Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Surviving Special Diets

‘Enjoying’ a Low Potassium Diet with my Potassium Points Helper

     For many years we’ve had our share of dietary changes, mainly because of Mike’s kidney issues.
In the 1980s he had to go on an elimination diet because he’d reacted to a dye that a hospital gave him to check out his waterworks. He blew up like a Michelin man and they found he had an allergy to sulphur.
     After a month we were allowed to introduce one new item every week, and see if he reacted to it, so I got a book on E numbers….. you know the ones for preservatives, acidity regulators, colour additives etc. The list seems endless, and I didn’t know what was what, so it was helpful because sulphurs often crop up in the preservatives, and simple things like sausages, fruit cordials and some unexpected items like Ribena blackcurrant cordial can have them.
     I bought a bottle as a treat because he loves it, and it’s a health drink. Wasn’t that the best? No, he did his impression of Mr. Michelin again, and had to have a cortisone injection to get him down. I started watching the labels closely!
     Early on, shopping took ages, but I quickly got used to the main ones. Mike had to wear one of these allergy bracelets so that in an emergency he wouldn’t be given any medication containing sulphur. He hasn’t reacted for a long while but we’re still wary.
     He later became diabetic, type 2. We played safe at the beginning, but Mike’s good at breaking rules so little by little the sweetie cupboard filled up again. I don’t know how, but he got away with it.
It’s just this year that we’ve had to make changes again, because his kidney, he now only has one, can’t cope with normal potassium levels, so, until they explained, we kept ending up at Accident and Emergency. Doctors keep on saying “eat more fruit and vegetables” except Mike can’t as they are full of potassium.  Latterly I started packing his overnight case before we went because he inevitably ended up on a ward.
     So eventually we were given a leaflet giving the levels of potassium in various foods and told to stop the ones with a high content and restrict the consumption of those which as low, as well. It’s one thing to be told that you have to be on a low potassium diet, but when the doctors start listing everything you have to cut out, you can end up wondering if it’s worth eating!
     Mike loves so many things that are high in potassium …..tomatoes, potatoes, nectarines, bananas, beetroot, spinach, melon, trout, multigrain bread. Some of these are foods we take for granted in our day to day meals.
     But I was determined that we could manoeuvre round some of the ‘bans’, so I started Googling and I suddenly found there were a few lights at the end of the darkening food tunnel.
     I found that the daily target for a low potassium diet is an average of 2000 mg of potassium, and then I noticed that The University of Louisville had a points list for foods, counting 1 point for every 39 mg.  That set me thinking, so I widened the list to include other things, by using sites like Eat This Much, and also Wikipedia to source potassium values
     The Louisville site was actually for helping people to recognise high potassium foods so they could eat more of them if they have low levels, but heck the same tool can work the other way, if you know what to aim for.
     So, now it’s a simple matter to list the point’s value of individual foods and aim at achieving approximately 50 points each day.
     I don’t leach vegetables as I feel they lose other nutritious values as well as the potassium, and they certainly lose flavour, so I still steam them. I’d rather cut down the amount rather than dish up something that’s pretty tasteless and lacking some useful nutrients.  I simply work within the points’ amount available for the day.
     So, if you want to enjoy your food, and you or one of your family is on a Low Potassium Diet please do try my Potassium Points Helper, and hopefully free your choices. We love our food, and it’s worked for us. I hope it does for you. Mike has also had to curb the amount of fluid that he drinks because he’s on dialysis, but at least the potassium is under control
     Go to my page Potassium Points Helper.

     An Important Rule is to jot down the value of each food eaten. Even with low value items, the amount can build quickly, and like a supermarket bill, you may suddenly find you’ve exceeded what you can afford to have.
     Also don’t ignore those few grapes, or that tiny chocolate bar, because they add a bit to the total. You know what I mean.
     I have found that a sprinkle of Bouillon Stock powder acts as a useful salt substitute.
You’ll soon get used to counting, and may, like us, have to loosen your grip on some foods that you were avoiding, so you don’t have too low a potassium reading. Knowing what to aim for puts you in the driving seat.
     Oh, one last thing! If you are doing the low potassium diet for someone else, but you personally don’t have a low potassium problem, don’t forget to increase your own allowance to meet your needs or you may end up with the opposite problem.
     Medical News Today list a normal adult’s need to be 4700 mg of potassium a day. That works out to almost 118 points as a guide.

Below is a list of the links to websites I found helpful.
Potassium list from Government Australia
American site all about Kidney Failure and its repercussions
Food data chart about Potassium

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