What if you wake up one day and find out that the waste and refuse collection in your locality will take place weekly instead of daily? You would automatically try to make less trash and be more mindful of what you use and what you throw, right? Sounds simple?
Keeping this example in mind, let’s talk about chronic kidney disease (CKD). Our kidneys are a pair of small bean-shaped organs that sit at the back of the abdomen and clear out the extra and wasteful substances that other organs secrete in the blood. These little heroes work silently to not only clear out the waste from the body but also produce certain chemicals that help regulate bone strength, red blood cell production, and blood pressure.
Coming back to the analogy, our kidneys are like the trash collectors, necessary for the regular functioning of the body. When they aren’t working to their full capacity, like in the case of CKD, it becomes crucial to be mindful of what we eat. What we eat and drink is what will eventually go into the kidneys.1
The importance of an appropriate diet when you have CKD
Proper nutrition is extremely essential, no matter your age, gender, or job. It helps us stay energised throughout the day, stay free of infections, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid the loss of muscle mass. Your kidneys majorly contribute towards striking a balance in the various minerals and nutrients that are present in a nutritious diet. However, when the kidneys aren’t able to give their best, it becomes vital for us to help the kidneys to do their job.
Small changes in your diet can go a long way in taking care of your kidneys. A simple example is keeping a check on the portions of food you consume, especially food groups like proteins. Depending on the stage of your kidney disease, your doctor may recommend eating only a certain amount of protein to be safe. Reducing high-protein foods can help your kidneys stay functional for an extended amount of time.2
An appropriate level of sodium can keep swelling in check, reduce the strain on your heart, and keep your blood pressure in control. In the case of potassium, both too little or too much can be troublesome. Your doctors may recommend the exact amount of potassium that you must consume. With a decline in kidney function, phosphorus levels can rise, making your bones weak. Therefore, phosphorus levels must be controlled as well. Usually, calcium and phosphorus go hand in hand. Foods rich in phosphorus are typically rich in calcium too. You must always consult your doctor before taking any calcium or vitamin D supplements when you have CKD.2
How do you follow a healthy diet to support the kidneys?
Following the correct kidney-friendly diet can be broken down into three easy steps.3
Step 1: Buy foods that are low in sodium
It basically means buying fresh produce rather than going for canned and pre-packaged foods that are typically high in sodium. Even if you need to buy canned food, make sure you wash and rinse food thoroughly after removing it from the can before using it. When you purchase raw fruits, vegetables or meats and prepare your own meals, you have better control over how much sodium you let into your body.3
Step 2: Measure up!
Eat the correct variety and the right quantity of proteins. You can consume both plant-based and animal-based proteins like beans and nuts, or chicken, fish, milk, and eggs. However, restricting these to a half cup of either will keep the workload on the kidneys in check.3
Step 3: Go heart healthy
This is always a necessary step when the health of the kidneys is in question. The heart and the kidneys function together in many ways. Therefore, it’s best to avoid any oily, greasy foods that could cause your blood vessels to clog and put your kidneys and heart at risk. You can read more about eating the right kind of fats here.3
Depending on the stage of CKD you’re at, you may also need to take extra steps to account for the potassium and phosphorus intake.3 Speak with your dietician or nephrologist (kidney specialist) to know what works best for you. Follow these simple steps and keep your kidneys functioning longer. Taking care of your kidneys isn’t as tough as it may first appear to be. A bit of caution at the very first step of your meal preparation and you can relish anything you eat thereafter!
- Nutrition for advanced chronic kidney disease in adults [Internet]. [updated 2014 Mar; cited 2019 Sep 18]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/eating-nutrition/nutrition-advanced-chronic-kidney-disease-adults.
- Nutrition and early kidney disease (Stages 1–4) [Internet]. [cited 2019 Sep 18]. Available from: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/nutrikidfail_stage1-4.
- Eating right for chronic kidney disease [Internet]. [updated 2016 Oct; cited 2019 Sep 18]. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/eating-nutrition.