May 30, 2010

More Potassium, Please!

Although the rest of my blood work usually comes back normal, one thing that almost always comes back low is my potassium level. No doctor seems to know why, but then again that is something most dysautonomia patients are accustomed to hearing. They usually can't explain why our bodies malfunction the way they do. Every time I am in the ER they always make me drink those nauseatingly strong potassium mixtures that restore my level back to a normal range.

Now that I know I have chronically low levels, I need to work hard at home to get an adequate amount of potassium in my diet. Right off the bat, my doctor recommended V-8. Not exactly my favorite drink, but so far the most efficient, effective, and fastest acting form of potassium I have found. If I am having a random bout of tachycardia, the first remedy I try is V-8. It usually brings my pulse down significantly within minutes. Then there's Gatorade, which I will also drink on occasion to maintain my potassium levels throughout the day although I would not rely on it as a primary source.

Natural sources of potassium are usually found in fruits and veggies, although almonds have become a new favorite of mine that I can conveniently keep on hand in my purse. Almonds are good for three specific reasons: they are loaded with protein, salt, and potassium. I would say those are the three things my body demands most. Almonds are also a great food because they won't spike your blood sugar levels. My grandpa is a diabetic and almonds are one of his staple foods. Another one of my favorite natural sources of potassium is honeydew melon. It is sweet and easy to consume in large quantities (unlike V-8 that is, which can sometimes upset my stomach and trigger an acid reflux attack).

In terms of processed food potassium sources (lets face it, bagged foods are convenient), old- fashioned Lays potato chips take the cake. Not only are they delicious, they also have a high sodium content, which can help combat the low blood pressure many potsies suffer from. Potatoes contain potassium, therefore so do most potato chips. At 390 mg per serving, Lays contain the highest potassium content out of all the chips I've tried. I can honestly say one of the few perks of having POTS is being able to indulge in potato chips without the least bit of guilt!

For your convenience, here is a list of potassium-rich foods, borrowed from the USDA National Nutrient Database. If you are not taking any potassium supplements, eat as many of these foods as you would like. You can't go wrong with potassium-rich foods as they are usually high in fiber and vital nutrients as well.

Potassium Rich FoodsWeightMeasurePotassium Content
Raw, baby carrots101 medium24 mg
Raw Lettuce101 leaf19 mg
Raw Onions141 slice20 mg
Fresh Strawberries121 strawberry18 mg
Raw Garlic31 clove12 mg
Honey211 tablespoon11 mg
Raw Radishes4.51 radish10 mg
Raw Peppers101 ring18 mg
White Bread231 slice17 mg
Papayas3041 papaya781 mg
Lima Beans1881 cup955 mg
Plantains1791 medium893 mg
Jerusalem Artichokes1501 cup644 mg
Bananas1181 banana422 mg
Oat Bran941 cup532 mg
Tomatoes2551 cup528 mg
Cucumber3011 large442 mg
Cantaloupe1601 cup427 mg
Pears2751 pear333 mg
Mangoes2071 mango323 mg


  1. Potassium is an electrolyte that is essential for life. It is also the 'synringe' given to kill people iv, as has been done by 'Angels of Mercy' in hospitals across the land.

    The reason why potassium (K) is so important lies mostly in heart function. Go to any Cardiac ICU or Cardiology is good to see all those patients with a K that is on the high side. Decreases the occurence of arrhythmias, helps with how hard the heart beats (contractility), and is excreted by the kidneys.

    If you have kidney failure, you will probably die of hyperkalemia (increased K), because your kidneys are not spilling it out at all. The tubules fail to carry ions and anions, allowing your K to reach critical proportions.

    Love that we can eat more potato chips....we need the salt and the K...and now they have those 'poofed' potato balls, so there's room for more fun with food.

    Extremely low K can lead to death (yes, both a high and a low K are problems), as with potassium-depletion from taking certain drugs like some diuretics. Diuretics increase urine output. With urine ... there's K going out. To check for nephrogenic origin (a primary kidney defect), you may also see your urine being checked for sodium (Na) and K. 24 hr urine is a common test to check and see how much loss is because of your kidneys.

    We also have problems with low magnesium levels, and I don't know why. I have this issue, so I need to eat foods rich in magnesium.

    Do you know a good food(s) that contains:
    Sodium so we hold on to our water
    K to prevent low levels
    Mg to prevent low levels

    Thanks for checking it out, if you can.:-). And thanks for the info on K. It can be a very dangerous situation, whether your K is high or low. Bet they will need to check it regularly...every ?week for a month, then ?once stable dose is attained, your regular schedule should probably be at least every month, in my opinion. I pray that this problem resolves as mysteriously as it began.

  2. Thanks for all the valuable info! I am a bit tired of getting my blood drawn to check my potassium level, maybe I should have the 24 hour urine test instead to help determine the origin of the problem in case it is something to do with the kidneys.

    As far as a good food that has sodium, potassium, magnesium, and protein, almonds and almond butter are the best I can find. Blue Diamond Almonds come in many different flavors now so they are perfect for snacking. Recently they came out with almond butter as well and it is chock full of nutrients.