If your doctor has told you that you need to reduce your sodium intake as much as possible, your water softener may have come under scrutiny. Water softeners usually use sodium as part of their process for remedying hard water. They leave a small amount of sodium behind, but if you're trying to get rid of all sources of sodium in your diet, changing the softener would be a good idea. But a common alternative -- potassium chloride -- might have its own issues if you have additional health problems.
It's Fine for Most People
Potassium chloride is another type of salt; it's just not table salt. It's often found in dietary salt substitutes, like those shakers of flavoring that you can find in the market. Potassium chloride is often used as a substitute for salt in water softeners, too, and for most people, this is not a problem. The human body is very good about getting rid of excess potassium, and you'd have to take in a tremendous amount for the potassium chloride to cause a problem.
But It's Not Fine if You Have Kidney Disease
Your kidneys are responsible for sending extra potassium away -- you excrete it out in your urine. But kidney disease often impairs the ability of the kidneys to work properly, leading to a higher than normal level of potassium in the body. If you use a water softener that contains potassium chloride, and you ingest that water, you can end up with enough potassium in your body -- because at this point, you're adding potassium while not enough of it leaves your body -- to cause hyperkalemia. This is essentially a potassium overdose.
Hyperkalemia Can Be Deadly
Symptoms of hyperkalemia range from weakness and possible paralysis to breathing problems and heart attacks. It's not a condition, even when mild, that you can let sit while you just hope you feel better because it can get worse. And kidney disease isn't the only health condition that could lead to hyperkalemia; diabetes and hypertension can as well because the medications used to treat those can interact with potassium. So if your search for a non-sodium water softener is due to hypertension, for example, double-check with your doctor that your medications will allow you to safely take in more potassium.
If you have very hard water and have to do something about it, talk to both your doctor and to a water filtration company. There are non-salt alternatives like water conditioners that you can use. You may also be able turn to bottled water for more of your drinking and cooking needs, but don't rely solely on that without your doctor's permission. See what water filtration companies have on hand and run the options by your doctor to ensure that your water is safe for both your home's pipes and your body. Talk to a water filtration company such as Friot's Water Treatment CO for more information.