Potassium and Migraine

Potassium is an important mineral that helps the body work properly. Among its many other jobs, potassium helps control kidney and heart function, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission.1

Potassium and migraine research

There is no clear evidence that potassium helps with migraine. However, a study found a genetic mutation related to potassium in people with a family history of migraine. This mutation affects the TRESK potassium channel, causing nerves to be overly excited. Another study tied migraine aura and cortical spreading depression to a flood of potassium and other brain chemicals.2

No neurological societies recommend potassium as a treatment for migraine. Taking extra potassium should be done with caution.

Low levels of potassium

If someone has too little potassium, it can cause several health issues, such as:1

Severe potassium deficiency is rare in people with normal kidney health. Certain people are at higher risk of very low potassium, such as those:1

Signs of low potassium levels include constipation, fatigue, weakness, and not feeling well.1

Foods with potassium

Most people easily get enough potassium through food. Potassium is found in many foods, including:1

  • Dried fruits like apricots, prunes, and raisins
  • Orange juice
  • Bananas
  • Lentils, kidney beans, and soybeans
  • Produce like potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli
  • Nuts
  • Dairy products like milk and yogurt
  • Meat, poultry, and fish

Drugs and supplements with potassium

Multivitamins often have potassium, and you can take potassium-only pills. The names you may see on a label include:1

  • Potassium chloride
  • Potassium citrate
  • Potassium phosphate
  • Potassium bicarbonate

However, not everyone should take extra potassium. Talk with your doctor about whether potassium could help you manage your migraines.

Side effects of too much potassium

Healthy people with normal kidney function generally do not need to worry about too much potassium. Any extra potassium leaves the body in urine.

Other people need to be careful with how much potassium they consume. This includes those with kidney and liver disease, type 1 diabetes, and heart failure. People taking diuretics, laxatives, and certain blood pressure drugs should watch their potassium levels. These groups are at risk of too much potassium gathering in the blood (hyperkalemia).1

Early, mild signs of too much potassium include diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, and/or vomiting. Less common and more serious signs include:3

  • Confusion
  • Irregular or slow heartbeat
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, or lips
  • Problems breathing
  • Unexplained anxiety
  • Unusual weakness, tiredness, or heaviness of the legs

These are not all the possible side effects of too much potassium. Talk with your doctor and stop taking extra potassium right away if you notice these signs.3

As always, the best source for advice on treating migraine is your own migraine specialist. Potassium may be “natural,” but it can affect your health and interact with other drugs you take.

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Reviewed June 2021