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.
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.
- National Kidney Foundation: Potassium and Your CKD Diet
- “UpToDate"; Causes of hyperkalemia; Burton Rose, M.D.; June 2009
- Health.gov: Fluid and Electrolytes
- University of Virginia: How To Control Your Potassium
- National Institutes of Health: Potassium in Diet
- UpToDate Patient Information: Low Potassium Diet