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Question : I am taking furosemide (Lasix) once a day. I was told to also take potassium pills, but I don’t like pills. Can I replace the potassium pill with foods high in potassium?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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February 13, 2014
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Maybe, with permission from your doctor.

Diuretics like furosemide encourage your kidneys to make more urine. They help people who have conditions that cause extra fluid to build up in the body — like heart failure.

However, many diuretics cause the kidneys to release potassium along with the extra fluid. If potassium levels get too low, serious problems can develop, including dangerous heart rhythms.

People differ in how much potassium they lose when they take diuretics. That’s why doctors periodically order blood tests to check the levels of potassium. If your level is low, you need to replace potassium. You can do this with potassium pills. Or you can eat foods rich in potassium. Some include bananas, nuts, leafy green vegetables like spinach and many varieties of beans.

Potassium pills or potassium-rich diets can be dangerous if your kidneys aren’t functioning well. Also some medicine causes the body to hold on to potassium. Examples include spironolactone (Aldactone), eplerenone (Inspra), angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).

High levels of potassium, like low levels, can cause heart problems. So if you have poor kidney function or are taking a medicine that causes you to hold on to potassium, be sure your doctor checks your blood potassium level regularly.

Potassium pills should never be chewed, just swallowed. If you don’t like swallowing pills, you can mix potassium powder with water and drink it.

Some folks are lucky, and they can keep their potassium levels normal by eating potassium-rich foods. But talk to your doctor before you go that route. He or she may want to monitor your potassium levels a little more closely if you do.

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