Medically, the condition of high potassium content in the body is known as hyperkalemia. Most of the times, this condition is not caused due to eating excess potassium in food, but instead is caused because of poor kidney function. In patients with hyperkalemia, the kidneys are unable to process and pump out the excess potassium from the body, leading to its accumulation and potential side effects.
Hyperkalemia can be fatal if left unidentified and untreated.1 Some other rarer causes of hyperkalemia include medication that impairs kidney function, Addison’s disease and even severe burns wherein excess potassium is released into the blood to help fight the circumstance. Here are a few problems that arise due to hyperkalemia and what you can do about them.
What Is Hyperkalemia And How To Fix It
Symptoms Of Hyperkalemia
Most symptoms of high potassium levels in the body are very non-specific, one reason why it is so hard to identify. If you know that you have a renal disorder, you need to look our for weakness, tingling in the limbs, nausea or other very general symptoms. If any of these appear, you can go in for a blood test to check for potassium levels.
If the condition sets in suddenly, you may experience heart palpitations as well as chest pain and a feeling of tightness. Sudden and acute hyperkalemia is a medical emergency and needs to be addressed immediately. In any case, if diagnosed with hyperkalemia, you should discuss with a doctor what the potential underlying causes could be.2
Various Treatments For Hyperkalemia
Dialysis Helps With Blood Purification
In kidney disease, dialysis is often resorted to in order to help in blood purification. Both hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis can help remove excess potassium from the body effectively.3
In both cases, never miss a dialysis session and always follow the doctor’s guideline for medications. Never use even unassuming medicines such as acetaminophen or pain killers without consulting with your doctor first. This is because the doctors may have put you on dose adjusted supplements for potassium and you may not be aware of how a specific medicine interacts with another.
Eating The Right Foods
With fluctuation potassium levels, it is hard to tell when you should and should not eat potassium rich foods. In cases of hyperkalemia, the general advice is to avoid foods rich in potassium such as coffee, chocolate, bananas and even milk to an extent. If you have hyperkalemia and are being treated for it, you need to undergo frequent blood tests to ensure levels of other essential minerals don’t fall too low.4
Cooking methods can also help in hyperkalemia. Potassium is highly water soluble, so cooking vegetables such as potatoes in a lot of water reduces the amount of potassium in them when the water is drained away. Also, be sure to check the product labels on everything you eat. While potassium levels aren’t always listed, foods are listed in the order of their concentration. So any package that has spinach, potatoes, caffeine, etc. right on top of the list is most probably high in potassium and should be avoided.5
Medication To Avoid Loosing Essential Salts
Diuretics are the first line of defense against hyperkalemia. They cause the body to excrete more water and salts. The obvious downside is that other essential salts are also washed out of the body. Doctors can suggest replacements for these in the form of food or other medicines depending on the severity of your condition.6 A kidney infection is often reversible and you will only ever face the problem of hyperkalemia for a short while in this case. Treatment is usually through a course of antibiotics.
However, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and disfunction are all serious, and need prompt medical care.