Let’s get one thing straight, you NEED potassium, even in kidney disease. Further to that, you do not need to run for the hills if a certain food has high potassium levels. Eating a well balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables is a GOOD thing, and may even help you reverse your kidney disease…
Confused because it goes against everything you have read and have been told? Don’t be, there is good reason, and I’ll do my best to explain…
The purpose of this article: to dispel the mis-conceptions around lowering potassium in kidney disease; detail simple easy to follow steps on how to lower potassium levels naturally through diet and other techniques; to educate you on all things potassium, so the next time you are in front of your doctor you can keep up, and maybe even teach him or her a thing or two.
What Is Potassium And Why Do I Need It?
If you are new to this blog, it is important to know that before I start to get too deep into subject matter, I like first to bring it back a little so I can discuss the fundamentals. This gives you a good frame work to understand some of the principles that I talk about, and allows you to make better judgment calls when I, or your doctor, says something. This allows you to be in control of your health. The way it should be, yes?
What is potassium?
• Potassium at its most basic level is a soft silvery-white metal (mineral), sharing a very similar chemical structure to sodium. Behind only to calcium and phosphorus, it is the most abundant of all the minerals totalling 225 grams of your body weight – that’s the weight of the palm of your hand.
• Potassium is also known as an ‘electrolyte’, due to its ability to be electrically conductive. An important feature in the human body, considering you and I are a network of electrical pulses.
• Potassium naturally occurs in nature, and is found present in many foods (see further on for a list of foods).
• Potassium is 19th on the periodic table (K is the chemical symbol for Potassium in Latin)
• Fact: 1/3 of the body’s total energy is required to hold the location of potassium and sodium in and around our cells.
• Note: Normal serum potassium levels are: 3.5 and 5.5 mEq/L (reference range)
Why do I need it?
Our body depends on this mineral for its survival… no potassium, no humans. Amazingly through our evolution we have utilized the earth from which we have sprung to carry out and allow certain functions to occur in the body. You may have heard that potassium is good for the heart, good for muscle contractions, and therefore good for lowering blood pressure, and even that it is beneficial in nerve conduction. All of which are true, but there is so much more that this mineral does for you.
Here is a list of other health benefits and actions of Potassium:
• Regulates pH balance
• Helps to thin the blood
• Maintains water/fluid balance
• Eye health
• Increases secretion of hormones: ADH, FSH and aldosterone
• Regulates blood sugar
• Aids protein synthesis
• Regulates cell permeability
• Acts as a capacitor within our cells to store energy
This article is a continuation of my previous article entitled The Ultimate A to Z Guide to Chronic Renal Failure (Part 1), in this article I continue where I left off and detail letters N through to Z. Enjoy…
N is for Natural Treatments
Ahhh my favourite topic! I LOVE natural medicines; there is something about working with the power of nature that really gets me really excited! (I’m a little weird I know)
There is a full gamut of natural remedies and techniques, such as herbal medicine, nutrition, diet, homeopathics, flower essences, and a whole lot more, that have for many of my clients, improved kidney function, reversed kidney disease, and safe-guarded from further chronic renal failure.
I have been using natural medicines now for over 10 years, and through that time I have learnt a thing or two, the best discovery was that by using certain natural medicines I was able to affect change in the health of my client’s kidneys and lives!
Side Note: This all started when my wife’s nanna was diagnosed kidney disease four years ago, and we had to find a solution. She was at stage three, bordering on stage 4, and well, thankfully today she does not have chronic renal failure any longer.
The important thing to note is this. If you have been recently diagnosed (or had chronic renal failure for many years for that matter) please know that there is an alternative out there that your doctor wouldn’t have discussed. You don’t have to put up with “There is nothing we can do… When your kidneys get bad enough, your options are dialysis and transplantation…”
When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” ~Author Unknown
If you would like to find out more of the exact program I use to help thousands of people world-wide improve their kidney health, please check out my site here.
Meditating is any technique which enables us to relax our body and our mind, and to free our mind of unnecessary thoughts. Eastern civilizations have been practicing this for thousands of years; just “knowing” that it improves the health of the mind, body and soul. They often practiced to achieve certain outcomes e.g. rejuvenation of the mind and nervous system, to let go of disease-causing thought patterns, muscular relaxation and self-development.
Chronic renal failure responds dramatically to the practice of meditation, and for this reason it is recommended to become part of your daily or weekly routine.
Today studies now prove what the ancients already knew, showing the following physiological changes:
- Slower heart rate
- Slower breathing rate
- Lowered cortisol levels in the blood
- Increased alpha brain waves, a brain wave associated with relaxation
- Among many other physiological changes
P is for Protein & Phosphorus
Protein: Another important nutrient one must monitor its consumption of, is Protein. Protein is a misunderstood nutrient when it comes to chronic renal failure, as in some situation one needs to reduce protein, and in others it needs to be increased. What to do? Well, first up you need to speak to your naturopath, nutritionist or doctor for the best requirements for your condition. They will be able to tell you exactly your protein needs based on your stage of chronic renal failure.
For a complete breakdown of the levels of protein you need to be consuming for your stage of kidney disease please see my in-depth article: The Definitive Guide on Protein and Kidney Disease
Phosphorus: The kidneys regulate the mineral phosphorus in the blood stream, and for that reason when one has chronic renal failure this ability can become impaired, causing phosphorus levels to rise. Phosphorus at “healthy” levels helps build strong teeth and bones (among many other benefits), but when levels become high, phosphorus can the opposite effect, by leaching out calcium from the teeth and bones. This “leeched” calcium also makes its way to the blood stream causing abnormal calcium deposits, and too much phosphorus can cause itchy skin, bone pain, heart issues, or even death.
The important thing to note is that not all sufferers of chronic renal failure will develop high phosphate levels, and therefore you need to always confirm your levels with a blood test.
To know the recommended phosphorus daily allowance for stage of kidney disease, please see this article.
Q is for Qi Gong
Qigong is another practice that I recommend for those suffering with chronic renal failure, for it is rejuvenating qualities for the body and mind; which is oh so necessary for individuals with chronic renal failure.
What is Qigong? Qigong is the practice of aligning the breath, body, and mind as one, and harnessing and working with the vital force (Chi) that exists within and all around us. Through this, a deeper connection to yourself and life is established and greater awareness and peace is achieved. Although Qigong is not as well known as Tai Chi, Qigong and Tai Chi share a similar philosophy, technique, and origin. In fact many people mistake Qigong for Tai Chi when practiced.
In my blog post 10 Ways To Improve Kidney Function Without Leaving Home I talk more in depth about the benefits of Qigong in chronic renal failure, and provide a video showing how enhance your kidney energy through Qigong.
Asparagus has been used as a medicinal food/herb since before the time of Christ; even its botanical name points to this, Asparagus officinalis. Officinalis is given in acknowledgment to its “official” use as a therapeutic herb. This highly sought after and valued herb is native to both European and Asian cultures; and this is shown in many texts based on botany and herbal medicine findings throughout the regions.
Asparagus is most well known for its specific action on all of the urinary system (kidneys and bladder), the most well known being:
1. Helps support and facilitate kidney function
2. Increases urine production (diuretic)
3. Soothing to the urinary system
4. Anti-edema – especially with excess fluid from around the heart
5. Kidney and bladder cleanser
6. Boosts cellular action in the kidneys
7. Breaks up uric acid – therefore excellent for gout and kidney stones
*Best avoided in conditions where the kidneys are chronically inflamed (e.g. nephritis), and not to be eaten in excess.
Others actions include: Lowers blood pressure (due to diuretic action), bitter (stimulates digestion), laxative (due to fiber), blood purifier, anti-rheumatic (removes uric acid), anti-parasitic, calming, promotes fertility, beneficial for all aspects of the female reproductive system (highly beneficial for men too).
The magic of this humble plant comes down to many naturally occurring chemicals; unlike western medicine that just singles out one chemical:
- Asparagusic acid
- Bitter principles: officinalisins
- Flavonoids (rutin, quercetin, kaempferol)
- Glycolic acid
- Including: Vitamin A, B, C, E, folic acid, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium, iodine, magnesium, manganese, sulphur, silicon
You see the beauty of natural medicine is all in the synergism of all the chemicals in the plant, nature has been running its own “clinical trials” for the past few billion years, and has come up with the best combination of chemicals to help those that walk the earth. And the beautiful part is that once ingested, the body gets to choose which natural chemicals it needs – as opposed to being forced in one direction (i.e. western drugs). Check out this video called The Orderly Chaos of Nature for more information on how plants give man ‘selective’ therapeutic qualities.
Another important factor that this plant “brings to the table” (pardon the pun), is that it is highly alkaline. Now if you have read any of my stuff before you’ll know just how important it is to alkalise your body when you have kidney disease (any other chronic condition for that matter). Asparagus does this so well that it is even used in some cancer therapies just for that! It’s the high ammonia content that is working that here.
Here is a tasty recipe to keep you living the kidney health lifestyle. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring food, oh sir re Bob!
Let’s get straight into it today shall we?
Curried Lentil Stew
This simple lentil recipe is a staple in many vegetarian households—not only is it full of flavour, it’s easy to make! If curry doesn’t appeal to you, substitute any spice mix you like.
• 1/4 cup (65 mL) extra virgin olive oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 1/2 tablespoons (21 mL) curry powder
• 2 teaspoons (mL) ginger powder
• 4 cups (1 L) vegetable broth
• 2 cups (500 mL) lentils, rinsed
• 3 cups (750 mL) diced tomatoes
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) plain organic yogurt
Just thought I would tell you about this really cool study I saw today. Some of you may already know that one of the key nutrients to avoid in kidney disease is potassium (from food). Now potassium is an essential nutrient, and in particular a VERY good nutrient for the heart – in fact, one of the best remedies for high blood pressure is taking a potassium supplement. However in kidney disease it is very easy for the levels of this nutrient to sky-rocket in the blood – due to the fact that the body (kidneys) can no longer maintain the ideal levels necessary for optimal health. This is not the case for everybody with kidney disease, so it is a good thing to have your levels checked at your next blood test.
One of the best ways to manage your potassium levels is to limit the amount of foods that contain high amounts of potassium. As you will see this is easier said than done! This is because most of the ‘healthy’ foods contain high amounts of potassium: fruit, vegetables, and nuts. So what to do? Well you may have heard that there is a technique called potassium leaching; potassium leaching is a simple method used to ‘leach’ out some, or the majority, of potassium.
Here is a typical method for leaching potassium from vegetables:
- Peel the vegetable, cut into small pieces and place in a very large pot of water.
- Rinse the vegetables thoroughly.
- Fill a pot of water and place the vegetables within to soak for a minimum of four hours at room temperature (or you can let them soak overnight in the refrigerator).
- After soaking, rinse the vegetables with fresh water.
- Cook vegetables as desired.