What is renal disease?
Renal diseases are simply disorders affecting the kidneys. Kidney diseases vary depending on the part of the organs that have been damaged as well as the causes and underlying conditions it may come with.
In order to understand these disorders, it is important to get to know the vital functions of the kidneys first.
The Major Functions of the Kidneys
It is the kidneys that eliminate waste products. The eliminated waste and excess fluid in the body are removed as a person urinates. The kidneys are also responsible for producing hormones essential for body function. They also work to regulate chemical levels present in the blood.
The body’s acid content, salt and potassium levels have to be properly regulated and it is the kidneys that take charge of that role. The kidneys have ability to stimulate the production of hormones and vitamins as well as the production of red blood cells. These hormones are essential in regulating blood pressure. They also benefit other organs in the body and control the metabolism of calcium.
Each of the kidneys is just about the size of a fist. But they have millions of functioning units or what is called the nephrons. They are relatively small but they are very beneficial to the normal functioning of the body. If the kidneys are stricken by a disorder, its functions are compromised and such affects a person’s entire health.
What is a renal diet?
This is a specialized diet prescribed for people who have kidney diseases. Since the kidneys’ ability to eliminate both fluids and waste is compromised, a patient needs to particularly watch out for foods that may only cause a buildup of waste in the body. This may also mean cutting back on nutrients which are rather essential for the proper functioning of the body.
Renal diets vary from one patient to another depending on the kind of treatment being taken as well as underlying conditions that also need to be addressed. The assistance of a renal dietitian is essential in this regard.
Why do you need to follow a renal diet?
A person with kidney disease has his or her organs damaged. That means their kidneys are no longer functioning as properly as it should. There are byproducts from foods that the kidneys will no longer be able to eliminate. In which case, a change has to be made.
The main objective of a renal diet is to protect the kidneys. An appropriate diet for kidney disease can also serve to control underlying diseases that may cause the kidney problems. Such includes high blood pressure and diabetes. The inability to control one’s diet and in effect, the disease that may be causing the disorder can only make the kidney disease worse. Rather than slowing the progress to kidney failure, it may cause it get much worse and result to more and worse complications.
What is the recommended kidney disease diet?
In order to function properly, the body needs a sufficient amount of nutrients particularly protein, potassium and phosphorus. But in the case of individuals who are suffering from kidney disease, limiting the intake of foods containing these nutrients is best. In addition, sodium and fluid intake should be minimized as well.
Lower Potassium Foods
Normally, the kidneys can help eliminate excess potassium in the blood. When stricken by disease, the kidneys can no longer fulfill such a role. In which case, kidney disease patients should keep their intake of potassium rich foods at a minimum. The body still requires potassium but an excess can also lead to complications. For instance, high potassium levels present in the blood can lead to problems affecting the heart and the muscles.
A few examples of food that are especially rich in this nutrient include bananas, oranges and potatoes. These should be replaced with a renal diet that consists of foods with lower potassium levels. Such alternatives include apples, cauliflower, broccoli, pineapple and cranberry juice among others.
Lower Phosphorus Foods
Phosphorus is another nutrient that should be properly regulated with a renal failure diet. Patients who are suffering from kidney failure usually have high levels of phosphorus. This is because their kidneys are no longer capable of regulating the amount of phosphorus in the blood.
Phosphorus can further hurt a patient because too much of this mineral in the blood can significantly reduce the calcium in the bones. Patients are strictly advised to avoid phosphorus rich foods. Alternatively, patients can resort to green beans, rice and corn cereals, popcorn and sherbet.
Lower Protein Foods
Although protein is essential for the health of the muscles, it is not advised for people who have kidney disease. This is because protein creates waste products during the process of digestion. With the kidney failing to perform its vital function of eliminating such waste products, eating protein rich foods only increases the chances of waste accumulation in the body. Such will only hurt the kidney more and may lead it to further deterioration.
However, patients are not necessarily advised to avoid protein foods at all cost. The muscles, bones and blood still require the nutrients. Instead, patients are advised to reduce their intake of protein. This means they have to avoid high protein foods and resort to the lower protein sources. Such foods include salmon, shrimp tofu, rainbow trout and halibut.
Patients who are undergoing dialysis treatments however, may be prescribed with an opposite renal diet. Gain, it is best to consult a specialist with regard to the matter.
In addition to eliminating waste, the kidneys are also responsible for removing excess fluids from the body. Patients are not only advised to regulate their fluid intake. They are also recommended to avoid sodium rich foods.
The main reason is that sodium prompts the body to retain fluids. When this happens, the heart and the kidneys are stressed out. It may also result to a high blood pressure. Patients are then prohibited from eating foods that have high sodium content.
Healthy Fats Only
Trans fats and saturated fats are also prohibited from a renal diet. Since people still require a good amount of fat in their diet to be used for energy and for the production of vital hormones, the consumption of healthy fats is essential. The list of healthy fats includes peanut, corn and olive oil.
What foods should be included in a kidney diet?
While there is a good list of foods that kidney disease and kidney failure patients must avoid, this does not necessarily mean they are left with few choices. There are healthy alternatives that may be included in their diet. And such healthy options may include the following.
Made from soy milk, tofu is a good replacement for meat. It can provide the patient with lean protein and calcium. Tofu is also cholesterol free. And it does not contain saturated fat. There are plenty of renal diet recipes that can incorporate tofu in the menu.
This food is actually quite versatile. It can be used for making soups, stir fry, delicious stews and sumptuous breakfast meals.
Herbs and Spices
People normally use salt to add flavor to dishes. In place of salt, herbs and spices can be used for flavoring. This includes ginger, garlic, paprika, black pepper, basil, cayenne pepper and rosemary among others.
They can add flavor to dishes. And the best part is they will not cause high blood pressure or lead to excess body fluids like sodium does.
Iron Rich Foods
Those who are suffering from kidney failure are particularly deficient in iron. Such may result to fatigue and low red blood cell count. It also makes a patient more susceptible to infection. The patient’s cognitive functions also become compromised with iron deficiency.
Taking foods that are high in iron can help prevent these problems. Foods that have high iron content include fish, lima and kidney beans, spinach, kale and whole grain pasta and bread.
Arginine Rich Foods
This is an amino acid that can prove useful in inhibiting the progression of kidney diseases. Arginine can work to protect the kidney from further cellular damage. It may also enhance a patient’s immune system function. A few examples of arginine rich foods are pumpkin seeds, soybeans, lentils and black beans among others.
Final Reminder about Renal Diet Foods
This renal diet is not applicable to everyone. Kidney diseases vary and cases differ. Before applying any changes to their diet, patients are advised to consult first with their specialists and work with a renal dietitian. This way, all possible aspects and underlying conditions are considered carefully to come up with the best possible renal diet menu.