Potassium levels are determined by three factors: the amount consumed, the amount excreted and its distribution in the body. A variety of conditions and behaviors can change these factors and affect the potassium level. In healthy people, potassium is well-regulated by normal body mechanisms. In people with certain diseases, the body may be less able to maintain a healthy potassium balance. High potassium, or hyperkalemia, is serious and can be life-threatening.
Packaged foods with significant potassium content list the amount of the mineral on the Nutrition Facts label. Use a log to keep track of intake and identify sources of excess potassium. Keep serving sizes in mind when tracking nutrient consumption. Monitoring your intake provides a simple way to stay on top of potassium consumption.
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Consume Low-Potassium Foods
Most dietary foods contain potassium, so choose foods low in potassium and avoid common high-potassium items. Healthy foods with low potassium content include pasta, chicken, cooked carrots and apples. Common foods to avoid include whole-grain bread, sports drinks, peanut butter, potatoes, bananas and milk. A dietitian can be invaluable for identifying an appropriate low-potassium diet.
The potassium content in certain vegetables can be reduced by a process called leaching. Wash the vegetables and cut them into thin slices, peeling them if necessary. Then soak them for at least two hours in a large amount of warm water. Rinse the vegetables and boil them in fresh water for several minutes. This process pulls the potassium from the solid foods and dissolves it in the surrounding water. The National Kidney Foundation website maintains a list of high potassium vegetables and detailed instructions for leaching them.
Treat Underlying Conditions
Most people who need to reduce potassium levels have an underlying condition, such as diabetes or kidney failure, that impairs the ability of the body to maintain potassium balance. It may be difficult to use natural methods for potassium reduction without controlling the underlying disease. Work with a medical professional to treat health conditions that might affect potassium levels.
Certain medications can increase potassium levels. A class of blood pressure medications called beta-blockers can interfere with the body's ability to redistribute potassium. This is not a problem in healthy people, but those on some medications may develop increased potassium levels. Consult a health care professional to determine if medications are appropriate for maintaining potassium balance.
Potassium is vital to a number of body functions, including digestion, metabolism and regulating muscle tissue. However, is it possible for a person to experience hyperkalemia, a condition where a person experiences too-high potassium levels in her blood. While some moderately high potassium levels may be the direct result of a diet high in potassium, hyperkalemia can indicate a more severe condition, such as a kidney disorder. For this reason, it's important to take action to reduce a person's potassium levels in order to restore balance to the body.
Reduce the amount of high-potassium foods in your diet. While potassium is found at least in trace elements in most foods, avoid foods that contain 250 mg or more. Examples include whole-grain breads, peanut butter, nuts, figs, chocolate, apricots, avocado, bananas, pears, raisins, baked beans, carrots, pumpkin, spinach, squash, tomato sauce, milk, clams, scallops, salmon, ground beef, pinto beans, navy beans and salt substitutes.
Replace high-potassium foods with low-potassium foods, such as white-flour foods, apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, grapefruits, raspberries, asparagus, cabbage, cucumber, onions, cucumber, green peas, green peppers, chicken, turkey, tuna, eggs, shrimp, cheddar or Swiss cheese.
Reduce the potassium content of your favorite foods by leaching, a process that involves soaking high-potassium vegetables in water for two hours or more. Drain the water, then cook the vegetables.
Take a diuretic medication, which is designed to reduce potassium levels in the body. These medicines must be prescribed by a physician and is often recommended for a person that is experiencing chronic kidney failure.
Undergo other treatments to reduce the amount of potassium in the body and improve kidney function. Because the kidneys are responsible for filtering potassium in the body, treatments such as dialysis aim to act in the absence of good kidney function. Other treatments, such as intravenous calcium, glucose or insulin reduce potassium levels in the body.
Closely monitor any patient undergoing treatment for high potassium levels for any symptoms related to cardiac arrest, as hyperkalemia is linked with irregular heartbeat and heart damage.