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Potassium bicarbonate sources, health risks

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 by

Potassium bicarbonate, also known as potassium acid carbonate or potassium hydrogen carbonate, is an odorless, colorless, salty, and slightly basic substance typically produced by passing carbon dioxide through an aqueous potassium carbonate solution. This compound can also be found naturally in the mineral kalicinite, though this is rare.

The many uses of potassium bicarbonate include that of a fire suppression agent in dry chemical fire extinguishers, a strong buffering agent in medications, and an effervescence-softening ingredient in club soda. Beyond these, potassium bicarbonate is often utilized in medication as well. Specifically, as medication to boost the potassium levels of individuals suffering from potassium deficiency and as medication to neutralize stomach acid.

Harmful effects that can be caused by potassium bicarbonate

As was previously mentioned, one of the major applications of potassium bicarbonate is to remedy low potassium levels, or hypokalemia. As with many potassium supplements, potassium bicarbonate significantly increases the risk of hyperkalemia, a condition wherein an individual has abnormally high potassium levels. The possibility of this is higher when potassium bicarbonate is taken in conjunction with other potassium supplements or low-salt dietary products.

Those with hyperkalemia will usually experience numbness or tingling sensations in their hands or feet, nausea, faintness, sweating, and general feelings of illness. The more severe signs and symptoms of hyperkalemia run the gamut from muscle weakness to chest pain to seizures to temporary paralysis. Irregular heartbeat is the most serious risk of hyperkalemia. An irregular heartbeat increases the chances of heart attack.

Those who are most susceptible to developing hyperkalemia are persons with intestinal disorders such as stomach ulcers, kidney disease, Addison’s disease or primary adrenal insufficiency, and hypoaldosteronism, a condition wherein the body is unable to produce insufficient amounts of the potassium-regulating hormone aldosterone. Individuals on certain medications are at risk as well, particularly if they take diuretics, non-steroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs, beta-blockers, and angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

Potassium bicarbonate supplements can cause digestive problems like abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody or tarry stools, nausea, and vomiting. Taking potassium bicarbonate supplements with food is said to decrease the risks of these digestive issues. In addition, potassium bicarbonate has also been reported to cause uneven heartbeats, unusual tiredness, rashes, and anxiety.

While uncommon, there have been cases of allergic reactions to potassium bicarbonate. The individuals who reported these cases experienced difficulty breathing, hives, and/or swelling of their throat, faces, tongue, and lips.

Potassium bicarbonate supplements are classified as Pregnancy Category C, or drugs whose safety remains undetermined due to lack of research. This means that they have the potential to harm unborn babies. Pregnant women should avoid potassium bicarbonate supplements or take them only under strict medical supervision.

Body systems harmed by potassium bicarbonate

Potassium bicarbonate can harm the digestive system and heart.

Most of the digestive issues associated with potassium bicarbonate are often side effects of taking it as a supplement. On the other hand, potassium bicarbonate greatly enhances the possibility of developing dangerous heartbeat irregularities. This is because potassium plays an important role in muscle contraction and nerve conduction, two actions that help maintain the normal rhythm of the heart.

Where to learn more


Potassium bicarbonate is a compound that is often used to supplement the body with potassium. Due to this, potassium bicarbonate supplements increase the risk of hyperkalemia or abnormally high potassium levels and heart attack. Potassium bicarbonate can bring about a number of digestive disorders as well. The chances of a person having potassium bicarbonate allergies are low but it has been recorded in the past.

Those who should avoid potassium bicarbonate supplements include individuals with kidney and digestive problems, those who already on potassium supplementation, and pregnant women due to the risk of harm on their unborn babies.

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