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What causes low potassium levels?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Low potassium levels can be caused by any of several substances or conditions, including diarrhea, diuretics (drugs that make you urinate more frequently), and eating disorders. Some antibiotics, certain types of kidney disease, profuse sweating, vomiting, and (drum roll, please) some kinds of licorice can also cause low potassium levels. Call your doc if you notice symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle pain, or changes in your heart rate or rhythm.

Several factors contribute to low potassium levels in your body. They can include a combination of the following:

  • chronic kidney failure
  • water pills
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • eating disorders
  • overuse of laxatives
  • excessive sweating
  • eating a lot of licorice or chewing tobacco that contains licorice

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.