Eating a plant-based diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes may be one of the best ways to care for your kidney health.
Kidney disease is a growing problem in the United States, and many people are experiencing the pain and discomfort of this illness on a daily basis. If your kidneys are damaged, they’re unable to filter blood properly, which can result in serious health consequences and a lot of physical pain.
Kidney disease happens in five stages. The first three stages deal with mild to moderate kidney damage, meaning that the kidneys are normally still able to function. In stages 4 and 5, the damage becomes more severe and the kidneys have a higher risk of failing. According to The American Kidney Fund, the goal in each stage is to slow down the damage and hopefully prevent it from progressing to the next stage.
There are many components that go into treating kidney disease, and one of them is making sure your diet and nutrition are up to snuff. According to The National Kidney Foundation, a healthy diet can help those with kidney disease have more energy, help prevent infection, and help stop the progression of their illness.
Because of the important role that food and nutrition play in treating chronic kidney disease, researchers are devoting their time and efforts to finding the best diet and eating patterns that can help. Within the last few years, The National Kidney Foundation partnered with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to update their guidelines for nutrition for those with kidney disease. These guidelines are called the “Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (KDOQI) Clinical Practice Guideline for Nutrition in CKD.”
One of the main shifts that medical professionals have discovered over the years in regards to eating for kidney disease is that in the past, most guidelines were centered on limiting your consumption of sodium, potassium, and phosphorous. But now, the new guidelines are focusing more on overall diet quality and have found that one of the best eating habits for kidney disease is incorporating more plant-based foods and eating less red meat.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, eating a plant-based diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and legumes may be one of the best ways to care for your kidney health.
More specifically, the NKF also recommends the DASH diet for patients living with chronic kidney disease as a way of potentially slowing down the progression of the illness. The DASH diet consists of plenty of fruits and veggies, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. It also still allows for poultry and fish, but it encourages the exclusion of red meat and added sugars.
While these guidelines are a helpful place to start for those with chronic kidney disease, it’s important to discuss your nutrition plan with your doctor.
Healthy eating with kidney disease
We recommend consuming a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, wholegrain cereals, lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans and low-fat dairy products. It’s also important that you limit your salt, sugar, and fat intake.
Salt, or sodium, is important for controlling blood pressure, but you need to strike the right balance. Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure, which is bad for both your heart and kidneys. Kidneys affected by disease cannot remove excess salt and fluid, so often they build up in your body, causing:
high blood pressure
swollen ankles, feet and hands
shortness of breath.
Sugar is a type of carbohydrate which, again, is something that your body needs – in healthy doses. Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, which in turn increases your risk of kidney and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. Steer clear of soft drinks and stick to water to satisfy your thirst.
Managing your diet
Nutrition and kidney disease
If you have chronic kidney disease, diet and nutrition play an even greater role in managing your disease progression. This is because your kidneys become less effective at removing unwanted fluid and managing the correct levels of nutrients, such as calcium, phosphate and potassium. Planning a balanced and healthy diet becomes crucial.
Nearly all foods contain some potassium, including healthy ones like fruits, vegetables, and dairy. If you have kidney disease, you need to control your intake of these foods. That could mean avoiding some fruits and vegetables altogether, or it may just mean reducing the amount of high potassium foods you eat.
Calcium and phosphate
If you have kidney disease, it is very important that your calcium and phosphate balance is checked and managed correctly. Your healthcare team will request regular blood tests to check your calcium and phosphate levels.
Treatment of calcium and phosphate imbalance is designed to:
prevent phosphate levels increasing in your blood
maintain calcium levels
reduce the release of parathyroid hormone
prevent bone disease caused by loss of calcium
‘Fluids’ refers to any foods that are liquid when they’re at room temperature – that includes ice cream, yoghurt, and ice cubes. Fluid is also contained in foods like cooked pasta and rice, salad ingredients, soup, and watermelon.
Some people on dialysis may need to limit their fluid intake, while others can have as much as they like. It’s usually people who are on peritoneal dialysis or more frequent home haemodialysis that can enjoy more freedom with their fluids.
A renal dietitian or your healthcare team can help you manage your fluid intake, including advice on how much you should drink each day.