When Should You Not Take Extra Potassium

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

In most cases, people are more likely to be deficient in potassium than they are to have too much of it. It is rare that someone needs to cut back on potassium intake. But that is the case for a small percentage of people. In this article, I will answer the question, "When should you not take extra potassium?" and I will share with you the three top conditions where this mineral should be avoided.

I will cover:


What is hyperkalemia?

White background with word hyperkalemia and doctor’s stethoscope, high potassium levels.

Hyperkalemia means too much potassium in your blood. This is a condition when you have excess potassium levels in the body. Potassium is a mineral involved in many important functions. These include blood pressure regulation, energy production, muscle function, and more.

High potassium is rarer than the opposite condition – a potassium deficiency. Typically, people end up with not enough of this mineral because of their diets. And they need more of it to stay healthy.

But with hyperkalemia, you have really high potassium levels. This can be due to many different factors, some of which I cover below. When there is too much of this mineral in the body, symptoms can start to arise.


Symptoms of too much potassium

When you end up with high potassium levels in your body, it can lead to many problems. These include:

  • Heart palpitations.

  • Muscle weakness.

  • Numbness.

  • Abnormal heart rate.

  • Shortness of breath.

The interesting thing here is that these symptoms are quite similar to those of hypokalemia. This can make it hard to differentiate between the two.

In order to really know what is happening with your potassium levels, it can be valuable to get testing done.


Testing for potassium levels

Because the signs of high potassium are so similar to those of low potassium, it can be hard to know what's going on based on symptoms alone.

That is why it can be useful to take a blood test to find out. There is a special test you can take, called an intracellular potassium test. This measures how much potassium is inside of your cells.

98% of potassium is located inside of the cells rather than outside of it. So blood potassium levels (from a regular blood test) won't usually be able to paint a clear picture for you.

Potassium mineral periodic table element information on chalkboard.


Top 3 conditions where you should not take extra potassium

If you already have too much of this mineral in your body, you should not be taking extra potassium supplements. Because too much of anything, even healthy minerals, can cause lots of problems in the body. Our bodies require a specific balance of all nutrients to stay healthy.

Here are three of the main conditions where extra potassium supplements can be a problem.

1. Stage V kidney disease.

Also known as end-stage renal failure, this is a disease of the kidneys. When the kidneys are diseased, you need to stay away from potassium supplementation.

Normally, potassium protects the kidneys and aids in kidney function. It helps regulate blood pressure and can keep your blood pressure down. And when you have healthy kidneys, it is almost impossible to develop hyperkalemia by taking too many potassium supplements. That is because your kidneys are able to get rid of the excess potassium.

Digital anatomy drawing of human torso showing kidneys and kidney circulation, medical drawing.

But if your kidneys are not working properly, they won't be able to get rid of and release excess potassium from your body. So it can build up and begin to cause problems.

This kidney disease is rare. But it is important to know that if you have it, do NOT take extra potassium.

2. Aldosterone deficiency.

Aldosterone is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Its purpose is to retain sodium and get rid of potassium. It is key in maintaining a proper balance between the two minerals.

When you have an adrenal failure or other problems, you can end up deficient in this hormone. And as a result, you are not able to regulate potassium properly. Ultimately, it can get too high and cause issues. Adding more on top of this is not a good idea.

3. Addison's disease.

Addison's disease is a disease of the adrenal glands. You lose function of your adrenal glands and end up with symptoms like weight loss, bronzed skin, blue lips, and a fragile immune system.

A major effect of Addison's disease is that you lose a ton of salt. When you have Addison's, you have enough potassium but not enough sodium. If you were to take more potassium, that would just drive your sodium levels down even more. And you will end up with even lower sodium levels, which is dangerous.

Medical book open to page that says Addison’s disease, stethoscope and pills on table in background.

These three conditions are all quite rare, but they do occur. If you have any of them, you should NOT be taking potassium supplements.

Along with the conditions above, things like high blood pressure can also pose problems. For example, blood pressure medications like diuretics can alter your potassium levels. If you have high blood pressure or other health problems, you'll want to consult with your doctor to ensure potassium is safe for you.


The bottom line

Most people have to worry about potassium deficiency, but there are some cases where too much of this mineral is actually the problem.

The top three conditions when you should NOT take potassium include:

  1. Stage V kidney disease.

  2. Aldosterone deficiency.

  3. Addison's disease.

Other things to watch for include high blood pressure, blood pressure meds, and heart issues.

But for the general population, increasing this mineral is usually a good idea. Potassium-rich foods and/or potassium supplementation can help many people with their health. That is because many of us have too little of it to begin with.

Cropped image of doctor talking with patient at a desk, using tablet to look at medical records.

As always, speak with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements. They can help you to understand which are safe for you and how much of each you should be taking. If you have any of the conditions listed above, this is especially true. Also, be cautious if you have things like heart disease or blood pressure problems.

Questions or comments on when you should not take extra potassium? Share in the comments below.




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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.

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