If you have high potassium symptoms, dietary modifications are essential to lower and regulate your potassium levels. Potassium is a mineral that performs many important functions, the most important being able to regulate the kidneys. If the kidneys are not working as they should, potassium levels in the body will rise. Proper kidney function is not only vital to process potassium properly, it is also essential for proper functioning of muscles, nerves and fluid balance, which also maintains your heartbeat.
The following paragraphs will explain how to recognize high potassium symptoms and what kind of diet you will need to maintain in order to regulate high potassium (which is also known as hyperkalemia). In addition, you will learn some causes of hyperkalemia, treatments and diet.
Causes of High Potassium
Possible causes of high potassium or hyperkalemia include kidney malfunction, major infection, gastrointestinal bleeding, rapid protein breakdown or low sodium levels (potassium intake is high through either food or medication, and releasing too much potassium into the blood system). Another cause would be tissue destruction from burns, trauma or surgery. When there is considerable trauma, the dying cells release large amounts of potassium into the blood.
How to Recognize High Potassium Symptoms
Normal levels of potassium in the body run between 3.5 – 5 meg/L. Levels that are lower or higher than this are dangerous and can lead to hyperkalemia. High potassium symptoms can sometimes be asymptomatic (not cause symptoms), or cause vague symptoms such as nausea, fatigue or tingling sensation of the fingers or tongue.
Some of the most common symptoms of hyperkalemia include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Muscle weakness or spasms
- Nerve malfunction
- Stomach cramps
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Irritability and fatigue
- Shallow breathing
- Seizure or convulsion
- Heavy feeling in arms or legs
- Feeling faint
Hyperkalemia, if not identified and treated, can have long-term effects like blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias and sclerosis.
Treatments for High Potassium
The first thing you should do if you suspect you may have high levels of potassium is to consult your health care physician. From there, your doctor will perform blood test to determine how high the level is and what treatments would be best. Some treatments you can expect if you have high potassium are a change in your diet that will help regulate your potassium level.
For a more severe case, treatments may include insulin and sodium bicarbonate to help move potassium from the blood back into the cells. Diuretics can also help the kidneys process excess potassium and binding resins, to help digestion and exchange of potassium and sodium.
Foods to Avoid
Trying to devise a diet low in potassium is a bit difficult due to so many kinds of foods that contain some amount of potassium. Some of the foods that contain high potassium and should be avoided or taken in small amounts are:
- whole grain cereals and breads
- sports drinks
- nuts and seeds
- peanut butter
- fig cookies
Some fruits that have high potassium levels include:
- dried fruit
- kiwi fruit
Vegetables that also contain high levels of potassium and should be avoided or restricted are:
- bamboo shoots
- Brussels sprouts
Even dairy products such as milk, and some cheeses, as well as fish, and beef are also high in potassium.
Food to Eat
There are many low potassium foods you can eat which include:
- refined grains
Vegetables such as asparagus, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, eggplant, onions, green peppers, watercress, zucchini, and spinach are also low in potassium. Eggs, chicken, and turkey are some of the meat products that are low in potassium.
Working with a nutritionist and your doctor will to help find the right balance of sodium and potassium for your diet. People with kidney problems should take special care with their diet in regards to potassium levels.