Potassium binders help remove excess potassium from your body by attaching it to your poop. Healthcare providers commonly prescribe potassium binders when changes to your eating patterns and other medications don’t lower your potassium levels. Side effects generally include digestive disorders that affect your stomach.
Potassium binders are medications that help lower high potassium levels. They attach (bind) extra potassium in your body to the stool (poop) in your intestines, which prevents some extra potassium from entering your blood. The excess potassium then leaves your body when you go to the bathroom.
Potassium is a positively charged electrolyte. When it dissolves in your bodily fluids, it helps carry an electric charge. Your body needs potassium to function correctly. It helps:
Your body gets potassium through the foods you eat. Your kidneys filter out extra potassium and remove it through your urine (pee). But if you have too much potassium in your blood, your kidneys can’t remove all of it, and it builds up. This buildup can damage your heart and cause potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythms.
Potassium binders treat high amounts of potassium in your blood (hyperkalemia). Healthcare providers usually prescribe potassium binders if changes to your eating patterns and other treatment options don’t lower your potassium levels.
A typical potassium level for adults is between 3.5 and 5.0 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). You have hyperkalemia if your levels go above these ranges. Potassium levels that are 6.5 millimoles per liter or higher may be dangerous to your heart.
There are many different types of potassium binders. They include:
Yes, healthcare providers commonly prescribe potassium binders to treat hyperkalemia.
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Before taking a potassium binder, tell your healthcare provider about any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications you’re taking. These include herbal supplements and vitamin supplements. Combining these medications and potassium binders may affect how well they work.
If a healthcare provider prescribes a potassium binder, they’ll instruct you on how to take the medication.
You generally take potassium binders by mouth (orally). They’re usually powders that you mix with water or another liquid and drink. It’s a good idea to take oral potassium binders before you eat.
Talk to a healthcare provider. Some potassium binders only have approval for relatively short treatment periods of 30 to 60 days. However, you’re at a greater risk of hyperkalemia if you have kidney disease or take certain heart disease medications, so you may need to take potassium binders long-term.
The primary benefit of potassium binders is that they lower the amount of potassium in your body, which helps prevent hyperkalemia.
Common potassium binder complications include:
Some newer potassium binders may also lower your calcium and magnesium levels.
Most people who have hyperkalemia don’t have symptoms. However, potassium binders start to lower your potassium levels within 24 hours.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that helps your body function properly. However, too much potassium in your body can affect your heart and may be deadly. If you can’t lower your potassium levels through changes to your eating patterns or other medications, your healthcare provider may prescribe a potassium binder. Your provider will work with you to find the right type of potassium binder to reduce your levels.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/16/2023.
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