How to counteract too much potassium in your body?
In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too much potassium in your body?”. We will further elaborate on the symptoms of too much potassium in your body and the causes of high potassium levels.
How to counteract too much potassium in your body?
To counteract too much potassium in your body, it is advisable to consult a doctor or healthcare provider. The healthcare provider may recommend you to get a blood test done. If the report confirms high potassium levels in your blood, he may ask you to:
- Follow a diet low in potassium
- Avoid several salt substitutes
- Avoid using herbal medicines or supplements
- Take water pills or potassium binders
Why should I worry about the potassium levels in my body?
You should worry about the potassium levels in your body because high levels of this mineral in your body can lead to negative effects on health, including heart abnormalities. If your body has high levels of potassium, or if you are at risk, consult the healthcare provider to help you control the potassium concentration. You should provide all the necessary details about the medications you are using such as over-the-counter drugs, herbal remedies and supplements, so that he may guide you properly.
To help manage your potassium levels, the healthcare provider may prescribe you to avoid high potassium foods, avoid the intake of supplementents of herbal medicines and to avoid salt substitutes.
Should I avoid high potassium food sources? What are they?
You should avoid high potassium food sources, as any additional potassium may increase the levels of potassium in your body. Regular consumption of foods rich in potassium can result in complications, particularly for those who have kidney disease. Ask the doctor how much potassium and from what sources are recommended for your case.
Consuming too much potassium rich food or supplements can be dangerous, although low levels are not desirable. The intake of potassium can vary according to the individual’s specific needs.
Foods with high potassium content include dried fruits, seaweed, nuts, molasses, avocados, and Lima beans. Many vegetables that are also high in potassium include spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, beets, carrots, and squash. Fruits that contain high concentrations of potassium in their composition include kiwis, mangoes, oranges, bananas, and cantaloupe. Red meats are also rich in potassium.
While generally safe to consume even in large quantities by patients with normal potassium homeostasis, these foods should be avoided in patients with severe renal disease or other underlying conditions or medications predisposing them to hyperkalemia (2).
Should I avoid salt substitutes?
Yes, you should avoid some salt substitutes. A few salt substitutes contain too much potassium. People with kidney disease, particularly, should avoid these salts. The prohibition of table salt is often compensated by some patients by the addition of salt substitutes without the realization of their high potassium content (1).
Should I avoid herbal medicines or supplements?
Yes, herbal medicines or supplements sometimes contain constituents which may increase potassium levels. Herbal supplements should not be consumed by individuals who are diagnosed with kidney disease. Make sure to consult your doctor if you intend to ingest such supplements.
Some herbs that may lead to increased potassium are Dandelion, Hawthorn berry, Horsetail, Lily of the valley, Milkweed, Nettle, Noni juice and Siberian ginseng (3).
Should I take water pills or potassium binders?
You should take water pills or potassium binders to counteract high levels of potassium in your body. Doctors may also recommend medicines to some people to help eliminate excess potassium from the body and for further prevention. These may be:
Water pills (diuretics): Diuretics help to exclude excess potassium from the body. They act by stimulating frequent urination (1,2).
Potassium binders: These are often available in powdered form. Potassium binders are blended in some amount of water and consumed with food. When consumed, they bind to the excess potassium in the bowels and eliminate it.
For over 50 years the only potassium binder that was available in the US was sodium polystyrene sulfonate (with calcium-polystyrene sulfonate available in some other countries), and it was mainly used in the context of acute hyperkalemia. However, the poor tolerance of this medication has led to the development of two new potassium binders for chronic hyperkalemia therapy. Patiromer (Veltassa®) is a non-absorbable polymer which exchanges potassium with calcium, and which was recently approved by the FDA for treatment of hyperkalemia (1).
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, kidney or heart problems, or any other serious illness, properly submitting to the prescribed remedies will help to maintain the potassium levels.
What are the symptoms of high potassium levels in the body?
The symptoms of high potassium levels in the body may be manifested by muscle weakness, although in many patients it is asymptomatic. Paresthesias and muscular fasciculations in the arms and legs might be earlier signs of hyperkalemia. Paralysis, cardiac conduction abnormalities, and cardiac arrhythmias can be lethal (3).
If you have high levels of potassium in your body, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Feeling weak or tired
- Numbness or tingling
- Nausea and/or vomiting (4)
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
In severe cases, high potassium levels can result in paralysis or heart failure.
What leads to high potassium levels in the body?
Several conditions can lead to high levels of potassium in the body, that include health issues and the use of particular medicines.
Kidney failure is the most prevalent cause of high potassium levels. If the kidneys fail or do not function well, they are not able to remove excess potassium. This can result in the accumulation of potassium (2).
Other health problems
Insulin deficiency and diabetic ketoacidosis may cause dramatic extracellular shifts causing measured serum potassium to be elevated in the setting of whole-body potassium depletion.
Certain medications, such as succinylcholine, may cause severe, acute potassium elevations in patients with up-regulation of receptors, particularly in subacute neuromuscular disease. Tumor lysis syndrome, particularly in patients receiving chemotherapy for hematogenous malignancy, may cause acute hyperkalemia due to massive cancer cell death (2).
High levels of potassium can also be due to some health conditions, for instance (3):
- internal bleeding or hemolysis (destruction of blood cells)
- dehydration due to exercises
- type 1 diabetes
- Low hemoglobin
Several medicines have been associated with high levels of potassium including:
- Some chemotherapy medicines
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin receptor blockers
Excessive intake of potassium supplements can enhance the levels of potassium to a limit that is more than average and can be threatening.
Alcohol or drug use
If a person uses heavy alcohol or drugs, it can cause his muscles to break down, which can release a high concentration of potassium from the muscle cells into the bloodstream. Alcohol consumption may also lead to dehydration and hyperkalemia.
Potassium levels can even be raised by some kinds of trauma, for example, burns or break injuries when a great number of muscle cells are damaged. In such a case, extra potassium drips from the body cells into the bloodstream. Cellular injury can release large quantities of intracellular potassium into the extracellular space. This can be due to rhabdomyolysis from a crush injury, excessive exercise, or other hemolytic processes (2).
What is the normal level of potassium in the body?
The normal range of potassium should be between 3.5 and 5.5 mmol/l. Hyperkalemia is defined as a serum or plasma potassium level above the upper limits of normal, usually greater than 5.0 mEq/L to 5.5 mEq/L. Symptoms usually develop at higher levels, 6.5 mEq/L to 7 mEq/L, but the rate of change is more important than the numerical value (2).
If a person is on dialysis the potassium levels should be between 3.5 and 5.9 mmol/l.
In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to counteract too much potassium in your body?”. We have also elaborated on the symptoms of too much potassium in your body and the causes of high potassium levels.
- Nilsson, Erik, et al. Incidence and determinants of hyperkalemia and hypokalemia in a large healthcare system. Int j cardiol, 2017, 245, 277-284.
- Simon, Leslie V., Muhammad F. Hashmi, and Mitchell W. Farrell. Hyperkalemia. StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing, 2022.
- Lindner, Gregor, et al. Acute hyperkalemia in the emergency department: a summary from a Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes conference. Euro J Emerg Med, 2020, 27, 329.
- Raffee, Liqaa A., et al. Clinical and electrocardiogram presentations of patients with high serum potassium concentrations within emergency settings: a prospective study. Int J Emerg Med, 2022, 15, 23.