Nutrition for Kidney Health: Tips to Maintain the Health of Your Kidneys

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A sensible diet cannot only help keep the kidneys healthy, but it can also prevent failure of this vital organ in patients suffering from chronic kidney disease. Here are some great dietary tips to help improve the health of your kidneys.

Proteins

Proteins are made of chains of amino acids. When we eat food, these chains are broken down into single amino acids and used by the cells of the body to maintain and repair body tissues, fight infections, and heal wounds.

When the body breaks down the protein, urea is created as a waste product of this process. A good diet plan should be able to provide enough protein for the proper functioning of the body and yet not overload the kidneys with urea.

The recommended amount of protein varies from 40 to 60 grams each day and it should also be limited to 12-15% of your total calorie intake. Good sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, chicken, nuts, dairy products, and legumes.

For patients with chronic kidney disease, a low protein diet is usually recommended, since it may slow down the progression of the disease. However, the total amount per day depends on the stage of disease, the body size, and the current nutrition status of the individual.

Sodium

There are three major electrolytes in the body and sodium is one of them. Sodium along with the other electrolytes, potassium and chloride, controls the levels of fluids that go in and out of the body’s tissues and cells. It also helps in controlling blood pressure and blood volume.

The recommended daily intake of sodium should not exceed 2,400 mg. Salt is the major source of sodium and it affects the amount of fluid that is retained by the body. It also increases thirst, which means that you will be drinking more fluid than your kidneys can remove. This will cause fluid retention and cause swelling in the ankles, feet, and hands, shortness of breath, and high blood pressure.

Avoiding processed foods such as ham and sausage, fast foods, and salty snacks can help reduce salt intake not only for healthy adults but also for kidney patients.

Phosphorus

The body uses phosphorus to form strong bones and teeth, use B vitamins, and carry oxygen to tissues. When we consume foods containing this mineral, the phosphorus is absorbed in the small intestines and stored in the bones. Any excess amount is flushed out by the kidneys. The daily recommendation for healthy adults is 800 mg to 1200 mg.

However, consuming excess amounts of this mineral puts an extra load on the kidneys. In kidney patients, the levels of phosphorus can build up to dangerous levels since the kidneys may not be able to flush out this mineral from the blood. This is why these people are usually recommended to cut down on foods such as milk and other dairy products, dried beans, nuts, and beverages such as beer and colas.

Potassium

Potassium controls nerve and muscle function and maintains a normal heartbeat. It is also an electrolyte and maintains the fluid balances. Excess amounts of this mineral are removed by the kidneys. The normal levels of this mineral in the blood ranges between 3.5 - 5.5 mEq/L.

The amount of potassium that you can consume depends on your blood potassium levels and the amount of urine that you are passing. High potassium foods include dried fruit and fruitcakes, tomatoes, canned soups, canned fruits and vegetable juices, bananas, spinach, dried peas, beans, chocolates, potatoes, liqueurs, cider and red wine.

Leaching the vegetables by cutting them into small pieces and soaking them in water for 1-2 hours before cooking can help reduce the amount of potassium intake.

Other Tips for Kidney Health

Diabetes and high blood pressure are two chronic diseases that put excessive pressure on your kidneys. In fact, high blood pressure and kidney disease often go hand in hand. If you are suffering from any of these diseases, you should pay special attention to the health of your kidneys.

Regular checkups can help in identifying any kidney problems at an early stage. Adhering to nutrition for kidney health and working with a dietician is the way to control the intake of the above nutrients and can help slow down the progression of the disease and also prevent kidney failure.

References

DaVita Inc.: Diet Basics - https://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/diet-and-nutrition/diet-basics

Kidney Health Australia: Nutrition and CKD - https://www.kidney.org.au/ForPatients/NutritionandCKD/tabid/705/Default.aspx

Aging and Technology Research Center: Nutrition for Kidney and Urologic Diseases - https://agingresearch.buffalo.edu/health/kidney/nutrition.htm

National Kidney Foundation: Nutrition, Diet - https://www.kidney.org/atoz/atozTopic_Nutrition-Diet.cfm