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Are Asthma Meds Depleting your Potassium?

It seems that certain Asthma Meds may be Potassium depleters. This is bad and a big deal.

For example only, the Patient Information Leaflet for Fostair contains a related caution - though I gather Fostair is far from the only Med involved.

So why is this a big deal?

Arguably the two most important nutrients we need are Magnesium and Potassium.

UK and USA daily recommended intake for Potassium averages out at around 3.5 Grams (Yes Grams NOT Milligrams) a Day.

Chances are, 90% of People reading this are getting nothing like their recommended Potassium quota from their Daily Diets - note you can only 'safely' Suppliment up to around 100mg Potassium (get GP approval as Potassium via Supplementation can be risky).

Potassium is the primary reason we're constantly advised to consume 5 to 10 Portions of Fruit and Veg a Day, though - with the exception of Potassium Rich Bananas and Avocados - most fruit lags well behind Veg for its Potassium Content.

As well as helping to keep blood pressure and heart rhythm in check, Potassium has numerous other benefits and may assist in reducing some of the dangers related to atherosclerosis plaques that can clog arteries. As you know, Asthma is an Imflammatory Disease - making fruit and veg (rich in Potassium) one of your major allies.

You therefore don't want already inadequate levels of Potassium lowered by your Meds.

Although older folk may retain more Potassium than youngsters, if you are on long term Asthma Meds it may well be worth seeking a Test to see if your Potassium Levels are low (especially as you are almost certainly not getting sufficient Potassium from your daily diet). If you do nothing else, check your Patient Information Leaflets for all your Meds for any reference to Potassium.

I looked an numerous reliable websites for articles on Potassium Rich Foods and noted how much Potassium each food-type contained, with a view to correcting any Potassium shortfall in my diet (and to try to combat any Potassium Depletion due to Meds).

I could not believe how much fruit and veg you've got to eat to acquire the recommended daily amount. For example, a medium banana seems to provide around 100mg of Potassium per decent sized bite, so if you get six bites, that's 600mg of Potassium - around one sixth of your daily requirement. (6 Bananas a day anyone?) The calorie load alone would be massive, and I can't imagine eating all those bananas would do your digestive system and other bodily processes much good.

Do you have lots of fruit and veg for breakfast? Thought not. What about at lunch time (is your nose growing yet?).

So, for most of us, aside from the occasional apple (sorry, not much Potassium in apples) that leaves dinner. This means (minus your 'once daily' banana) you've got to find around 3 Grams of Potassium (five bananas worth) from the Veg you have with that meal. I have at least three veg with dinner and get nowhere near the 3 Grams shortfall from doing this.

At present I reckon I'm getting around 70% of my Daily Requirement though I'm trying to increase this. As well as Bananas, Avocado, lots of Green Leaf Veg, Lentils and Sweet plus Regular Spuds (skin left on each for the Potassium) I'm snacking on cherry tomatoes (at least 4 a day), raisins and drinking fresh orange juice. The Carbs and Sugar from some of this stuff (Bananas, Orange Juice, Avocado, Spuds, Lentils, Raisins etc) means I need to cut down on calories from some other foods.

Is it all worth it, most definitely - you really don't want low Potassium with the health issues that leaves you open to.

PS If you can't drop Salt, then Low Salt rather than regular salt can help (as it includes Potassium) but don't forget it still contains Sodium too, so don't increase your salt intake just because you're using Low Salt.

6 Replies
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Hi there - our researchers are NOT aware of this as a major issue, though I'm also going to check in with our GP. Really, this is a new one on me so I'd be interested in knowing your source. And medicine information leaflets always display the absolute worse case scenario, remember. Obviously, everyone should eat a healthy diet - we completely approve of that! So eat bananas but your medication isn't going to seriously deplete your potassium without a host of other complicating factors.

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Here's a quote from the Fostair Patient Information Leaflet:

',,,Like many bronchodilators Fostair NEXThaler can cause a sharp fall in your serum potassium level (hypokalaemia). This is because a lack of oxygen in the blood combined with some other treatments you may be taking together with Fostair NEXThaler can make the fall in potassium level worse...'

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As Dita (quoting Dr Andy) says, this is only going to be the case in a very specific set of circumstances and your doctor should be monitoring you should you be in that category. For the vast majority of people with asthma, this isn’t going to be a worry. I do completely agree that a healthy diet is helpful in general for people with (and without!) asthma!

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Just to add some input from our in-house GP, Dr Andy Whittamore: the overwhelming majority of people with asthma do not need to be concerned about their asthma inhalers causing problems with low potassium or salt levels. There is no need for them to have blood tests or make changes to their diet. If someone is requiring regular salbutamol through a nebuliser or into their vein then they have regular blood tests to monitor their potassium levels.

For some people with asthma, their diet is important. For more information visit asthma.org.uk/advice/trigge...

Hope that helps,

Dita

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Here's a quote from the Fostair Patient Information Leaflet:

',,,Like many bronchodilators Fostair NEXThaler can cause a sharp fall in your serum potassium level (hypokalaemia). This is because a lack of oxygen in the blood combined with some other treatments you may be taking together with Fostair NEXThaler can make the fall in potassium level worse...'

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Whilst you're right in saying that the RDA for potassium is very high I think that you may be worrying unnecessarily. A well balanced diet will fulfill our potassium needs. After all the human race is still here which kinda proves that on the whole we're getting it right.

You concentrate on foods with high potassium content but it must be pointed out that EVERYTHING contains potassium and all those little bits add up. Check this (big) list: ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrie...

The fact that asthma medication can deplete potassium levels is definitely something to be aware of.

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