Foods for Kidney Disease
Declining Kidney Function? 3 Reasons to See a Dietitian
The kidneys are two bean shaped organs that work to maintain your body’s fluid balance, regulate minerals within the body, filter your blood of waste, regulate blood pressure, and make several hormones, including erythropoietin (for making red blood cells) and vitamin D. As you can see, the kidneys play a very important role in the body and declining kidney function isn’t something to be ignored.
When declining kidney function is first discovered (and only a slight decline is noted), your family doctor will likely just use the wait and see approach, that is, just monitor to see what the trend is with your kidney function. The decline may be slow and slight, as not to really cause worry (i.e. you’re never going to get to a point where you’ll need an intervention) or it may be on a quicker decline which will land you in a nephrologist’s office (kidney specialist) sometime in the future. The early stages of kidney disease are referred to as Chronic Kidney Disease, or CKD, and this is generally managed by medication and diet, while later stages of the disease, called End Stage Renal Disease, requires dialysis (along with medication and dietary interventions).
As kidney function declines, diet becomes more and more important. So, what do you eat to help the kidneys out? Well, that’s not that simple. And because it’s a little more complex than just following a simple diet plan, you may need the help of an experienced Registered Dietitian to help you figure out the best kidney diet for YOU.
Here are three reasons why you should see a kidney dietitian when you have declining kidney function, especially if you are still being managed by your GP:
There is a lot of Misinformation Online
Let’s face it, most of us head directly to the internet if we are curious about dietary changes to improve our health. The problem with this is that there is so much misinformation online about diets, including those for kidney disease.
If you are someone who has very little knowledge about what to eat (and what not to eat) for chronic kidney disease, it’s hard to know if the information you are reading is valid and up to date. By getting your information online, you run the risk of eating completely wrong for your kidney health (which could have detrimental or null effects), or wasting your money on unnecessary foods or even supplements*.
While there are some very good resources out there, when you are just starting to delve into the world of nutrition for kidney disease, it’s very hard to know what is good and what’s not good. It’s best to head to a professional in order to get a good foundation for understanding the kidney diet, and after that you’ll be better equipped to sort through the online world of renal nutrition.
*Be very wary of supplements. I recommend you clear any supplements with an experienced pharmacist.
The kidney diet is very individual
One of the most important things to know (and one of the first things I tell my clients needing a renal diet) is that a kidney diet can look different for different people. In general, kidney diets (and I purposely say “diets” because there are many variations) involve the adjustment of:
But…not everyone needs the same level of dietary restriction of these substances. It’s true that individuals with CKD on a renal diet will follow similar diets; however, they won’t be exactly the same. The elements are similar but the degree to which you must watch certain nutrients mentioned above differ depending on the degree of kidney decline, reason for kidney disease and can even be dependent on certain medications. It’s definitely not as easy as downloading an “eat this, not that” list from the internet. A registered dietitian can help individualize the diet that YOU need, one that takes into consideration your level of kidney disease, your lifestyle, and any other health conditions (like heart disease or diabetes) that may also need to be considered.
The right diet may help reduce kidney decline
Recommendations for the kidney diet are twofold, to prevent the buildup of certain waste products and minerals in the blood in the blood (substances that would usually be filtered out and excreted by the kidneys), and to delay the progression of this disease.
While there are numerous causes of kidney disease, two of the most common reasons for this condition are diabetes and high blood pressure – two conditions that can be improved by making the right dietary choices. Keeping blood sugars and blood pressure within target ranges prevents damage to the tiny blood vessels of the kidneys, which in turn preserves kidney function.
Research shows that high protein diets can negatively affect kidney function in pre-existing kidney disease. This means that if you’ve been diagnosed with CKD or your doctor has mentioned your kidney function is declining, being mindful of the types and quantity of protein that you are eating could be vital in preserving your kidney function, or at least delaying disease progression. A registered dietitian can help you figure out how much protein you need, so that you are neither over- nor under consuming protein.
Considering that the majority of people in Alberta with Chronic Kidney Disease are being cared for by their family doctor (source), this means that most won’t cross paths with a kidney dietitian to help clarify their dietary needs. This is unfortunate because diet plays a big role in the management of this condition, and taking a proactive role it’s management is something that can easily be done when armed with the right information.
For more information about kidney disease visit: The Kidney Foundation
If you or a loved one have declining kidney function and need a Calgary Renal Dietitian or Online Nutritionist that understands what to eat for kidney disease, CONTACT US for help.