If you are suffering from or know someone well who has kidney disease, you have probably already heard of a kidney disease diet.
This is a diet that focuses on promoting renal (kidney-related) health and on managing the particular type of kidney disease a person has.
Kidney disease diets are growing in popularity as more people realize the importance of holistic medical treatment. Even once you get to the stage of kidney disease where dialysis becomes a necessity, significant changes to your lifestyle can still have appreciable results on your condition.
Note, however, that we specified earlier that the diet focuses on managing a “particular type of kidney disease”. This is because kidney disease diets can vary from one person to another. A fair number of people on kidney disease diets are allowed (sometimes even encouraged) to consume sugars for quick energy, for instance, but if you have kidney disease and diabetes, this will obviously not be the case for you.
This is why you should always consult your doctor prior to trying a kidney disease diet. The best thing would be to have him and your nephrologist work on creating a diet for you together, but if you are doing a premade diet from another expert—something like The Kidney Disease Solution, as an example—you will still need to consult your doctor on it.
Premade kidney disease diets can be very effective; some using the one we just mentioned have found dramatic improvements in their conditions as a result. Even so, you still need to tailor a diet to your particular case to avoid worsening your state with further problems.
What Sort of Dietary Advice Do You Usually See in Kidney Disease Diets?
Again, keep in mind before reading this that not all kidney disease diets are the same. In order to find out what the best one really is for your specific case, you have to consult a registered dietitian and a doctor.
Still, there are some relatively common features of kidney diets that we can talk about here, like the ones below.
This is generally found in diets for those who are at the stage of kidney disease where dialysis is already needed. The reason for reducing and closely monitoring fluid intake at this point is that people on dialysis urinate very little.
That means that there is more fluid remaining in their bodies compared to ours at the end of a normal day. The fluid intake reduction is necessary to control the possible bodily swelling that results from fluid buildup.
Lowering the amount of sodium one takes in can help with high blood pressure, so kidney disease sufferers with hypertension usually have this prescription in their diets. It also reduces thirst, which is important if you are also restricting fluid intake for your diet.
Usually, this means you should consume no more than 100mg of salt per serving of food, which means you should replace the salt in your pantry with bold spices and bright, citrusy flavors instead.
An important note here is that you should not use salt substitutes without consulting your doctor first. A lot of salt substitutes use potassium, and this is often ill-advised for people with kidney issues.
Protein compels the kidneys to filter more calcium from your blood, and that means giving them more work. A lot of people are thus on high-carb meals with renal health diets. They usually replace protein with healthy fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated ones—the types you get from healthy oils like olive oil and safflower oil, for example.
That having been said, protein reduction is usually advised only before the person begins dialysis. Once dialysis has commenced, doctors usually recommend doing the reverse: getting high-protein meals in order to combat the usual muscular and tissue loss that accompanies dialysis.
Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, not everyone with a kidney issue can do a high-carb diet to replace protein, as there are some with diabetes. Some carbs are also ill-advised because they can contain a lot of potassium, which is often regulated for kidney health too.
This can build up if you have inefficient kidneys. Too much potassium can actually cause arrhythmia, which explains in part why people with kidney disease are at increased risk of cardiac issues.
As mentioned earlier, potassium can be present in salt replacement products, some carbs, and even in certain fruits and vegetables: oranges, raisins, bananas, tomatoes, pumpkins, avocados, and asparagus are just some examples.
This part is not hard to understand at all. People with kidney issues generally suffer from anemia because their kidneys do not produce a hormone instructing the body to make more red blood cells.
Iron-rich foods are thus usually added to any kidney health diet. Foods like kidney beans and liver are usually recommended here.
Consumption of foods rich in antioxidant content
Antioxidants can potentially benefit people with kidney disease because they fight off free radicals. Free radicals cause oxidation and the damage associated with it—and oxidative damage has been linked to kidney disease.
Getting more antioxidants could potentially slow down or prevent further damage, in theory. For antioxidants, people usually consume foods like cabbage, cranberries, apples, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and red grapes with the skin on.
Some Final Notes on Renal Health Diets
These diets are like most others: they also consider portion control. The precise portions of specific foods are best worked out with your physician, though. Another thing that you should ask your doctor if you are already asking for a diet of this type is whether or not you need to supplement it with a multivitamin pill.
Diets do not always make it easy for us to consume all of the vital nutrients and minerals we need for the other parts of our bodies, so this may be advisable in a lot of cases.
Still, you should ask your doctor about it first so that you know which supplement is right for your case.