Potassium Bicarbonate – Side Effects, Uses, Benefits

Potassium bicarbonate (PB), also referred to as potassium acid carbonate or potassium hydrogen carbonate, is a colorless, odorless substance. It is among the food additives encoded by the European Union and is identified by the E number E501.

Potassium Bicarbonate vs Sodium Bicarbonate

Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, is a supplement that provides dietary bicarbonate, that can increase serum levels of bicarbonate and subsequently buffer acid production in the body. PB is a low-sodium substitute for baking soda.


It has been used for decades in everyday products (as a leavening agent in baking and as a food ingredient) and medicine as well as a contact fungicide in a variety of crops, like – pome and stone fruit, grapevine, vegetables, berries and soft fruit, and cereals.

PB is also used as a mineral supplement that is used to prevent or treat low amounts of potassium in the blood, a condition called as hypokalemia.

If you develop this condition, you may experience symptoms, like:

  • muscle cramps;
  • poor energy levels;
  • upset stomach;
  • weakness;
  • abnormal heart rhythm – this is the most life-threatening complication of hypokalemia, especially in individuals with underlying heart disease.

Extreme low levels of potassium can cause the muscles to go completely limp, a medical condition that is known as flaccid paralysis. More importantly, the muscles involved in breathing can be affected by hypokalemia, known as hypokalemic paralysis.

This condition always occurs as a result of excessive loss of this essential mineral through sweat, urine, or stool. Plus, it is always a symptom of another condition, rather than a disease that occurs by itself.

Moreover, some prescription or OTC drugs can cause excess potassium loss in the urine. These medicines include:

  • blood pressure medications, like – thiazide diuretics (e.g. hydrochlorothiazide) and loop diuretics (e.g. furosemide);
  • amphotericin B (an antifungal medication) as well as the cancer drug, cisplatin, can also cause this condition.

Other causes of low potassium levels may include:

  • leukemia;
  • kidney disorders, like – renal tubular acidosis;
  • magnesium deficiency;
  • AIDS;
  • individuals who have had bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery);
  • too much consumption of alcoholic beverages;
  • Cushing’s disease (a condition which is the result of too much cortisol in the body);
  • eating disorders, like – bulimia and anorexia nervosa.

Note – as long as there are no digestive or metabolic problems present, the leading cause of hypokalemia is simply not getting enough potassium-rich foods in the regular diet.


Potassium is one of the human body’s electrolytes, which are minerals which transport an electric charge when dissolved in body fluids, like – blood. This mineral is found mainly in the skeletal muscle and bones. In addition, it participates with another mineral – sodium, to contribute to the normal flow of fluids between the cells in the human body.

The body also requires this mineral for the functioning of many complicated proteins (enzymes) and the contraction of muscles (including the heart).


To prevent overdose, in the United States, individual potassium tablets can have no more than 99 mg of the nutrient, just 2% of the recommended 4,700 mg per day. However, extended-release potassium tablets (around 600 milligrams) are given mainly to individuals who take drugs that deplete potassium from the body, like – diuretics, but these types of supplements are available only by prescription.

Warnings And Side Effects of Potassium Bicarbonate

According to the FDA, PB is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). However, some people experience the following side effects: abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea.

To reduce the possible side effects, take this supplement with or right after meals with a full glass of water.

If you experience abdominal pain, irregular or slow heartbeat, unusual tiredness, swelling and severe vomiting (particularly blood), unexplained anxiety, shortness of breath, and black, tarry, or bloody stools, stop taking this medication and contact your healthcare professional right away.

Allergic Reaction

Although it is unlikely, some individuals will experience an allergic reaction to PB. Signs of an allergic reaction may include:

  • swelling of the mouth, tongue, face, lips, or throat;
  • unusual hoarseness;
  • rash;
  • trouble breathing or talking;
  • tightness in the chest or throat;
  • wheezing;
  • red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin;
  • hives;
  • itching.

Moreover, tell your healthcare provider what nonprescription and prescription drugs you are taking, particularly – vitamins, diuretics (water pills), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), enalapril (Vasotec), or angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

Also, do not take this supplement if you are taking spironolactone (Aldactone), amiloride (Midamor), or triamterene (Dyrenium).
This supplement may be harmful to an unborn baby, therefore, tell your healthcare professional if you are pregnant.


The best method to get your potassium is through diet, therefore, here is a list of high potassium foods – apricots, avocado, sweet potato, spinach, acorn squash, coconut water, dried apricots, pomegranate, oat bran, oats, artichoke, banana, cantaloupe, red kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, dates, grapefruits, figs, navy beans, kiwis, walnuts, almonds, pineapples, mangoes, papayas, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, honeydew, nectarines, oranges, carrots, turnips, kale, Brussels sprouts, pomegranates, prunes, and apples.

Images credit – Shutterstock & Getty

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1 thought on “Potassium Bicarbonate – Side Effects, Uses, Benefits”

  1. magnesium causes me to ache all over my body….my heart to pound fast….keeps me awake at night …gives me a headache …joints hurts and i have given this problem to my kids and now grandkids. How can it be good to push this into everything we consume…I have run across more and more people who are having this same problem…we are being overdosed


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