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Chronic Kidney Disease: How much potassium do I need?

Potassium is an electrolyte that is found in many foods. It helps the muscles and the nerves including the heart to function properly.

I suffer from kidney failure. Should I adjust my meal plans as far as potassium is concerned?
It is very likely that you do that. It depends on the level of CKD and /or the medications you are taking. The kidney is the primary organ that regulates potassium levels in our blood. If someone has kidney failure (beyond stage 3), the kidney cannot eliminate excess potassium, and it accumulates causing hyperkalaemia (too much potassium in the blood).

What is the normal level of potassium in the blood and what are the symptoms of hyperkalemia?
A normal range of potassium is between3.5 to 5 mEq / L. Potassium levels between 5 to 6 mEq / L reflect mild hyperkalemia and when it is over 6 mEq / L it becomes dangerous. It is often asymptomatic (without symptoms) but the patient with hyperkaliemia may experience muscle weakness, tingling in the lips, heart rhythm disorders (heart arrhythmias) and if levels are too high it can cause heart failure.

How can I follow a low potassium diet?
You can prevent large amounts of potassiumfrom building up into the body by following a specific diet.

  • Reduce the amount of high-potassium foods in your diet
  • Read the food labels named "Potassium" for the potassium content to avoid foods high in potassium.
  • Prefer foods with moderate potassium content.
  • Do not combine fruit with juices.

Is there a way to reduce the potassium level that vegetables contain?
Yes, it is possible. You can place the vegetables (fresh or frozen) in sufficient water (10 parts water, 1 part vegetables) at least 2 hours before cooking. Dispose of this water afterwards. Wash and cut them into small pieces or thin slices. For vegetables with bark (potato, carrot), remove peel and then cut them. Boil them in large amounts of water (5 parts water to 1 for vegetables) and then strain.

What are the foods high in potassium?
Food groups high in potassium are fruits, vegetables, and juices and more specifically bananas, oranges, mandarins, watermelons, melons and nectarines. As far as vegetables are concerned, all "green" vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, carrots (raw), olives, spinach etc. belong in this category. Special attention should be paid to "salt substitutes" because they are most likely to contain potassium salts, so their consumption should be avoided!

What are the foods low in potassium?
Fruits such as apples, pineapples and peaches whereas vegetables low in potassium include carrots, cabbage, cucumber, eggplant and onion.

How much of these foods can I consume?
The ideal solution is to create a personalized diet plan, in cooperation with your nephrologist and a dietitian. In general, you can consume 1-2 servings of low-potassium fruits per day and 1-2 servings of low potassium vegetables a day. In addition, you can consume moderate amounts of broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, zucchini, apple (1), peach (a small one), cherries (10 pieces), pear (1 small). But this is an indicative quantity and needs to be personalized.

By the Scientific Director Kalliopi Retsa

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