Taking care of your kidneys
Adapted from the original by Céline Quintin, P.Dt.*
Our kidneys are essential to life. These two small organs work tirelessly to filter 180 liters of our blood per day and to remove waste from our bodies.
One of the kidneys' major functions is to maintain the fluid balance in your body. When your kidneys are not working well, they are not able to remove water as effectively.
Kidney disease is the progressive loss of kidney function, ultimately leading to kidney failure. Unfortunately, the number of people with kidney disease is increasing around the world.
It is very important to manage kidney disease with the help of a team of specialists, including a physician, dietitian, nurse and pharmacist. This team of people can tell you what you can do to slow or stabilize the progression of kidney disease. These measures include:
- blood pressure control
- controlling your blood sugar if you are diabetic
- smoking cessation
- eating enough high quality protein at each meal (from animal sources such as eggs, fish, chicken and meat)
- watching your sodium (salt) intake which can affect blood pressure, thirst and weight
- achieving or maintaining a healthy weight
- taking precautions with products harmful to the kidneys, like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)1 contrast agents that are used for certain medical examinations, and some natural products that are sold over the counter
It is important to tell your healthcare provider about all prescription and over-the-counter products you are taking, including any "natural" products that are sold without a prescription.
In summary, many measures to slow the progression of kidney disease do include medications, but there are also many things you can do yourself to keep your kidneys working as long as possible.
What you eat and drink plays a major role in the treatment of kidney disease. The main goals of the kidney diet (also referred to as a renal diet) are to meet your nutritional needs, reduce the accumulation of waste and slow the progression of kidney disease.
Watch for protein, salt and minerals
Controlling the amount of protein and salt (sodium) in your diet is an important first step. In some cases, the amount of minerals you consume (such as potassium and phosphorus) may also need to be reduced. Reading labels is very important and you may want to avoid phosphate additives in processed foods to protect your kidneys.
Making your own food at home is a great way to avoid excess protein, sodium and additives.
An experienced dietitian should supervise any change to your diet, because maintaining good nutritional status is very important.
High blood pressure and diabetes are the most common causes of kidney failure. Uncontrolled hypertension can speed up the progression of kidney disease. If you are taking a blood pressure medication, it is important to take it as prescribed by your doctor. As well, a low-salt diet can help control blood pressure.
It's not enough to simply reduce the salt you are adding to your food with a saltshaker; you also need to limit hidden salt in processed foods and restaurant meals. Reading labels will help you to choose low sodium foods.
High sugar levels from uncontrolled diabetes damage blood vessels and cause loss of kidney function. Good blood sugar control helps protect your kidneys. Following your diabetic diet, taking your medication, monitoring your blood sugar levels and staying active will help to control your blood sugar.
The need for personalized care
This article discussed important measures to help slow the progression of kidney disease. However, kidney disease is very complex, and each of us is different. To ensure the best possible care, it is important that everyone with kidney disease is evaluated individually.
*Céline Quintin is a registered dietitian working with dialysis patients at Notre Dame Hospital in Montreal (CHUM). She is the past president of the Quebec Association of Nephrology Dietitians (RNNQ).
This article was first published in Spice it up! Love your kidneys, Special Edition 2016.
Available at www.myspiceitup.ca
Reproduced with permission.