Kidney stones are hardened masses of minerals that can cause severe pain in your back and abdomen. If you have experienced kidney stones in the past, you will likely take many steps to prevent future recurrences, which are significantly more likely if you have previously had a kidney stone. One of the steps you can take is making sure you have enough potassium in your diet. Potassium deficiency has been linked with increased risk for kidney stones. Before increasing potassium in your diet, consult your physician to ensure you can safely do so.
Potassium is a mineral your body uses for a number of functions, including creating the chemical reactions that keep your heart beating and your muscles moving. Your kidneys are responsible for regulating the levels of potassium in your body. To get enough potassium to perform your daily bodily functions, you should consume about 4,700 mg of potassium if you are older than age 14. In addition to potassium, your kidneys filter a number of other minerals like calcium, phosphate and oxalate. These other minerals can bind together to form a kidney stone.
One of the ways a potassium deficiency can contribute to kidney stones is by disrupting the acid/alkaline balance in your body. Your urine typically has a pH of close to neutral -- about 7. However, acid or alkaline imbalances in your diet can contribute to kidney stone formation. If you have experienced kidney stones formed with calcium, this can be a sign your urine is too acidic. Potassium can help to correct this because it has an alkaline effect on your body. When you consume potassium-containing foods, potassium can help to increase your urinary pH level. This creates an environment where kidney stones are less likely to form.
Another reason potassium is valuable in preventing kidney stones is that it can bind with calcium in your kidneys. When potassium and calcium bind together, the former keeps calcium from joining with other minerals known to cause kidney stones, like oxalate and phosphate. If you have a potassium deficiency, your kidneys release more calcium in your urine, which increases the likelihood kidney stones will form.
One way you can reverse a potassium deficiency is through increasing your intake of potassium-containing foods. Fruits and vegetables are plentiful sources of potassium. Try adding foods like bananas, plums, tomato juice, artichokes, lima beans, acorn squash, sunflower seeds and molasses in your daily diet. These can increase your potassium levels. Also, your physician may recommend taking a potassium citrate supplement, which incorporates potassium and citrate, two substances known to help prevent the formation of kidney stones.