bloodstream is too low to meet metabolic needs of the body for this mineral and is characterized by metabolic acidosis, altered nerve conduction and muscle contraction.
Rapid potassium loss can result in life-threatening hypokalemic rhabdomyolysis which is destruction of muscle tissue that results in kidney damage.1
Q: What are metabolic needs of the body for potassium?
A: The metabolic needs of the body for potassium are great because this mineral is crucial for life and especially for normal nerve and muscle function.
Most potassium is intracellular, meaning it is found within cells while sodium, its opposing mineral (both electrolytes), is found in the fluid surrounding cells. In muscle contraction, exchange of potassium and sodium takes place so that potassium moves out of muscle cells and sodium moves into them. With muscle relaxation, potassium moves back into the cells and sodium moves out.
What Is Hypokalemia In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?
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Williams SG, Davison AG, Glynn MJ. Hypokalaemic rhabdomyolsis: an unusual presentation of celiac disease. European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Feb 1995;7(2):183-4. ↩