Patients who have a kidney disease need to follow a special diet plan as all kinds of food are not well-tolerated by their digestive and renal system. Diet and nutrition play a key role in leading a better life with kidney disease.
As the kidney disease progresses, you should make the necessary changes to your diet. The main aim of this diet is to balance the levels of electrolytes, minerals, and fluid in the body. Renal dietitians provide a diet chart to every patient suffering from kidney disease after conducting a few tests such as urinalysis and considering other factors including body mass index (BMI), electrolyte balance, and dietary requirement for protein, fats, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphate, and vitamin D. Since every patient with kidney disease have a different dietary requirement, it is important to start the diet only under the guidance of a renal dietitian.
Kidneys have significant functions in our body, including removing waste and extra water from the blood, which results in the formation of urine. Kidneys also help maintain a proper functioning of the body by balancing the salts and minerals such as calcium, phosphorous, sodium, and potassium that circulate in the blood. Kidneys have an important role in releasing hormones that help make red blood cells, regulate blood pressure, and keep the bones stronger.
What happens in a kidney disease?
After consumption of foods and drinks, our bodies use what is required and turn the rest of the material into waste products, which are eventually excreted through urine. When kidneys do not function properly, these waste products gradually start building up in your blood. Salts that contain phosphorous and potassium may rise to dangerous levels in the blood and lead to heart and bone problems. Kidney disease can lead to a low red blood cell count (RBC) as kidneys stop making enough amount of erythropoietin (a hormone that causes bone marrow to make red blood cells).
After months or years, kidney disease may progress to permanent kidney failure which then requires a person to undergo kidney transplant or dialysis. Kidney transplant is a very common treatment for kidney failure and is carried out in many countries.
7 Foods Every Kidney Patient Must Include In Their Diet
If you suffer from kidney disease or failure, it is important to keep a watch on your eating and drinking habits. This is because your kidneys now cannot remove waste products from the body as they should. Below we mention a kidney-friendly diet which can make you stay healthier and protect your kidneys from further damage. A kidney-friendly diet includes:
- DASH technique: DASH is also known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. This kind of diet is low in salt and sodium, sugars and sweets, fats and red meat.
- Foods low in sodium: Commonly known as mineral salt, sodium is found in many foods. Sodium can affect your blood pressure. In a kidney disease, your body can build up extra sodium and fluids in the body leading to many problems such as swollen ankles, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, fluid build-up around heart and lungs. Low sodium foods include spices and herbs in place of salt, low-sodium canned foods, freshly cooked meat, plain rice without sauce, homemade soup with fresh ingredients, reduced sodium tomato sauce, and unsalted popcorns.
- Low calcium and phosphorous foods: These minerals are required by the body to keep your bones healthier and stronger. Healthy kidneys can easily remove phosphorous, which is not needed by the body. But in kidney disease, phosphorous levels can go too high, increasing the risk of a heart disease. Moreover, calcium levels begin to drop, making the bones brittle and fragile. Some of the low-phosphorous and calcium foods include fresh fruits and vegetables, corn and rice cereals, sherbet, cooked rice, popcorn, light colored soda and lemonade, root beer, and liquid non-dairy creamer.
- Low potassium foods: Potassium is important to help the muscles and nerves relax properly. In case of kidney problems, your body cannot pass out excess potassium leading to heart problems. Foods that contain low levels of potassium include pineapples, apples, apple juice, cranberries and cranberry juice, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, plums, pineapples, cauliflower, onions, lettuce, white rice, cabbage, and boiled cauliflower.
- Balanced protein intake: It is important not to include too much protein in your diet. Renal dieticians suggest a limited amount of protein intake for different age groups with kidney disease. Eggs, pulses, cheese, and other milk products are rich in protein and need to be taken in adequate amount. There are advantages and disadvantages of dietary protein restriction to cure high levels of urea in the blood. A proper discussion should be done with the doctor and renal dietician before regulating protein intake.
- Foods healthy for the heart: Always try to prevent fat from building up in the blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. Try eating grilled, broiled, roasted foods, lean cuts of meat, poultry without skin, fish, beans, vegetables, fruits, low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese.
- Antioxidants: Antioxidants can help in protecting your cells and kidneys. Turmeric and garlic have very strong antioxidant properties. These foods help in reducing inflammation and play a significant role in reducing renal reperfusion (sudden temporary blood flow to kidneys). Fish oil can also slow the progression of kidney damage.
Apart from the above dietary regulations, some foods that help prevent the progression of kidney disease include:
- Capsicum: Capsicum is rich in vitamins that help neutralize free radicals present in the body. These free radicals damage the tissues and cells. Capsicum has anti-inflammatory properties that can protect kidney damage.
- Ginger: Ginger is excellent in improving kidney functions. It helps to relieve clots, stimulate the circulatory system, promote blood flow to kidneys and clean the blood.
- Onions: Onions have many health benefits, especially to patients who have high levels of creatinine and reduced kidney function.
- Carrots: Carrots contain beta-carotene, a water-soluble form of vitamin A. This vitamin helps the kidneys to filter toxins from the blood and prevent urinary tract infections. Pectin, present in carrots, also helps to decrease levels of creatinine. Studies have shown that pectin has the potential to act as a natural therapy for the treatment of chronic kidney disease.
- Blueberries: Blueberries are full of antioxidants called as anthocyanins that protect from heart disease, cancers, diabetes. They are low in sodium, phosphorous and potassium which make them an excellent kidney-friendly diet.
- Egg whites: Egg whites provide the highest and fine quality of protein, which contains all kinds of amino acids. These have less phosphorous than other protein sources such as egg yolks or meats.
The above mentioned kidney-friendly foods are good choices for patients with kidney disease needing a renal diet. It is important to discuss your diet regimen with your health care professional in order to ensure you are following the best diet according to your needs. Dietary limitations depend on the type and level of kidney damage, medical treatments or drugs, and dialysis treatment.
This article was written by Guneet Bhatia, a freelance medical writing professional who has catered to the requirements of more than a dozen clients located across the globe. She is an aspiring novelist who intends to live a nomadic life with a vision to empathetically touch as many lives as a person can during his or her lifetime. She has a vested interest in breaking the health myths that people often surround themselves with.
Guneet Bhatia’s personal blog: healthosaurus.wordpress.com