Does Too Much Potassium Cause Hair Loss?'

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Question: Is too much potassium likely to cause hair loss or hair thinning? Thanks.

Answer: Hi, Jordan. Regular excessive potassium consumption may lead to hair loss in extreme cases, however, shedding is more likely to occur as a result of a potassium deficiency.

Potassium regulates the balance of fluids in the body, as well as the hair's pH balance. It also plays a key role in heart health, ensuring good circulation which is critical for healthy hair growth. The UK government recommends adults aged between 16 and 64 years old, inclusive, consume 3,500mg of potassium per day. This should be easily achieved via our diet, with many everyday foods being good sources of potassium.

banana potassium nutrition food dietWhilst bananas tend to be one of the most commonly-cited examples, there are a number of other foods which are rich in potassium. A medium-sized banana tends to clock up around 442mg of potassium; in contrast half an avocado contains around 487mg, whilst a medium-sized sweet potato has approximately 541mg. Spinach, potatoes, edamame, butternut squash, beetroots and cannellini beans are all even more potassium-dense.

With so many natural sources of potassium around, before taking into account any enriched foods or potassium-containing food supplements, it may be the case that the recommended intake is exceeded sometimes. Whilst this is generally inadvisable, if you go over slightly occasionally it is unlikely to cause serious problems. However, if you exceed this limit by a long way and/or should it become a regular occurrence, there are known effects from taking too much potassium that can make you ill. These include nausea, diarrhoea and stomach pain.

Thinning hair is more common in cases where people experience a potassium deficiency, also known as hypokalemia. This is a recognised adverse reaction associated with not having enough potassium in the blood stream, as are extreme fatigue, muscle spasms, digestive issues, shortness of breath, tingling and numbness.

The type of hairloss that results from a nutritional deficiency - or an illness - is called Telogen Effluvium and it causes diffuse shedding from all over the scalp. It generally presents around three months after being triggered but, once the underlying cause has been addressed and rectified, normal hair growth should resume naturally within six months. Treatment for Telogen Effluvium may be beneficial and a consultation with a hair specialist can determine the best option for each individual.

Whilst temporary hair loss may not sound particularly worrisome, around 30 per cent of scalp hair can be affected, resulting in noticeably thinner hair and more scalp being visible. This can be shocking to see and anyone experiencing significant levels of hair fall should consult a professional for advice. Furthermore, for those with a genetic propensity to androgenetic alopecia (Male or Female Pattern Baldness), if this is active their hair loss may worsen, whilst for those where the condition has not yet presented, its premature onset can be sparked by Telogen Effluvium. A hair loss expert will be able to identify precisely which conditions are at play and recommend suitable hair loss treatments accordingly.

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