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Relationship Between Kidney Health and Potassium

The work of the kidneys is to filter your blood and separate excess fluids, waste products, and toxins from it. A normal set of kidneys can filter more than 140 liters of blood per day and produces around 1-2 liters of urine. It removes excess electrolytes from the body and prevents waste build-up.

Electrolytes like sodium and potassium are needed for the body but in limited quantities. Kidneys keep electrolyte levels in check. When you have a kidney disorder, the rate of their functioning decreases. They become unable to regulate potassium levels. This causes potassium levels to dangerously skyrocket in the blood. Furthermore, some medications used to treat kidney disorders also raise potassium levels in the blood.

Potassium levels develop slowly. It takes some time for the symptoms to show. The most common first symptoms are feelings of fatigue and/or nausea.

When your potassium levels spike suddenly, you experience difficulty in breathing, chest pain, and palpitations. This condition is known as Hyperkalemia and needs immediate medical attention.

Also Read: How Anxiety Affects Your Kidneys?

How much potassium is good for you?

If your kidneys are functioning properly, you need around 4,700 mg of potassium in your daily diet. However, people with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) should have only 1,200-2,700 mg each day.

If you have CKD, your doctor will advise you to check your blood potassium levels once every month. There are three levels of potassium in your blood (expressed in millimoles per liter (mmol/L):

  • Safe zone – 3.5 to5.0 mmol/L
  • Caution zone – 5.1 to 6.0 mmol/L
  • Danger zone – 6.1 mmol/L and higher

Based on your readings, your doctor will advise you the diet you should take up to manage nutritional needs while maintaining potassium levels.

Foods you should eat

Foods with potassium levels equal to or lesser than 200 mg per serving are considered low in potassium. Some foods low in potassium are:

  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Pineapple
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant (brinjal)
  • Green beans
  • White rice
  • White pasta
  • White bread

Foods you should avoid

Foods with potassium levels more than 200 mg per serving are considered to be high in potassium. You can consume them in lesser quantities or you can also avoid them completely. Some foods high in potassium are:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Raisins
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Tomatoes and tomato puree/sauce
  • Lentils (Dal)
  • Spinach (Palak)
  • Potatoes (regular and sweet)
  • Pumpkin
  • Dried apricots
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat products like brown bread and pasta
  • Milk
  • Processed cheese
  • Nuts
  • Chicken

Also Read: Hypokalemia: Overview, Symptoms and Treatment

Leaching Potassium from Foods

Potassium is present in almost all food. Even if you wish to have a vegetable that is high in potassium once in a while, you can follow these steps to leach potassium from the vegetable.

  1. Peel the vegetable and soak it in cold water.
  2. Cut the vegetable into thin slices.
  3. Rinse in warm water for a few seconds.
  4. Soak the slices for at least two hours in warm water. Use lots of water for soaking. If soaking for a longer time, change the water every four hours.
  5. Wash with warm water once again.
  6. Cook the vegetable with 5 times the amount of water to the amount of vegetables.

Kidney health is intricately connected to potassium. If you have CKD, it does not necessarily mean that your nutritional needs will be difficult to meet. Thoughtful eating can help in keeping your potassium levels in check. In fact, you can even eat out occasionally. The only thing you need to remember is which food to eat and what to avoid so that you do not aggravate your condition.

Always be in touch with your doctor or nutritionist. They will monitor you and will advise you on the best diet you can follow when you have CKD.

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