Kidney Disease Nutrition Tips
A diagnosis of chronic kidney disease (CKD) can be, as far as a disease is concerned, a life sentence. However, it is not a death sentence. There are over 31 million people in the United States who have CKD, which is separated into five stages based on loss of kidney function. All stages are indicated by blood tests and urinalyses. Stage 5 is end-stage renal disease (ESRD), but dialysis or a kidney transplant saves lives. CKD cannot usually be reversed, but you can slow its progression by taking steps to stay healthy, including changing what and how you eat.
Your body uses three basics when it comes to food for energy and metabolic processes. They are carbohydrates (carbs), proteins, and fats. Your food also contains necessary vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs. The other major thing you consume is water, whether it is the water in the vegetables of your salad or a glass of iced tea. Your kidneys filter your blood to process excess amounts of things such as protein, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus that you take in to maintain the delicate balance your body needs to be healthy. When you have CKD, your kidneys cannot properly control the amount of fluids in your body. Kidney disease also affects blood levels of potassium and phosphorus, which can be life-threatening when elevated.
This is salt, and it is found in so many food items. Reading nutrition labels and keeping track of how much sodium you are consuming are key to managing sodium intake. A person with healthy kidneys should not take in more than 2,300 milligrams daily. This is about a teaspoon of table salt. If you have CKD, your daily intake of sodium may need to be even lower. Almost every processed food item you buy in a can, bottle, box, bag, or container has added sodium unless the label clearly indicates otherwise. Look for “low-sodium” or “no added salt” on labels to help you make the best choices.
Potassium and Phosphorus
As CKD progresses, your body may hold onto potassium. A blood test will reveal this. High levels of potassium can cause problems with your heart rhythm. A high potassium level is called hyperkalemia. Some foods that are high in potassium include potatoes, bananas, avocados, citrus juices, beans, and spinach. You need to eat healthy foods if your CKD has progressed to a point where hyperkalemia is an issue, making sure that they are lower in potassium. Your kidneys also process phosphorus. While dairy products, beans, nuts, and seeds are naturally high in phosphorus, it is also added to most packaged and fast foods, as well as sodas and other beverages. Consult with your doctor and Registered Dietitian as to how much potassium and phosphorus is safe for you at your stage of CKD. Remember, your goal is to slow progression of the disease for as long as possible.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source, found in foods you probably already really like and may even crave. The main carbs you are probably familiar with are breads, pastas, and rice, and sugars. Your carb choices may also contain proteins, fats, sodium, and potassium. A glazed doughnut is largely a carb due to it being made of dough and a sugar glaze, but it also contains a lot of fat because it is fried. Reading labels can help you understand more about the carbs in the foods you eat. Because controlling your weight is also a means to slow progression of CKD, limiting sugars and choosing whole-grain carbs can help you achieve your health and nutrition goals.
You probably think of a steak when protein in your diet is mentioned. However, protein is also in vegetables and pastas. A serving of baked beans is packed with carbs and protein. You need protein to live, but you do not need a lot of it. Most healthy people only need about 5-6 ounces of meat, chicken, fish or other protein foods each day, but most people eat much more than this. Limiting protein intake to this healthy amount creates less work for your kidneys and may help keep them functioning longer. Ask your doctor for a referral to a Registered Dietitian for individualized protein intake guidelines for your stage of CKD.
Contrary to the marketing craze of offering low-fat foods, your body does need fats to survive. Fats are in plants as well as meats and dairy products. There are saturated fats and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats are better choices, and they are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Examples are olive oil and canola oil. Bacon and hamburgers make grease that is solid at room temperature, making them an example of fats to limit or even avoid entirely if you can.
What you eat can significantly influence the speed of progression of CKD. Eating a balanced diet that is low in sodium and moderate in protein can help keep you healthier longer. A Registered Dietitian who is working with your doctor can help develop an individualized nutrition plan to help you meet your health goals.
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