Potassium

What is potassium?

Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte found in most foods and is necessary for many bodily functions. It is important to keep potassium at a healthy level in your body because having too much or too little potassium can cause harm.

Potassium helps with your body’s muscle function. It helps your muscles expand and contract. Your heart is a muscle, and potassium plays a major role in helping your heart beat properly.

Most foods have potassium, but some have more than others. Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, dairy and red meat are some foods with the highest amounts of potassium. Download the potassium food guide for lower potassium foods that can be alternative tasty options.

Potassium was first discovered in the ashes of burnt plants. Its chemical symbol ‘K’ is derived from the Latin word Kalium, meaning potash (a type of salt), hence potassium. It was discovered in 1807 by Sir Humphry Davy, a British chemist.

What causes high potassium?

The most common cause of high potassium is kidney disease.

Other causes of high potassium include:

  • Dehydration
  • Some medicines
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Injuries that cause severe bleeding
  • Some rare diseases

If you have kidney disease, you are at risk for high potassium because your kidneys cannot remove the extra potassium in your blood. Instead of leaving your body through your urine, the extra potassium in your blood travels through your kidneys and back into your bloodstream. Over time, more and more potassium can build up in your blood.

High potassium (hyperkalemia)

A food with 250 mg of potassium (or more) per serving, is considered a high-potassium food. If you are on dialysis or your doctor has recommended that you eat a low-potassium foods, you should aim for a daily potassium goal of 2500 mg and no more than 3000 mg per day. Your doctor or dietitian may adjust these recommendations to fit your personal needs.

What are the symptoms of high potassium?

Many people do not feel symptoms of high potassium. Having too much potassium in your blood can be dangerous. It can even cause a heart attack.

If you do feel symptoms, some of the most common are:

fatigue-weakness-200

Feeling Tired Or Weak

nausea

Feeling Sick To The Stomach (Nausea)

muscle-pain

Muscle Pains Or Cramps

chest-pain

Trouble Breathing, Unusual Heartbeat, Chest Pains

High-potassium foods

High-potassium foods and drinks are those with more than 200mg (200 milligrams) of potassium per serving.

Examples of foods that can be high in potassium include:

banana

Fruits

Some fruits: including: bananas, grapefruits, oranges, cantaloupes, raisins, and other dried fruits
potatoes

Vegetables

Some vegetables, including: potatoes, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus, and cooked spinach
beans

Beans

Black beans, pinto beans, baked beans
meats

Most Meats

fish

Most Fish

cheese

Dairy Products

Milk, cheese, yogurt
almonds

Nuts

Including peanuts and peanut butter
chocolate

Chocolate

High potassium is called hyperkalemia. Many people do not feel symptoms of high potassium. Having too much potassium in your blood can be dangerous. It can even cause a heart attack.

Low-potassium

Low-potassium foods and drinks are those with less than 100mg (100 milligrams) of potassium per serving.

Examples of foods that can be low in potassium include:

strawberry

Fruits

Some fruits, including: grapes, strawberries, blueberries
cucumber

Vegetables

Some vegetables, including: cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers
bread

Bread

Most breads and bread products
rice

Rice

pasta

Pasta

Low potassium is called hypokalemia. Having low potassium in your blood can also cause harm to your body. The symptoms for low potassium are:

  • Muscle weakness, cramping, twitching, or pain
  • Your body feels so heavy it is hard to move–almost like paralysis
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation and bloating
  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Heart attack

Common causes for low potassium are:

  • Poor appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Certain medicines

 

Working with the dietitian at your dialysis center will help you make the best food choices based on your potassium levels. The potassium food guide provides a list of potassium levels in specific foods.

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