How to Increase Phosphate Levels

Diet changes, supplementation and working with a doctor can help

Phosphate, also called phosphorus, is a mineral that helps the body build strong bones and maintain function. Phosphate helps cells stay healthy. It is a major component in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a compound that provides energy to the body’s cells.

A phosphate blood test can measure the amount of phosphorus in the blood. For adults, a healthy range is 2.5–4.5 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Phosphate Rich Foods - Illustration by Theresa Chiechi

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

Hypophosphatemia (low phosphorus level) is diagnosed at levels lower than 2.5 mg/dL. Having low phosphate levels is rare but dangerous. It can cause weakness, anemia (low red blood cell or hemoglobin levels), increased risk for infection, and confusion. 

Here’s what you can do to raise your phosphate levels if you are experiencing a phosphate deficiency. This includes identifying the underlying cause of the low phosphate levels, consuming phosphate-rich foods, and getting advice on whether a phosphate supplement is needed.

Identify the Cause

Most Americans get enough phosphate from their diets. In America, low phosphate levels almost never occur solely because a person isn’t ingesting enough phosphate.

A phosphate deficiency occurs most often when a person’s body excretes too much phosphate or isn’t able to absorb phosphate. This can be caused by hormone imbalances, uncontrolled diabetes, alcohol use disorder, vitamin D deficiency, or kidney disease.

In addition, a rare genetic disorder called hypophosphatasia can make it difficult for the body to utilize phosphate.

In order to address your low phosphate levels long term, you should work with your doctor to identify the root cause of hypophosphatemia in you.

Consume Phosphate-Rich Foods

Adults need to consume 700 milligrams of phosphate daily, while youth ages 9–18 and people who are pregnant need 1,250 milligrams. Almost all Americans get this amount from their diets.

Phosphate is found naturally in dairy, meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables. It is also found in seeds and grains, but it’s harder for the body to absorb phosphate from those foods. They have a lower bioavailability of phosphate, meaning the body is able to utilize less of the phosphate they contain.

In addition, phosphate is added to many processed foods, including fast food, sodas, spreadable cheeses, puddings, and sauces. Phosphate additives account for up to 50% of daily phosphate consumption for people in Western countries.

If you’re trying to enhance your phosphate levels, focus on natural, phosphate-rich foods, including:

  • Plain low-fat yogurt: A 6-ounce serving contains 20% of the recommended daily value (DV).
  • 2% milk: One cup contains 18% of adult DV.
  • Salmon: A 3-ounce serving contains 17% of adult DV.
  • Chicken: A 3-ounce serving contains 15% of adult DV.
  • Potatoes: 1 medium russet potato has 10% of adult DV.

It’s important to consume phosphate-rich foods as part of an overall healthy diet, since the body needs vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium to properly use phosphate. Speak with your doctor about how you can adjust your diet to promote healthier phosphate levels. 

Take a Phosphate Supplement

In many cases, your doctor will recommend a phosphate supplement if you have low phosphate levels. If your levels are only slightly low and you are not experiencing symptoms, your doctor will likely recommend a supplement that you take by mouth. For very low levels, you might need a supplement delivered by an intravenous line (IV).

Phosphate salts are used for supplementation, both orally and intravenously. Some are available over the counter, while others require a prescription. It’s best to only use phosphate salts under the guidance of a doctor since too much phosphate in the blood can be dangerous too.

Phosphate salts have some side effects, including acting as a laxative. They can also interact with medications and supplements.

Your doctor will tell you when to take your phosphate supplement. For example, you might need to take it at least two hours after taking a calcium supplement to make sure both are effective. Your doctor might also suggest complementary supplements like vitamin D, which helps the body absorb phosphorus.

Summary

Phosphate is an essential mineral that supports growth, strong bones, and general health. Low phosphate levels can cause symptoms that include weakness and increased risk for infection.

If you’re trying to increase your phosphate levels, talk with your healthcare provider. Eating phosphate-rich foods is a good start, but you might also require supplementation. You may need treatment for underlying medical conditions like uncontrolled diabetes or kidney disease.

A Word From Verywell

Since phosphate is complicated, it’s important to find a healthcare provider who will work with you to answer questions. Have them help you determine the cause of your low phosphate level and the best way it can be treated in relation to other conditions you may have. They can help you understand how to take control of your health.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does alcohol affect phosphate levels?

    Alcohol consumption causes cells to release phosphate. Initially, this leads to high phosphate levels in the blood. However, as the phosphate is expelled in urine, phosphate levels can drop dangerously low.

  • Who is most likely to have low phosphate levels?

    Low phosphate levels are most often found in people with underlying conditions, including kidney disease, alcohol use disorder, or uncontrolled diabetes.

    People on certain medications, including chemotherapy drugs and diuretics (water pills), are at increased risk for low phosphate levels, as are people with genetic conditions like hypophosphatasia that affect how the body absorbs phosphate. Premature infants and people with poor nutrition are also at risk.

  • What is hyperphosphatemia?

    Hyperphosphatemia is high phosphate levels (over 4.5 mg/dL). In some cases, including in people who drink large amounts of alcohol, hyperphosphatemia precedes hypophosphatemia (phosphate levels below 2.5 mg/dL). Kidney disease can also contribute to either hyperphosphatemia or hypophosphatemia.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Society for Endocrinology. Hypophosphataemia.

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  5. Yu ASL, Stubbs JR. Hypophosphatemia in the patient with alcohol use disorder. UpToDate.