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Potassium: an introduction

Potassium is a mineral that is important for proper functioning of all of the body’s cells, tissues and organs. Most of the body’s potassium is easily absorbed through food. Potassium is an essential nutrient and is very important for several processes in the body including the fluid levels in each cell, the proper functioning of nerve cells, muscle contractions, and kidney function.1

If a person does not have enough potassium in their body, it can cause increased blood pressure, an increased risk of developing kidney stones, a higher rate of bone turnover, urinary calcium excretion, and salt sensitivity (meaning that the body is more sensitive to sodium, which can affect the blood pressure more than normal). Severe potassium deficiency is rare among healthy people with normal kidney function. People at a higher risk of potassium deficiency include those with inflammatory bowel diseases and those taking certain medications, like diuretics or laxatives.1

Foods containing potassium

Potassium is found in a variety of foods, including:

  • Apricots (particularly dried apricots)
  • Prunes
  • Lentils
  • Potatoes (particularly potato skin)
  • Raisins
  • Soybeans
  • Orange juice
  • Bananas
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cashew nuts
  • Salmon1

Potassium and migraine

It is not well understood how potassium may help migraine sufferers. Scientists have discovered a genetic mutation that is associated with people who have a family history of migraine that affects the TRESK potassium channel, causing the nerves to be overly excited. Researchers are now studying whether this may be a new target for migraine treatment in people who have the genetic mutation.2,3 However, it is not yet known whether potassium supplementation can help alleviate or prevent migraine in these patients.

Formulations available

Potassium is often included in multivitamins, and it is found in several forms, including:

  • Potassium chloride
  • Potassium citrate
  • Potassium phosphate
  • Potassium aspartate
  • Potassium bicarbonate
  • Potassium gluconate1

Side effects and other precautions

In people with healthy kidneys, potassium supplementation does not pose a risk, as the kidneys filter out any excess potassium to be excreted in the urine. People who have kidney disease, type 1 diabetes, liver disease, or congestive heart failure, or who are taking certain medications (such as potassium sparing diuretics, laxatives, or angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors) are at risk of hyperkalemia, too much potassium in the blood, and should talk to their doctor before using any potassium supplements.1

Potassium supplements may cause minor side effects, such as:


Who should not take potassium

People who have hyperkalemia (high levels of potassium in the blood), kidney disease or poor kidney function should not take potassium supplements.

People who take certain medications shouldn’t take potassium, including ACE inhibitors, potassium-sparing diuretics and laxatives. These medications may cause an increase in potassium.



As always, the best source for advice on treating migraine is your own migraine specialist. These descriptions of natural remedies are provided only for informational purposes. You should begin no medication or supplement without first checking with your physician.

Written by: Emily Downward | Last review date: August 2019
  1. Potassium. National Institutes of Health. Available at Accessed 5/15/18.
  2. Lafrenière RG, Rouleau GA. Migraine: role of the TRESK two-pore potassium channel. The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology. 2011 Nov;43(11):1533-1536. Abstract.
  3. Yan J, Dussor G. Ion channels and migraine. Headache. 2014;54(4):619-639. doi:10.1111/head.12323.
  4. Potassium supplement. Mayo Clinic. Available at Accessed 5/15/18.