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Thread: Can I stay vegan on a low-potassium diet?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Asheville, NC

    Unhappy Can I stay vegan on a low-potassium diet?

    I went vegan a few months ago (I was vegetarian for a few months before that), and I recently started having major bouts of weakness and extreme heart palpitations. I went to the doctor and it turns out I have a kidney problem -- it can't excrete potassium the way it should. The potassium builds up and that's what was leading to my dizziness and racing heart.

    So she put me on a low potassium diet. Since I've been on that, those problems went away, but there's a new problem... it is extremely difficult to be a vegan on this diet. I haven't broken my veganism yet, and I really don't want to, but my diet is ridiculously limited now. Since most fruits and veggies are high in potassium, very few vegan foods are allowed. And even the "allowed" foods I can only have in small quantities.

    Here are some of the vegan foods that I'm not allowed to have AT ALL:

    Apricots, artichokes, avocado, bananas, ALL BEANS (including soy), ALMOST ALL LEAFY GREENS, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, chickpeas, dates, dark chocolate, figs, grapefruit, almost all melons, kiwi, mango, molasses, mushrooms, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, plantains, potatoes (okay if leached), prunes, pumpkin, split peas, sweet potatoes (also okay if leached), tangelos, tomatoes and winter squash.

    There are lower-potassium fruits and vegetables that I can eat (like eggplant, kale and watermelon) but I'm only supposed to have two cups of those a day. I can also have nuts and seeds, but only two tablespoons a day... almost nothing!

    I asked my doctor how I could reconcile this with my vegan diet, and she said I couldn't, that I would have to go back to eating meat (but only certain kinds of meat, because some meats are high in potassium too). Dairy is also high in potassium, so lacto-vegetarianism is not an option for me. If I followed my doctor's advice, I would have to go back to full-on omnivore.

    But I don't want to go back to exploiting animals. And so far I haven't. I've been eating my two cups of fruit and veggies a day, my two tablespoons of nuts and seeds, and the rest has mostly been grains -- whole wheat bread, quinoa, millet, brown rice and so forth. I've even been trying more obscure grains like teff and amaranth to try to get as much variety as I can!

    I guess one good side-effect of this is that I've lost some weight, but now I'm worried about losing too much weight!

    This diet would be hard enough as an omni, but it seems almost impossible to me as a vegan. I don't want to give up veganism, because I know it's wrong to use animals, but I don't see any other option. What should I do? Should I quit veganism?

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2010

    Default Re: Can I stay vegan on a low-potassium diet?

    You can't really eat animal products on a low potassium diet. I don't know why a doctor would tell you that you can't be vegan on such a diet. All meats have a pretty large amount of potassium and dairy has lots of potassium as well. I think you should see a different doctor if at all possible. Or at least find out how much potassium you can have in a day, then look up low potassium foods. It seems you will have to get most of your calories from processed carbs like white rice and such. But, really your doctor is a goddamn moron. Meat is very high in potassium. You need to go to a different doctor.

    You need to realize that you are very ill though. You will have to take vitamins and you need to get a new doctor. You can't trust most doctors. I had a doctor tell me I needed to start eating eggs, but another doctor told me I just needed a multi vitamin because I was low on b12 and vitamin d and there are vegan sources of both. I started taking a vegan multivitamin and my bloodwork is perfect now and my nerves and such are a lot better. Just because that doctor says you can't be vegan doesn't mean anything.

    You will have to work out what you are going to eat ahead of time and will probably lose more weight than you want to. I'm not a doctor, but I have spent a lot of time studying human nutrition(not vegan nutrition) and it really is ridiculous to suggest that you will have to eat animals because of kidney problems. The standard practice for patients with kidney damage is a very low animal protein diet. You really need to see a different doctor. That doctor is a quack and will get you killed. The research I have seen suggests no more than 4 ounces of "animal protein" per day. And, that's from meat pushers. You definitely need to see another doctor. It's just awful for someone to suggest eating meat for a low potassium diet. On a low potassium diet the suggested serving size of meat is 1 oz but tofu is 3 and 1/2 oz.

    Anyway, get a second opinion from a more reasonable doctor. I don't think that doctor understands human nutrition or even where to get certain nutrients. Most people with kidney damage are put on a near vegan diet. You need to figure out how much potassium is allowed, then plan out what you are going to eat based on potassium content and calories and then take some vitamins to make up for what you can't get from your food. But, really a new doctor is a must.
    Veganism is the application of the abolitionist principle to the life of the individual. It is not an option; it is essential. — Gary Francione

  3. #3
    baffled harpy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004

    Default Re: Can I stay vegan on a low-potassium diet?

    Hello Fruitfreevegan - sorry to hear about your problem, glad you're feeling better on the new diet.

    Re staying vegan, it might indeed be a good idea to get a second opinion from another doc or a dietician.

    This article may be of interest:

    ...but I would definitely find a professional to discuss it with rather than try to adjust your diet on your own.

  4. #4
    TarekF's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    United States

    Default Re: Can I stay vegan on a low-potassium diet?

    I am truly sorry to hear this .. Unfortunately as they say, everyones body is different. On the meat thing, meat is quite high in potassium so i dont know what your doctor is talking about (ALL common meat is labeled as high potassium content above 250 or so mg per serving).

    I did some research too. This seems like a very hard to deal with issue, as almost all foods except pure sugar and pure fats contain potassium. In your case, I think losing weight is probably a bad sign as well, so it may be a case for getting some more oils into your diet, and cooking with liberal amounts (Olive oil has no potassium, same with sunflower, soy, canola and some have trace amounts peanut is one). I hear there is a cheese called "vegan rella cheese" which is dairy free and potassium free (or very low, as low as certain low potassium dairy cheeses) so that could end up being a staple. Vegenaise has no potassium (its pure vegetable fat, but maybe more palatable than just oil).

    Also find out the range of potassium you can get in a day.

    Another thing to ask him about, and i DONT recommend doing it without asking, is whether using potassium blocking foods with each meal is a good idea. For example caffeine is shown to block potassium absorption. Having a big glass of black tea with a meal that is somewhat high in potassium may be a decent idea. But ask him where the potassium is blocked (is it blocked before getting to the kidneys?).

    PM me and tell me the name of the disorder and the exact diagnosis. My father is a kidney doctor and is a vegan. Its possible he could have some advice.

    Try the look into vegan rella cheese, try to incorporate good oils in largish amounts to get enough calories, ask your doc about a potassium free multivit and look into protein powders potassium levels. Thats my advice and obviously nothing in this post is a substitute for a medical opinion, just some ideas. And also, feel free to PM me, and ill ask my dad.

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