When the potassium levels in the blood get too high, this is known as hyperkalemia. Potassium is a crucial part of a working body and is responsible for helping maintain many nerve and muscle functions. However, when the body gets too much potassium and it isn’t balanced properly, there can be severe problems.
It’s mostly the responsibility of the kidney to keep potassium levels in balance. However, if the kidney is impaired from a medical condition like kidney failure, then potassium levels can slowly build up. When they do, further damage to the kidneys can occur and complications with muscles like the heart are also possible. Hyperkalemia is something to be avoided and a person’s diet can play an important role in keeping it under control.
For many people, the discovery that they have hyperkalemia turns out to be something of a surprise. The most common way to determine it is actually when taking blood tests for something else. This is because the symptoms of hyperkalemia are often very mild or don’t appear. Beyond that level of severity, the symptoms are very general symptoms. People may sometimes feel nausea, some muscle weakness or a numb or tingling feeling. These symptoms develop very slowly and over a long period of time. Since they are so ambiguous and can be linked to other conditions quite easily, it’s possible to overlook hyperkalemia initially.
In some cases of severe hyperkalemia, there are some dangerous symptoms that can occur. Shortness of breath can be accompanied by heart palpitations, pain in the chest, vomiting and nausea. These symptoms should raise a red flag in anyone suffering them and medical attention needs to be sought immediately.
There are several different causes that can be involved in developing hyperkalemia. As mentioned, the kidneys play a major role. The most common cases come from someone suffering from chronic kidney disease or acute kidney failure. At this point, the kidney is unable to perform its duties filtering out excess potassium and it slowly builds up in the bloodstream.
There are also several other reasons that are less common. People with poorly controlled Type 1 Diabetes can suffer from hyperkalemia. It’s also possible after suffering a severe injury or dangerous burns. Addison’s disease is a condition which alters hormones in the body and can cause hyperkalemia. The final cause will be discussed in the next section.
The Role of Diet and Hyperkalemia
Diet can be something that is very important for hyperkalemia. It can be both a cause and a treatment! There are many things that can be avoided with diet to avoid causing hyperkalemia. Potassium supplements and salt substitutes feature huge levels of potassium and can throw things out of balance rather easily.
There are many different potassium rich foods which can be a factor if they are consumed too much. Many fruits like bananas, oranges, cantaloupes, apricots, grapefruit, prunes and dates are rather high in potassium. Other foods like sweet potatoes, peas, cucumbers, mushrooms and cooked spinach are also high in potassium. For most people, this is a good thing! Potassium is helpful! But for those verging on hyperkalemia, too much of these foods are only making things worse.
In addition to medications, people from hyperkalemia will typically require a low potassium diet. It can be a difficult balance as potassium is still needed in the body, just in smaller amounts. For an average person, it can be easy to make a mistake. One of the best ideas is to take advantage of nutritionists. They can help meal plan and show exactly which foods will fit into a low potassium diet and in what quantity!
The articles on this website should not be used to start the use of dietary supplements or vitamins, natural or herbal products, homeopathic medicine or other mentioned products prior to a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider.