Potassium & Autoimmune Disease

Potassium & Autoimmune Disease
4.62 (92.41%) 58 votes

Plant-based diets appear to decrease inflammation via a variety of mechanisms—including boosting our adrenal gland function, due to the consumption of potassium rich foods.


Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Potassium is best known for lowering blood pressure and stroke risk, but a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of potassium supplementation was tried in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, published in the Journal of Pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is kind of the classic autoimmune inflammatory arthritis. Sufferers tend to have inappropriately low glucocorticoid levels, which are circulating steroid hormones (like cortisol) that suppress inflammation. And so, low levels may allow for more inflammation. Glucocorticoids also help our kidneys excrete potassium. And so, when we eat a lot of potassium, our adrenal glands secrete more glucocorticoids, so we don’t build up too much. And so, maybe if you gave people with rheumatoid arthritis some extra potassium, it would boost steroid levels, and help with the inflammation.

So, they bumped their daily intake up to 6,500 [milligrams] a day—still not reflective of our evolutionary heritage, but at least they were making the cut for adequate intake. And, indeed, higher potassium intake was associated with an improvement in rheumatoid arthritis, and a lower disease activity and pain intensity, “reflecting an anti-pain effect for potassium.”

And so, they suggest planning a successful dietary regimen, including much more use of leafy vegetables. Those placed on a plant-based diet experience a significant increase in potassium intake. Though even those eating vegan aren’t eating enough greens, on average, maybe that bump in potassium helps explain why plant-based diets are so effective at treating rheumatoid arthritis.

If this is the mechanism, though, if potassium-rich foods boost natural anti-inflammatory hormones in the body, then it should work for other inflammatory conditions, too, right? Well, that’s exactly what was suggested recently.

Some studies have shown vegetarian diets improve psoriasis symptoms, for example. Maybe this is why, speculating a “Cortisol-Potassium theory as a novel mechanism for [the] beneficial effects of vegetarian diets.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Potassium is best known for lowering blood pressure and stroke risk, but a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of potassium supplementation was tried in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, published in the Journal of Pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is kind of the classic autoimmune inflammatory arthritis. Sufferers tend to have inappropriately low glucocorticoid levels, which are circulating steroid hormones (like cortisol) that suppress inflammation. And so, low levels may allow for more inflammation. Glucocorticoids also help our kidneys excrete potassium. And so, when we eat a lot of potassium, our adrenal glands secrete more glucocorticoids, so we don’t build up too much. And so, maybe if you gave people with rheumatoid arthritis some extra potassium, it would boost steroid levels, and help with the inflammation.

So, they bumped their daily intake up to 6,500 [milligrams] a day—still not reflective of our evolutionary heritage, but at least they were making the cut for adequate intake. And, indeed, higher potassium intake was associated with an improvement in rheumatoid arthritis, and a lower disease activity and pain intensity, “reflecting an anti-pain effect for potassium.”

And so, they suggest planning a successful dietary regimen, including much more use of leafy vegetables. Those placed on a plant-based diet experience a significant increase in potassium intake. Though even those eating vegan aren’t eating enough greens, on average, maybe that bump in potassium helps explain why plant-based diets are so effective at treating rheumatoid arthritis.

If this is the mechanism, though, if potassium-rich foods boost natural anti-inflammatory hormones in the body, then it should work for other inflammatory conditions, too, right? Well, that’s exactly what was suggested recently.

Some studies have shown vegetarian diets improve psoriasis symptoms, for example. Maybe this is why, speculating a “Cortisol-Potassium theory as a novel mechanism for [the] beneficial effects of vegetarian diets.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia

Doctor's Note

This is the third of my three-part video series on potassium this year. Also check out 98% of American Diets Potassium-Deficient, and Preventing Strokes with Diet. And I’ve got several other videos on arthritis, including Preventing Arthritis and Diet & Rheumatoid Arthritis. Eating healthy doesn’t improve everyone’s joint pain, but, as with all nontoxic treatment modalities, should always be tried first.

For additional context, check out my associated blog posts: Plant-Based Diets for PsoriasisPlant-Based Diets for Fibromyalgia, and Mushrooms and Immunity.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

103 responses to “Potassium & Autoimmune Disease

Comment Etiquette

On NutritionFacts.org, you'll find a vibrant community of nutrition enthusiasts, health professionals, and many knowledgeable users seeking to discover the healthiest diet to eat for themselves and their families. As always, our goal is to foster conversations that are insightful, engaging, and most of all, helpful – from the nutrition beginners to the experts in our community.

To do this we need your help, so here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

The Short List

To help maintain and foster a welcoming atmosphere in our comments, please refrain from rude comments, name-calling, and responding to posts that break the rules (see our full Community Guidelines for more details). We will remove any posts in violation of our rules when we see it, which will, unfortunately, include any nicer comments that may have been made in response.

Be respectful and help out our staff and volunteer health supporters by actively not replying to comments that are breaking the rules. Instead, please flag or report them by submitting a ticket to our help desk. NutritionFacts.org is made up of an incredible staff and many dedicated volunteers that work hard to ensure that the comments section runs smoothly and we spend a great deal of time reading comments from our community members.

Have a correction or suggestion for video or blog? Please contact us to let us know. Submitting a correction this way will result in a quicker fix than commenting on a thread with a suggestion or correction.

View the Full Community Guidelines

    1. Good question! I have suffered twice in both shoulders and would love to be able to prevent another recurrence. Of course, I wasn’t eating vegan at the time.

      1. I was eating vegan when it started, that’s why I am wondering if there is anything I can do diet-wise to help. I know physio is a must with daily excercises but work kind of sucks because of the amount of time I spend on the computer. Moving that mouse and typing all day is killing me.

        1. Larry L, Vegan diets can vary in their degrees of healthy versus processed and unhealthy content. If you are eating all the “fake” meats and cheeses and eating from packages rather than the produce section then the vegan diet is probably no more healthy than the standard american diet.

          Grains can also play a dramatic role in the inflammation process for many people. Start by going gluten free but if that still doesn’t help, then I would suggest cutting out all grains. There are theory’s that cross sensitivity with grains can cause problems as well. Focus on plants, legumes, tubers and squash for your diet and see if that makes a difference in how you feel.

          Good luck in your journey.
          Laura K

          1. I follow McDougall’s diet pretty much, very little processed foods, pasta, beans, rice and lots of fruits and vegetables. I eat the occasional bag of potato chips mind you. I have always eaten grains so maybe cutting out gluten, as you say, might help.

            1. I would strongly recommend massage therapy for adhesive capsulitis, if your RMT or LMT is familiar with treating this. If not, call around and find someone who is. On your own, lie on your stomach and allow your arm to swing like a pendulum to help open up the joint capsule.

            2. Sorry to hear about your condition. Adhesive capsulitis is a tough disorder but given correct treatment and time usually responds. Diet wise it sounds like you are doing great. You should continue to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and spices… see http://nutritionfacts.org/video/garden-variety-anti-inflammation/ and want to avoid alot of omega 6’s in processed oils especially corn oil… easy to do if you eat whole foods and avoid foods with labels. Lastly you could consider taking a omega 3 supplement daily see… http://nutritionfacts.org/video/plant-based-omega-3-supplements-2/. Your condition is well recognized but the underlying mechanism’s are poorly understood and treatments are evolving. A review article… abstract available through PubMed, Frozen Shoulder in J Bone Joint Surg Jan 2012 by Robinson et al provides an overview. I don’t think potassium will help but by eating a variety of plant foods you will get more potassium. Best wishes.

        2. Nightshade/Lectin-rich veggies & fruit cause me horrible joint pain. I modified the autoimmune-paleo-protocol to get rid of most of the pain, I don’t eat fake anything, and I eat more veggies than most vegetarians or vegans. My modifications included eating less animal products per meal, as well as removing a few ADDITIONAL “otherwise-healthy-foods-for-most-people”, because I had developed an intolerance to them as well. Those “otherwise-healthy” foods & herbs I had to give up include: sweet potatoes & yams, artichokes, all summer & winter squashes, apples, Holly Basil, Milk-Thistle & Fennel. I got my life back by eating this way though.

    2. You are probably iodine deficient. I suffered with extreme pain for 1 1/2 years with a frozen shoulder that refused to heal, despite three courses of PT and an anti-inflammatory diet. When I added iodine it healed 90% in one week, and 100% by one month. Read about iodine by googling iodine protocol. I don’t believe in the crazy-high amounts that are advocated; but no doctor will disagree with 1 mg (1000 mcg) a day. I actually take 6.25 mg a day for cancer prevention, and have benefited greatly from it, and it gave my thyroid enough iodine (I was hypothyroid) that I need no thyroid meds. It’s amazing stuff, and we’re all deficient. Iodized salt doesn’t cut it.

  1. One of the journal screen shots states “more use of leafy green vegetables low in starch and not cooked with boiling water.” Does steaming leafy greens keep more potassium than boiling them? If not, how do we cook leafy greens to prevent loss of potassium. Is all of the postassium lost when boiling?

    1. Potassium, as well as other minerals and water-soluble vitamins, leaks into the water you use to boll your vegetables. Thus, unless you consume that water too, you waste a significant part of the mineral and vitamin content of your food if you boil it. Steaming does not present the same problem.

      1. What about washing greens in a very weak vinegar/water bath as my local farmer’s market recommended for all fruits and veggies? That is to clean them and also to reduce e coli related food poisoning (lots of that happening with veggies due to water runoff – or can even be just from unclean hands of pickers and handlers, etc. Does this also leech nutrients? The bath allows the addition of anti-bacterial vinegar. Just running water has no anti-bacterial properties, so the quick bath seems the only way to really clean them. Are they then much less nutritious?

        1. This would probably leech no more than what rain would also do. Solubility increases with temperature. When you boil your veggies in hot water, you have high temperature and prolonged contact. When you wash them, you use cold water and for a short contact.

    2. Some people believe that raw is the way to go with leafy greens. I personally like mine cooked, which makes it tough to follow my doctor’s recent dietary recommendations.

  2. I am writing a book about the benefits on a plant-based-diet and needn’t I say more. Michael, there is no need for you to keep putting on any more videos on your site, If people have not realized this by now, then they are either blind or do not want to listen.

    The real problem is that people are either lacking the knowledge or have been brainwashed about the system mankind has adapted about drugs, bad advertisements about food choices, diet and weight loss and not actually focusing about the benefits of diet has upon our over-all health.

    The health care system needs to be changed and more emphasis has to be focus on the real truth about diet ad the influence it has towards our health. Prevention is better than the cure. Diet is the solution and not drugs, politics power nor money.

    There will always be bias toward health in large cooperation’s and food establishments, if they do not open up their eyes and look outside the box towards good natural nutrition towards battling the fight towards disease.

    Do I need to say more on this subject?

    John from Malta

    1. True, the issue of food and nutrition is multi-layered and complex but the science in these fields is constantly evolving and uncovering new, interesting, and applicable findings. Therefore, I think there is no need to stop making these videos, as I and others are still interested in what current science has to say on the topic of plant-based nutrition and human health. Yes, I am convinced of the benefits, but I still want to know and learn more. So, please do not stop (although, I don’t think that you were even contemplating doing so.)

    2. John, I understand your frustration. That being said, let me give you another perspective on the benefits of Dr. Greger’s work (videos and blog posts). I’ve only been eating a vegan diet for four months at this point. The information Dr. Greger shares helps me stay enthusiastic about, and committed to, my nutrition-related goals. I agree with WholeFoodChomper: The scientific community regularly uncovers new, interesting, helpful discoveries about plant-based nutrition. Dr. Greger does more than anyone else I know of to share that information with ordinary people throughout the world.

  3. I agree with John’s comments below, but by all means keep the videos coming. I find them inspirational and with 2 minute segments it makes it easy to stay up to date. I’ve forwarded some of your videos to quite a few friends and find they are receptive to the ideas, partly because they are packaged in the short segments.

    I think part of the problem is education and getting information out. The second part is that it is not easy for people to change when faced with long established habits…. what to buy, how to prepare food, etc. So it takes both knowledge and a path to follow, and you help provide both.

    I like the saying from Toyota: “It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting”. So just providing a few simple ideas on how to get started and constant reminders is extremely useful.

  4. Hi Dr Greger.

    I have some questions not related to potassium. (Sorry, i couldn’t find where to post general questions on your site. Please feel free to move my question or to tell me to post it somewhere else)

    1. Does green tea stain your teeth as much as coffee?
    2. Do you still recommend drinking at least 5 cups of green per day? My doctor told me i should cut down to 2 or 3 caffeinated drinks per day because my blood pressure could be a little lower (It was still in the normal range, but towards the top). However, i do drink mainly coffee.
    3. Would i still get all the benefits if i drank decaf green tea? Or if i drink 3 caffeinated teas and 2 decafs per day?

    Thankyou very much

    1. Green tea has less caffeine than coffee so drinking as uch tea as coffee means you’ve cut down caffeine. But what doesn’t have caffeine is Tulsi aka HolyBasil tea. A medicinal beveravsed for thousands of years. See Dr. MERCOLA.COMPUTER

        1. Dr. Joseph Mercola’s education background is:
          University of Illinois at Chicago – (UIC) 1972-1976
          Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine 1978-1982
          Chicago Osteopathic Hospital 1982-1985 Family Practice Residency. Chief resident 1984-1985
          Board Certified American College Osteopathic General Practitioners July 1985
          State of Illinois Licensed Physician and Surgeon

          He is a Fellow at the American College of Nutrition;
          Member of the International Academy Biological Dentistry and Medicine; Advisory Board member American Nutrition Association; Advisory Board member Price-Pottinger Nutrition Foundation; Advisory Board member Weston A. Price Foundation; Advisory Board member Bio-Solar Proto;

          and was
          Chairman, Department of Family Practice at St. Alexius Medical Center, Hoffman Estates, IL 1988-1993

          You may not agree with him Whole Food Chomper, but he is a credible source!

          1. Dr. Mercola is a smart businessman, to be sure. However, regardless of the degrees he has obtained and the positions he has held, I believe that Dr. Mercola is not a credible source and am (and will continue to be) weary of any health/medical advice he has to offer.

        2. Great info. Dr. M has taken to being a supplement salesman and the discredits him to me regardless of previous education or titles. I’ll stick with Dr Gregor who is great at getting the research togather for us. Then we can make our own decisions.

    2. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a Harvard trained physician who practices Alternative Medicine, “Any
      food or drink capable of staining clothes or carpets can also stain
      teeth – that includes fruit juices, red wine, blueberries, soy sauce,
      and curry. ‘Good quality green tea that is really green in color’ is less
      likely to stain teeth than inferior grades of “green” tea that looks
      brown when brewed.” Dr. Weil suggests
      “rinsing your mouth with water after you drink tea (or coffee or colas).
      Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day with a whitening toothpaste and
      to floss daily.” More at: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA400151

      “While green tea and coffee both have caffeine, coffee has a significantly greater amount per cup.”


      “As long as the number of cups you drink remains the same, replacing your morning coffee with a cup of green tea will reduce your caffeine intake by about 70%. One cup of coffee contains 100-150mg of caffeine; a cup of green tea has only about 25mg of caffeine. However, there are many variables affecting these numbers. For example, the caffeine content of different types of green tea can vary; also a longer brewing period can result in more strongly caffeinated tea.”

      Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/034227_green_tea_caffeine.html#ixzz2GhEu0Pnw

  5. Dr Greger., which plants prevent or help with psoriasis? although psoriasis is based on genetic skin problem, living on vegetable lifestyle doesn’t fully the problem.. I have only one preventable option, based on my experience is turmeric..some people talk about coconut butter..Any other suggestions?

    1. I don’t think there is one particular plant food which helps
      psoriasis but a vegetarian or plant based diet in general reduces arachidonic acid (in the body) which serves as a precursor to pro-inflammatory substances. As you already know, psoriasis is a genetic disease but it is also triggered by inflammation mediated by T-cells. Some studies (not all) have shown benefits with omega-3 fats, fasting or low calorie diets and vegetarianism. Some people with psoriasis have gluten sensitivity and improve on gluten-free diets.
      Wolters M, Diet and psoriasis: experimental data and clinical evidence, Br J Dermatol. 2005 Oct;153(4):706-14.

    2. I have had relief with tea tree oil products: shampoo, conditioner, and scalp treatment. This has been much more effective than prescribed topical treatments. One dermatologist recommended black castor oil, but this is not pleasant to use on the scalp.

    3. I have a colleague who is a dermatologist who has had success with a plant based diet with attention to specific oils in his treatment of his patients with autoimmune disorders such as lupus and psoriasis. As a Family Medicine physician I haven’t had experience with diet and psoriasis. I have seen the success of proper diet across a host of chronic diseases including other autoimmune disorders. I imagine that like most chronic conditions genetics is a very small part of the picture. That said, there is literature to show that nutrition is a factor in psoriasis. You need to work with your physicians but it seems to me that a general recommendation might involve starting with a plant based diet with Vitamin B12 supplement and avoidance of GMO foods. Of course finding a physician who is willing to work with you and your diet while prescribing more conventional therapies is always a challenge.

      1. Hi Don and all – I am the dermatologist that he is referring to. Here is a basic list of things everyone does.

        1. Dairy Free

        2. Gluten Free (no gluten free junk food like breads made from potato flour or tapioca)

        3. Oil free except very small amounts olive, coconut, or ghee

        4. 1-2 lbs of veggies per day – half cooked half raw

        5. Only 3-4 servings of animal protein per week – vegans do not do any better than those who eat high quality animal protein in small amounts. Just an observation.

        6. Boswellia, ginger, and turmeric

        7. Handful of nuts per day or hemp seed oil 1 tsp twice per day

        8. Level of 25, OH Vit D at around 50

        That is the basics and things get modified as time goes by especially with EFA’s but really if anyone wants other information please contact me on facebook. An environmental toxin discussion is done and we discuss stress reduction techniques as well. I also prescribe meds and light therapy. I practice conventional dermatology but have had great success when people want to do something different. I have offered it probably close to 1000 patients and only around 40 have taken me up on it, of those only one has not responded. Cheers,


    1. The new USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference is now out! Our tax dollars hard at work to analyze the nutrient content of more than 8,000 foods. I’m so glad you asked this question, Charlene, because I’m surprised more don’t know about this incredible resource. If you’re looking for the most concentrated sources of any particular nutrient in the new 2012 database, click here. Then scroll down to potassium and click on Potassium-Sorted By Nutrient Content and poof! A list of about a thousand foods ranked from the most concentrated source (2,675mg in each cup of concentrated tomato paste) down to zero in “foods” like lard and hard candies. You can also download the list alphabetically to make it easier to look up your favorite foods. And that’s just the beginning!

      WARNING: browsing the Nutrient Database can be addictive for nutrition geeks–like me! (though if you were a true nutrition geek you’d already be sleeping with the entire database under your pillow :).

      So the next time you see me do a video on fiber, for example, (like Relieving Yourself of Excess Estrogen) you can look up to see which foods have the most.

      See Fat Burning Via Flavonoids and wonder where the heck you can find them? They’ve got the answer.

      Amazed by Egg Industry Blind Spot or intrigued by Prevent Glaucoma and See 27 Miles Farther and want to know where to find those critical eyesight saving nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin? Look no further.

      What foods have the most sugar? The most trans fats? The most cholesterol or the most vitamin C? It has it all!

      A consumer friendly version available in PDF form of some of the most common nutrients in some of the most common foods can be downloaded here. And for more depth you can browze through individual reports on each of the 36 food groups.

      1. Wow, I can see that the database is addictive! Thanks for sharing, Dr. Greger. We just put up a chart on the fridge of potassium-rich foods with a one- to five-smile rating (each smile ~ 200 mg), with the goal that adults get 24 smiles and kiddo 20 smiles per day. Thanks to the list, I was able to add tomato sauce, bok choy, black beans, pumpkin, artichokes, cucumber, and kale, which weren’t on my original list.

        One question though: I generally avoid white potatoes because I thought they were devoid of nutrition, but I notice that baked potatoes are surprisingly high on the list. Do you recommend occasional potato consumption for people seeking to boost their potassium intake, or is it better to stick with the other foods?

        1. I would love to see a simple list of the top 10 potassium rich plant foods.
          Dr. Greger says white potatoes are fine but sweet potatoes contain more nutrition. See Dr.McDougall’s potato info (plant-based)

  6. To totally agree with Mikes below comment. Yes! Please Dr, Greger, keep up the good work and keep showing the videos you truly work very hard in showing and producing. If was not for people like you then most people who be blind to the truth about the health benefits of a plant-based-diet in the reduction of the leading causes of death and disease.

    the hardest part of health is actually trying to convince people to change their eating habits and lifestyle.

    John from Malta

  7. I love how Greger based his video on the estimated daily intake of paleolithic diet (that included a lot of meat: 87mg of iron!) to promote a meat free diet. This website is one big contradiction.

    1. Actually, Dr. Greger, cited 6 sources for the basis of this video and not just the 1 you refer to. I’m not sure how this one incident you found equals a “website [that] is one big contradiction.” How so? Could you please explain?

    2. Gee, which paleolithic diet? There is no such thing as a “paleolithic diet” that is based on any paleolithic population to be used as a reference point. And there are dozens of paleolithic diets among late-20th and early-21st century theoreticians, with widely varying composition.

    3. Iron abundant in dark leafy green vegetables, which don’t run as fast as animals and whose iron is more bio-available to humans. So there is a very high likelihood that much of the iron in early human diets came from dark leafy greens. When diagnosed with serious anemia, I spent 2 months as directed by doctors w/iron supplements & putting red meat back into my daily diet and felt like hell — different from the anemia, but yet another source of unwellness. So I told the docs I’d researched & found this high quality source of bio-available iron in dark leafy greens, would continue the iron supplements but wanted to swap out the dark leafies for the meat. Doc approved. I went hardcore vegan w/emphasis on the dark leafies, and saw immediate improvement in how I felt day to day as well as in the underlying health problem. Dr. Dan, your comment together with your embedded skepticism suggests a very un-scientific mindset.

  8. Hello Doctor,

    I became vegetarian and then vegan when I was first diagnosed with RA. I also did a food challenge to eliminate any food sensitivities. I responded extremely well and although not symptom free, I looked and felt so much better. UNTIL I had my first child. He is now 3 and my daughter 1 and my RA is worse than ever. I still eat a vegan diet and I eat lots of potassium rich foods (ie beans greens, dried fruit, banana) although I do not eat potatoes or tomatoes. What can I do now? I am now taking Sulphasalazine and considering adding Hydroxychloroquine. I have been on 10mg prednisone almost continually throughout my pregnancies and breastfeeding but am now slowly coming off 1 mg per month (currently at 5mg.) Any advice appreciated as I am only 38 and I’ve seen my hands and feet rapidly changing in the past year. Thank you.


    1. Have you went Gluten Free? I have RA and I feel so much better (still struggling with symptoms….) but less miserable, especially with my stomach.

  9. Not being much of a scientist, I need to break this down to what should I do. Are you saying that cordisol is not a bad thing after all. What is the difference between glucose-codisol and codisol that we are warned comes from stress and contributes to over weight, and I thought many other bad things. Or Am I all mixed up on this?

    I am on a all plant diet with a big green salad in the evening. I often put greens in my meals too, but have to say that I don’t pile up my plate with Swiss Chard, or Collards. Is that the suggestion here?

    1. Cortisol (a glucocorticoid), is a hormoone produced in the cortex of the adrenal gland and is released during periods of stress and when blood sugar runs low (hypoglycemia). This hormone is essential for life and for survival as it is part of the “fight-or-flight” response. When under stress (physical, mental or emotional), cortisol is released into the bloodstream to provide us with the ability to handle the stress by increasing blood sugar (glucose) for energy so we can fight or to flee the danger.. It is only when too much, or too little, cortisol is released over long periods of time that we run into a problem. Too much cortisol, over long periods of time, may be caused from chronic stress, such as constant worrying, feeling overwhelmed by too many responsibilities, and/or dealing with a long term crisis in your life. When too much cortisol is produced over long periods of time it has been shown to have detrimental health effects. One symptom of too much cortisol may be an increase in weight gain, especially around the middle increasing ones risk of cardiovascular and other disease. On the other hand, too little cortisol, leaves us feeling depleted and incapable of dealing with with lifes little stressors and weakens our immune system. Cortisol is essential for life – it is about having the right amount released at the appropriate time and then returning to normal after the danger has passed.

      Regarding the greens – try incorporating them into soups and casseroles, sneak them into all your meals so you can get more into your diet.

  10. hi there I suffer of chronic psoriasis, I take methrotexate whicch harms my liver, is there any kind of food I must avoid, I have recently did a cleansing though and I fell much better . please help me out, it is much appreciate it. thanks in advance

    1. Hi Pedro, I can certainly appreciate your issue with psoriasis. I have had plaque psoriasis for about 50 years. Then about 10 years ago I developed psoriatic arthritis. The rheumatologist wanted me to go on methotrexate. After looking at that, I decided I would likely live decades longer by addressing things in other ways than suppressing my immune system. At first I found that I was deficient in 25 OHD (vitamin D deficient) and began a substantial supplementation. I also had a gluten sensitivity so I went gluten free for several years and that helped a great deal. Less that one in 5 sufferers are have a gluten problem but it is worth looking at.
      And there are other food and environmental problems it could be. I am also allergic to most laundry detergents so that can create a real problem.

      Anyway, the “cure” that I found left me susceptible to the slightest contamination of gluten but I had realized that diet is very important. So when I came across this web site and realized just how much the inflammatory factors were overwhelmingly a problem with animal products, I went with a completely whole foods plant based diet. Within a month the residual arthritic swelling in my toes disappeared and within 6 months I realized that the gluten sensitivity was no longer a significant problem. Slowly the psoriatic nails have gotten significantly better and the plaque psoriasis has significantly diminished. Other little benefits seem to be that when my wife gets a cold I no longer do.

      In all this, I just want to emphasize that it could be a lot of things provoking the psoriasis but the wfpbd is central to eliminating or controlling this condition. I know it has been a few years since you put in this post but I would still like to hear just how your struggle has gone.

  11. Dr. Greger- I have plaque psoriasis and I eat a gluten free vegan diet. Do you have any other dietary suggestions to help alleviate my psoriasis and boost my immunity?

  12. Any research Dr. about psoriatic arthritis? My brother has it and he takes a shot for it every month. I suggested he try a vegan diet and he shrugged it off.

    1. When I developed psoriatic arthritis methotrexate was recommended. I had a client who is a widow because her husband was on methotrexate. I changed my diet and the arthritis is gone. I do have the inconvenience of paying attention to diet every day. My client’s husband only had to go to the mortician once, so I suppose he avoided a “drastic solution”.

  13. Hello Doctor(s), my questions is regarding potassium supplements. Specifically, I can refer to Trophic brand’s Potassium Chelate 90mg.. it is designed to absorb readily. It says to take 1/day — I took one yesterday but felt my heart beating a bit faster and a few other twinges: this was after reading the side-effects of potassium to watch for (heart attacks, paralysis, etc.). There wasn’t any warning label on the bottle, so I drank another glass of water, reassured myself, then felt fine. If it were so dangerous I would think there would be some indication on their labelling or website but there isn’t.

    What do you think of supplements?

    On the Dr. Oz tv show, he indicated 4700mg/day — how do we know we’ve reached that? what does that look like?
    He also said its good for brain fog (which I experience sometimes) so thought I’d try potassium supplements in addition to my varied diet (consists of a variety of things, but nothing processed and very low gluten).

    Would you recommend potassium for brain fog – or another supplement?

    Should I stop taking this potassium supplement or only take half a pill? What benefits should I watch for so I know that it is working?

    Thank you :)

    1. If your Dr. has not prescribed potassium supplements for a specific medical reason and your primary basis for taking these supplements is information from the Dr. OZ show, I would immediately cease potassium supplements. A diet rich in plants can provide more then enough potassium. A single serving of any fruit provides 10% of the DV of potassium, beans are rich in potassium, as are greens. Its not something you should actively seek if consuming a healthy diet. I would also not get information from Dr. OZ. He flips flops between many diets, advocates for many junk supplements and often brings guests on his show who speak to the dead.

      1. Toxins: re: Dr. Oz. I recently saw an article that said that some researchers took X numbers of Dr. Oz shows and then collected and researched all the medical claims. I don’t remember all of the exact numbers, but it was something like half were shown to be incorrect and a certain percentage more shown to have no backing in the medical literature. I knew it was bad, but wow. That’s really bad.

          1. Thanks for your reply. My primary reason was actually to reduce the brain fog. What natural or supplement would you recommend?

            (there were other questions on my original post as well)

            1. Valerie, I don’t know of any supplement to reduce brain fog. That falls out of my expertise. This may not help at all, but are you consuming enough omega 3? Try eating a couple tablespoons of flax a day. Other than that, I am unable to help you. It may be something you should talk with your Dr. about.

  14. I hope it is not too late to make a comment here, but as just about everything to do with health and nutrition I find this so confusing.

    When I look at a periodic table of the elements, potassium is in the same group, group 1, as sodium. Yet they say that it is so important to get your potassium for the day … almost 7.5 grams of the stuff … and as far as sodium it is like 2.5 grams I think – BUT sodium is bad for blood pressure, and Potassium is good? Does this make sense? How can this be explained, and furthermore … how on Earth can I ever get 7.5 grams of potassium a day unless I spend all day eating bananas and drinking coconut water? I’ll do it if I have to, but someone please explain this, show me the way! ;-)

    1. I think the recommendation for potassium is 4700mg per day. Someone commented on this a bunch as we tried to weed thru how much 4700 really looks like! Check this out if interested we have a fairly long comment thread in the beginning. Thanks, Brux.

  15. It’s a sad thing to see only one video under cortisol. This truly shows the ignorance of the Doctor and his lack of knowledge on health in general.

    Cortisol plays the most prominent roll in health as it’s what’s released by the body in response to stressors. It manifests itself as insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). It chooses what fuel to burn (carbs, proteins, fats) which is the difference in weight gain and loss. It plays a prominent roll in the immune system function, and ultimately it decides whether you are healthy or not.

    Your body needs salt (iodine) so good salt, because your thyroid needs it for it’s function. Your body also needs potassium but in much greater quantities. Think a ration of potassium to sodium of 3-5:1. You don’t have to worry about potassium:sodium ratio’s as long as your diet is rich in vegetables, animal proteins and saturated fats.

    1. You may have lots of great ideas and information Bobby, but just showing up and calling the doctor ignorant and saying we all ought to believe what you say without any proof is a bit unrealistic and in fact just rude. If you have something to say explain what it is, and tell us what you base this on.

      How does cortisol “choose what fuel to burn”?

      Where do you get this 3-5:1 potassium to sodium ratio?

      How do you know your iodine level and how much should we get?

      Really, put up, or … you know what. Not trying to be a jerk, but millions of people who do not know what they are talking about post comments like this all over the place. You have to support your arguments!

      1. Agreed. Anyone is free to comment, but please be respectful and include research if possible to give everyone a chance to try and understand better. Thanks for this nice post Brux.

  16. Dr. Gregor, Thanks for the interesting video. I have RA and I am on my elimination diet and cannot handle most of the food. Some foods increase flare in my symptoms and I am working hard to understand those culprits. I am concerned about my daily potassium intake, as your study shows that potassium is important for RA people. So, the only option left with me, for the time being, is to take supplements. But when I read about potassium supplements, there are so many different types of potassium like, orotate, citrate, aspartate monohydreate, phosphate dibasic and gluconate. Which type should be taken as a supplement and how much?

    1. I believe that you are right that it is commonly called the stress hormone. But that term creates a lot of misunderstanding. That term only covers a little bit of what the hormone is about. Humans need the right amount of this very important hormone – not too much or too little:

      And here is a page (I don’t know the quality of the site, but it’s a start) that explains what can happen if the amount is too low:
      Here’s a quote:
      “The symptoms can vary from person to person. Muscle weakness, muscle pain, joint pain, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, mood changes, depression and irritability as well as the darkening of skin are all low cortisol symptoms. Darkening of the moles and freckles is also common when cortisol levels are low. This is called hyperpigmentation.

      Other low cortisol symptoms include outbursts of anger, inability to handle stress, shakiness, being emotionally hypersensitive, body aches, scalp ache, jittery feelings, clumsiness, feeling light headed, clumsiness, increased need to urinate frequently, insomnia and dark circles under the eyes. Many people will also experience flu like symptoms when they have low cortisol levels. Frequent diarrhea is also another symptom of low cortisol levels.”

      Hope that helps.

      1. Thea. You are the best. I love the time you spend helping people on this site. I think a raise is in order! I am going crazy trying to find out if there is anything I can change in my diet to help with my white spots on my face. So irritating! Gluten free, sugar free vegan!

        1. Oh WFPBRunner, I sure do with I had some way to help you. I had never heard of that condition before I saw a previous post you did not too long ago. Sadly, I know nothing about white spot thing. I can totally understand the frustration. Here you are, doing all this healthy stuff from good eating to running and now you have to deal with this! Argh.

          Thanks for the nice feedback/recognition. It really means a lot to me. I do spend an awful lot of time volunteering on this site. I like hearing when someone appreciates the effort. :-) Yes, I need a raise. 20 times what I am making now sounds about right. So, let’s see, that would be: 20×0 ;-)

  17. Can there be too much potassium in the diet? My husband who age 63 has been joining me in eating a whole food, plant-based diet for 4-5 months now — although he still eats some meat, eggs and cheese on top of that (he is very physically active and needs a lot of food to maintain his weight). His doctor told him this week to maintain his already lean weight he should supplement his diet with whey protein — no — and today said his potassium levels are 5.6 and he should cut back on a long list of fruit. After doing some research, I see a lot of our diet is composed of high-potassium foods like sweet potatoes and beans. What do we do now?

    1. DonnaM: Unless someone is suffering from certain diseases (like say kidney disease?), I’ve never heard of a whole plant food diet containing too much potassium. Animal products tend to mess things up, however, so I don’t know the impact of eating meat, eggs and cheese on top of a diet high in potassium.

      I just looked up “potassium” in the book Becoming Vegan, Express Edition by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, a book and authors recommended by Dr. Greger. Becoming Vegan book is a great reference book and has plenty of places where there are warnings about various nutrients. But when it comes to potassium, all it says is that meeting the daily recommendation of potassium means eating lot of fruits and veggies. So, eat lots. FYI: The daily recommendation of potassium (and I’m guessing that the daily recommendation is more like a minimum than an optimal, but I don’t know) is 4,700 mg. You might consider using cronometer.com for a few days to figure out how your husband’s diet stacks up to the recommendations.

      I don’t know if this 5.6 number is really a problem or not. Hopefully someone else more knowledgeable will jump in with additional thoughts and information.

      1. Thea, thank you for your thoughts and suggestions. I wanted to mention that according to the Mayo Clinic, a normal range for potassium is between 3.6 and 5.2 mmol/L of blood. A potassium level higher than 5.5 is critically high, and a potassium level over 6.0 can be life threatening.

        1. DonnaM: Thanks for that additional information. It does sound serious. I hope he’s able to get his numbers down to safe levels.

  18. Dr. Greger I’ve been following a vegan diet for about 4months. I have uc and this diet has been causing flairs. Do you have any studies on vegan diets and UC? Thank you

  19. Hello,
    In your opinion, what’s the best diet/foods/supplementations to reduce the inflammation caused by psoriasis ? I would like you to make a video about that subject as I’m myself dealing with the disease and don’t want to take a biotherapy due to its important side effects.

  20. Dear aIl, maybe you can help me, I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata Incognita, in what way my diet must be changed that the side effects could get alleviated ? Just FYI I do not eat any diary or gluten based foods due to my acne much appreciated!

    1. Hi RT I am one of the site moderators. Most types of alopecia are considered autoimmune and therefore are hard to pin down an actual cause. Like most autoimmune diseases decreasing your overall inflammation is probably going to do the most good for you. Look up the Mediterranean or Anti-Inflammatory diet and see what you might be able to do to alter your intake to conform to this way of eating. Best of luck.

  21. My husband has Addison’s disease, ie his adrenal gland no longer works and he has to take hydrocortisone daily. He has to eat a low potassium diet, so I am concerned that the whole food plant based diet could actually be bad for his health: our family has recently adopted most of your suggestions (whole food vegetarian, still eating occasional eggs and cheese and using extra virginal olive oil in salads etc). How should I adapt the meals I cook for him.

    1. This can be a difficult situation in that he does not regulate these ions normally and an overload or underload could cause him a lot of harm. Fruits and vegetables are very high in potassium and sometimes people avoid them for that reason but then lose out on the other nutrients present in that food. Two ideas that might work for you: 1) Dr. Joel Fuhrman has a system of scoring foods called the ANDI system whereby he scores each food by the number of micronutrients each contain. e.g. Kale is the highest with 1000 points. It is delineated in his book “Eat For Health” 2) Another method to tally the different more exact micronutrients of each food is using the app called “Cronometer” Each food is very extensively defined by all the vitamins, minerals and macro and micronutrients contained. You both could keep track of his intake and know where you are in comparison with his medication so he doesn’t get too much intake. Best wishes.

    1. Interesting question! In doing a quick on line search I saw that people have the choice between sodium and potassium based water softeners. Sodium is cheaper and fine for people without issues regarding the amount of salt in their diet. Potassium is more expensive and healthier, especially if you need to be on low sodium. Since the ion is released when the other minerals in the water are complexed with the salt It appears that it is free in solution and would be bio-available.

      1. That was precisely my line of reasoning; but, so many times, another nutrient is necessary for assimilation or the compound is not the one we need. Given the prevalent deficiency, it seems such an easy fix. Thanx for your quick response.

  22. Several comments above asking for recommendations for psoriasis. Someone commented elsewhere that Dr.McDougall MD (plant-based) has a testimonial on his site.
    Also, so many conditions are linked with h-pylori infection in the gut, perhaps worth researching / testing for. I hope this helps!

  23. I have been taking levothyroxine since 2004. Since then I have battled with water retention, sometimes I cannot put my feet in my shoes, particularly when the weather is warmer. It´s in my hands and feet and it shows on the scales. I have had every blood test going and my doctor does nothing, doesn’t seem to care. I have been following this diet now for just over two months and there has been no respite to my water retention, every day the scales put my weight up. I exercise for an hour a day, walk 25 miles a week. NOTHING helps (except taking furosemide, which I don’t want to take). Please help.

  24. Hi and thanks for your question. I am sorry that you are suffering from these bothersome symptoms and I agree that getting to the root of the problem is better than having to take furosemide. I would encourage you to see an endocrinologist to assess the thyroid function/dosing of your medication and possibly a nephrologist as well to assess kidney function and determine if there is any concern for nephrotic syndrome. You may be interested in watching this video as it relates to whole food plant-based diets and kidney function. https://nutritionfacts.org/video/how-not-to-die-from-kidney-disease/. This resource from Dr. Fuhrman may also be very useful to you as well: https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/health-concerns/95/hypothyroid. Finally, I would encourage you to seek out a doctor and/or registered dietician in your area that uses plant-based nutrition as part of their overall treatment strategy as I do believe that sticking with a whole food plant-based diet will ultimately allow your body to heal. Check out this resource to search for a doctor in your area: https://www.plantbaseddoctors.org/find

  25. Long-term 66 year old vegan Ellen Jaffe Jones got it when she was neglecting fresh foods while on the road. She then reversed it with green smoothies. An alternative would be a plate of fruit with baby leafy greens and freshly ground golden flax seeds added.
    See Ellen’s video on it on her channel here. https://www.youtube.com/user/EllenJaffeJones/videos
    Psoriatic Arthritis Cured!
    Ellen Jaffe Jones
    Published on Nov 5, 2018

  26. Hello hbyh2003 and thank you for your question,
    I am a family doctor with a private practice in lifestyle medicine, and also a Health Support Volunteer for this website. Sorry to hear about your psoriatic arthritis. I will assume that you have been properly evaluated and correctly diagnosed — but if you have any doubts about your diagnosis, that is the first thing you should address — by seeing a good rheumatologist.

    Next thing to know is that Western medicine says there is “no cure” for psoriatic arthritis. For symptom treatment, of course, the pharmaceutical industry has lots of drugs that can help, but ALL can have serious side effects, such as severe infections and liver damage. The main classes of drugs used are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen), “disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs” (DMARDs, such as methotrexate), immunosuppressants (e.g. cyclosporine), TNF-apha inhibitors (such as Remicade, Humira), and there are some new drugs, e.g. Otezla, Stelara, and Cosentyx. [The last 5 (all are trade names) are extremely expensive].

    So, if there are published studies which show ways that changing your diet can actually help cure the disease, then obviously that’s what you want to try. With that background, you should look at the following videos by Dr. Greger:
    1) The above video about potassium-rich foods (e.g. green leafy veggies) which Dr. Greger suggests can help by boosting the levels of natural anti-inflammatory hormones in the body (e.g. cortisol).
    2) https://nutritionfacts.org/video/sodium-and-autoimmune-disease-rubbing-salt-in-the-wound/ — about how high levels of sodium in the diet is bad for various autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis. He presents a study showing that sodium over-activates one particular type of immune cell, which is bad for psoriasis.
    3) https://nutritionfacts.org/video/which-spices-fight-inflammation/ — about the benefits of turmeric and other spices to “significantly stifle the inflammatory response.”

    So I suggest you first try to increase consumption of green leafy vegetables, cut your sodium intake as low as possible, and consider taking a turmeric supplement. If none of that helps, get back in touch with us! I hope this helps.

    Health Support Volunteer for NutritionFacts.org

    1. Thanks for all of this great information! Yes I was diagnosed by a rheumatologist. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there is a specific diet that is tied to reducing flares, but like featured in How Not To Die, green leafy vegetables are the cure-all for most conditions. I have been drinking turmeric tea each day, drinking hibiscus tea, putting ground flaxseed on my food, and adding chia seeds to my morning almond milk pudding, eating more blueberries and drinking celery juice first thing in the morning (all but the celery juice are called out in the book as anti-oxidant or anti-inflammatory sources). Hopefully with the methotrexate and ibuprofen all attempts will help the pain. They want to put me on prednisone but I really don’t want that.

    1. Eve,

      If the markers are going the wrong direction, I would encourage you to look outside of the typical issues and do an environmental urine and area evaluation coupled with checking on any differences you might have made during the last month or two.

      Check into the less than obvious, have you been somewhere new, exposed to new products, changed your cleaners and other items in your home ? This is an extensive dive but worth the time as often my patients have been able to identify the culprit and get a handle on the cause.

      Excessively high potassium can be a very serious issue so please have your physician rerun the testing and check your medications, diet, kidney function and eliminate other disorders to determine the cause/s.

      Dr. Alan Kadish moderator for Dr. Greger http://www.Centerofhealth.com

  27. where can i find some information about hashimotos disease or hypothyroidism? I cant find any video of that topic and its so important and prevalent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This