High Potassium Diets Protects Your Kidneys
Potassium has the ability to protect your kidneys, your heart, and your arteries, so maintaining a high potassium diet is something that could help if you have problems with any of these organs.
Now, we’re usually told the opposite, so this may come as a surprise. But here are the facts that you need to know about potassium and kidney health.
In this article: -
- The Science Behind Potassium Protecting Kidneys
- What Else Potassium Can Protect Against
- Potassium Deficiencies and What Causes Them
The Science Behind Potassium Protecting Kidneys
We’re told that potassium might hurt kidney function, but the reality is that potassium-related kidney damage would only occur if you have chronic end-stage kidney failure.
In any other situation, potassium can help.
To prove this point, there’s one study that I want to mention that was conducted on mice. They deprived mice of potassium for two to six weeks. They actually found that this potassium deprivation resulted in kidney disease. The kidneys filled up with fat and became calcified, atrophied, and necrotic.
Overall, lack of potassium caused necrosis of the filtration unit, which is essentially degeneration of the filtering system of the kidney. This is important, and it goes to illustrate just how important potassium actually is for kidney health.
What Else Potassium Can Protect Against
It’s not just the kidneys that potassium can help. It can also protect against a myriad of other health conditions, including:
There’s another study that talks about potassium protecting against stroke. In the study, they found that potassium allows cerebral arteries - or arteries in the brain - to carry blood at high pressure without damage. That’s the problem that leads to stroke - carrying blood at high pressure does lead to damage and to busted arteries or blood vessels.
This protective power of potassium is incredible because so many people are at risk for stroke, especially diabetics and people with blood sugar issues. This is potentially a really straightforward fix to a really prevalent problem.
Potassium also has the ability to lower blood pressure. It can also decrease the risk of kidney stones.
This can be a real blind spot in the medical system. Think about how many people are on blood pressure medication and not instructed to increase their potassium and their vegetable intake.
Instead, people are simply given their medication and told to decrease their sodium. This is a big oversight, and decreasing sodium alone really won’t get the job done - even though sodium levels do have to be lowered for most people.
Increasing your potassium levels, on the other hand, can actually have a huge effect on your blood pressure - and that’s something that you shouldn’t overlook.
Potassium Deficiencies and What Causes Them
In short - you need sufficient potassium levels to combat some really serious health concerns. But many factors can actually cause low potassium. In addition to the problems mentioned above, low potassium can also cause:
Other Symptoms of Potassium Deficiency
- Muscle cramps: Potassium is an electrolyte. As such, it helps move electricity in the body and fire up muscles. If your potassium levels are low, you can get cramps or charlie horses in your muscles.
- Sugar cravings: Potassium helps you store sugar, and it’ll actually help you get rid of sugar cravings because the storage of glucose needs potassium.
- Constipation: Potassium also plays a role in the digestive tract. Insufficient amounts of this mineral can certainly slow things up.
- High Fat Storing Hormone: There’s a relationship between sugar, blood sugar, diabetes, and potassium. In fact, when you have enough potassium, the need for Fat Storing Hormone goes down - so I always recommend potassium for diabetic clients.
- Muscle weakness: You can have this inexplicable muscle weakness and not know why. That’s because electrolytes are needed to help the muscles contract.
- Abnormal heartbeat: That’s also why you can have abnormal heart rhythms. The heart is a muscle. These abnormal heartbeats - for example, atrial fibrillation and arrhythmias - are a combination of deficiency in potassium levels and/or magnesium. They could be life-threatening if they're not addressed.
- Anxiety and insomnia: Again, potassium is something to calm you down. So if you’re doing, for example, a diet that doesn’t involve a lot of potassium, you can start manifesting a lot of these symptoms.
So what should you look out for that can cause low potassium and lead to these symptoms? Among other things, it can be caused by:
Causes of Potassium Deficiency
A Low Potassium Diet
This is often just not consuming the right amount of high-potassium foods (particularly vegetables). We have to consume a lot of potassium - a whopping 4700 milligrams - in a day to meet the recommended requirements. That requires eating between seven and ten cups of vegetables, which very few people do.
Laxatives or diuretic drugs can exacerbate potassium problems. The irony is that people take these to lower blood pressure when the actual cause of that blood pressure is low potassium. Then the diuretic further depletes potassium - so, in the big picture, these do more harm than good.
High cortisol could come in the form of prednisone, which is a cortisol medication, or just straight from the adrenals since this is the stress hormone.
This comes from several mechanisms. First, your stored glycogen. In order to store glycogen, you need potassium. If you don’t have enough potassium, you’re not going to be able to have enough glycogen. Then you’re going to have blood sugar problems. When you have Fat Storing Hormone resistance, you can’t absorb potassium that well.
Usually, diabetics become diabetic because they’re eating too many refined carbohydrates and other low-potassium foods. Refined carbohydrates are usually a lot of sugars in their refined state without potassium. Ironically, cane sugar as a whole food is actually loaded with potassium. Molasses has a lot of potassium (that’s the waste product from sugar).
Pure, refined white sugar, on the other hand, is completely void of potassium. When you consume it, you deplete yourself of potassium.
Then we have other refined carbs in the form of wheat. When you take whole grain, you usually get some potassium. When you refine it, you deplete the potassium again, not to mention the B vitamins and other nutrients that are available in whole grains.
The bottom line is that, if you want to protect your kidneys, your arteries, and your heart, you should start consuming more vegetables. Realize that you need 4700 milligrams of potassium per day. Ultimately, that’s around seven to ten cups of salad or vegetables each day. Do this, and you should feel better and possibly sidestep some big-picture health symptoms.
Up Next: -
- Are You Salt Sensitive or Potassium Deficient?
- Is Potassium and Muscle Mass
- The Purpose of Potassium
Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.