People living with chronic kidney disease may need to limit their potassium intake. Others may need to increase consumption of higher-potassium foods such as nuts, potatoes, and bananas.

Potassium is an essential nutrient for cell function and overall health.

Chronic kidney disease can decrease the kidneys’ ability to remove excess potassium from the body. High potassium levels can cause serious symptoms, including irregular heart function and muscle cramping. A potassium deficiency can also cause significant complications.

Medications used to treat kidney disease can also raise potassium levels. One possible way to help manage potassium levels is by making dietary changes. This may mean limiting your intake of potassium and making substitutions with some lower-potassium foods.

This article discusses common high-potassium foods that people may wish to limit in their diet.

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People with chronic kidney disease (CKD) may need to limit their intake of foods that are high in potassium. A healthcare professional or dietitian can help explain the right amount of potassium to consume for each person’s unique situation.

The foods below are higher in potassium, and some people with CKD may need to limit these. Others may need to increase their intake of these foods if potassium levels are low.

Dietary restrictions may help slow the progression of chronic kidney disease, but more research is needed.

Lower-potassium foods can be substituted for higher-potassium choices. A qualified healthcare professional or dietitian is in the best position to advise a person on their individual needs.

Lower-potassium foods include:

There are plenty of foods that are lower in potassium. For these foods, a half cup is the recommended serving size.

Potassium is an essential nutrient that helps manage 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

While people with CKD may need to limit potassium intake to stop an excess buildup, they should not attempt to remove it from the diet altogether. People should always consult a healthcare professional before making wholesale changes to their diet.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, CKD affects over 37 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 worsen over time, and kidneys can stop working completely, but this is rare.

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.

People with CKD have an increased risk for cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke. Regular checkups can help discover problems early and prevent complications.

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.

In instances where dietary changes alone are not enough to treat hyperkalemia, medications can help lower serum potassium levels.

Hyperkalemia can cause muscle weakness, nausea, and changes in heart rhythm. Severe hyperkalemia can cause life threatening complications, and a person should seek immediate medical attention.

Learn more about the link between CKD and potassium here.

Below are commonly asked questions relating to potassium and diet

Is high potassium bad?

High potassium, known as hyperkalemia, can affect bodily functions and lead to potentially severe complications.

What are the signs of too much potassium?

High potassium levels usually develop gradually. Symptoms of high levels of potassium include:

  • muscle weakness
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • nausea

If potassium levels increase suddenly and quickly, a person may experience the following:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • chest pain
  • heart palpitations
  • shortness of breath

Can you drink water to lower potassium?

Drinking plenty of water can aid good kidney function and the removal of waste products; however, drinking water should not replace any medication or other treatment recommendations from your healthcare professional.

People with CKD need to work toward 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.