Kidney disease affects an estimated 37 million people in the US. While the kidneys are small, they are mighty in the role that they play in your body. Your kidneys are responsible for regulating your body’s fluid levels, filtering waste and toxins from the blood, regulating blood pressure, helping to maintain healthy bones, and balancing minerals in your blood.
The two main causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. Other risk factors for kidney disease include autoimmune disorders such as Lupus, chronic urinary tract infections, family history, overuse of NSAID’s (painkillers), and obesity.
If you find yourself dealing with compromised kidney function, it is important that you follow a kidney friendly diet, often referred to as a renal diet. Nutrition is essential to managing kidney disease. A kidney friendly diet can help to promote kidney function and slow down kidney failure. While dietary restrictions may vary based on the condition of your kidneys and your doctor's recommendations, it is generally recommended that you limit sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Sodium is a mineral naturally found in foods. It is one of your body’s electrolytes that control the fluids that are going in and out of your tissues and cells. Sodium also regulates blood pressure, nerve function, muscle contraction and blood volume.
It is important to monitor sodium intake when dealing with kidney disease because damaged kidneys cannot properly eliminate excess sodium and fluid from your body. Build up of sodium and fluids can cause high blood pressure, swelling in the hands, feet, and face, increased thirst, heart failure, and shortness of breath.
Tips to monitor sodium intake:
- Avoid processed foods
- Read food labels, sodium content is always listed
- Choose fresh fruits and vegetables
- Opt for salt free seasonings
- Aim to limit sodium to 400mg per meal, 150 per snack
Potassium keeps your heartbeat regular and your muscles working properly. It also helps to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in your bloodstream. When your kidneys start to fail, they are no longer able to remove excess potassium.
When potassium builds up in your blood it can cause muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, slow pulse, and heart attack.
Tips to monitor potassium intake:
- Limit foods high in potassium such as nuts, beans, potatoes, bananas, fish, oranges, and spinach.
- Opt for dairy free meals
- Choose fresh fruits and veggies
- Pay attention to portion size
- Read nutrition labels and avoid potassium chloride in the ingredients list
Phosphorus is important when it comes to bone maintenance and development. It also helps with the development of your tissues and organs.
When kidney function is compromised, your kidneys are not able to remove excess phosphorus. High levels of phosphorus can cause loss of calcium in your bones making them weak and can also lead to dangerous amounts of calcium in your blood vessels, lungs, eyes, and heart.
Tips to monitor phosphorus intake:
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables
- Avoid foods high in phosphorus such as fast food, cheese, milk, seeds, beans, and oatmeal
- Keep a food journal
- Read nutrition labels and avoid foods with phosphorus or “phos” in the ingredients list
Each person with kidney disease is different so it is important to consult your doctor about your individual dietary needs. A kidney friendly diet low in sodium, potassium, and phosphorus can keep your electrolytes, minerals, and fluid in your body balanced and limit the buildup of waste in your body.