People with chronic kidney disease need to limit the amount of potassium they consume because their kidneys cannot process potassium properly, causing it to build up in the blood.
Medications used to treat kidney disease can also raise potassium levels. One the best ways to manage potassium levels is by making dietary changes. This may mean avoiding high-potassium foods and replacing them with low-potassium alternatives.
People with chronic kidney disease or CKD should avoid or limit foods that are high in potassium.
High-potassium levels can cause serious symptoms, including an irregular heartbeat and muscle cramping. Low-potassium levels can cause muscles to become weak.
A doctor or dietitian can help explain the right amount of potassium to consume for each person’s unique situation.
Some high-potassium foods that people with CKD should limit or avoid include:
- beans and legumes
- most dairy products
- salty foods
- fast foods
- processed meats, such as luncheon meats and hot dogs
- bran and whole grains
- cantaloupe and honeydew
- vegetable juices
Dietary restrictions can help prevent further damage to the kidneys in those with CKD.
Low-potassium foods are a safer option for people with CKD. According to the American Kidney Foundation, a potassium-restricted diet allows for 2,000 milligrams of potassium daily.
However, a doctor or dietitian is in the best position to advise a person on their individual needs.
There are plenty of foods that are low in potassium. For these foods, a half cup is the recommended serving size.
Eating more than one serving can turn a low potassium option into a high potassium snack, so it is essential to stay within the recommended guidelines.
Low-potassium foods include:
- apples, apple juice, and applesauce
- most berries, including blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
- grapes and grape juice
- pineapple and pineapple juice
- white rice, noodles, and bread (not whole grain)
- zucchini and yellow squash
People should not cut out potassium entirely, as it is an essential nutrient that helps manage many of the body’s functions.
Potassium has many essential roles in the body, including:
- helping the muscles contract
- maintaining electrolyte balance
- regulating blood pressure
- keeping the heart functioning correctly
- aiding in waste removal
- promoting cell growth and health
- delivering oxygen to the brain
- stabilizing the metabolic process
According to the National Kidney Foundation, CKD affects over 30 million Americans and is the result of a gradual loss of kidney function over time. Causes of CKD include high blood pressure and diabetes.
CKD can get worse over time. It is possible for kidneys to stop working completely, but this is rare. With proper treatment and dietary changes, people with CKD can lead healthy lives and avoid complications.
There is no cure for CKD, but treatment can manage symptoms and keep the kidneys functioning. Most people manage their disease with a healthy lifestyle, management of underlying conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and medications to treat symptoms.
In the early stages of kidney disease, a person may not experience any symptoms. As CKD progresses, it may cause:
- fatigue and tiredness
- swollen ankles and feet
- shortness of breath
- feeling nauseated
- blood in urine
Because CKD is a lifelong condition, it is vital to have regular check-ups to monitor kidney function.
When kidneys fail, they cannot remove excess potassium from the body. This allows the extra potassium to build up and cause problems.
Having high levels of potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia, which is common in people with advanced CKD.
High-potassium levels usually develop gradually. Symptoms of high levels of potassium include:
- muscle weakness
If potassium levels increase suddenly and quickly, a person may experience the following:
- nausea and vomiting
- chest pain
- heart palpitations
- shortness of breath
These symptoms can indicate a life-threatening situation, and a person should seek immediate medical attention.
People with CKD need to work towards reducing the amount of potassium they consume. It is also essential for them to have regular checkups with a doctor to monitor their kidney function.
In addition to working with a doctor, it may help to meet with a dietitian who can help a person understand nutrition labels, reduce portion sizes, and plan meals.