When it comes to kidney health, diet goes a long way to both protect your kidneys and improve their function if you are suffering from kidney damage. The best renal diet can vary depending upon your level of kidney health, your level of physical activity, and other health conditions that may be present.
While the appropriate renal diet may alter depending on your kidney health there are some simple protocols that you can follow, and nutrients that you should be aware of that may need to be included or avoided in your diet. Nutrition can always be used as a form of medicine and here we will look at the benefits and dangers in several foods and nutrients.
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Food And Nutrients In Renal Diet
Protein often causes a sense of confusion when it comes to kidney health and the renal diet. The best option is to talk to your doctor regarding protein requirements as they vary according to your physical activity levels, but basically speaking if you have kidney damage you need to limit your protein intake. However of course we do need some protein in our diet so it comes down to choices. It is recommended to cut out dairy and red meat sources of protein, as they are often high in saturated fats and sometimes sodium, which places an excess burden upon both the kidneys and cardiovascular system.
Chicken is preferable to red meat, however it is often pumped full of hormones, so organic varieties are always preferable. Fish however, is an excellent source of protein as it is high in essential fatty acids, which are fantastic for many aspects of health and have a strong anti-inflammatory action, which is beneficial for the kidneys. Soy proteins such as tofu and tempeh are also recommended, and when eaten regularly they have actually shown to help slow the progression of kidney damage.
There are three dietary minerals that need to be avoided as part of the renal diet. This is because the kidneys need to filter the blood of these minerals to achieve the correct levels, but in kidney damage this does not occur effectively and levels can build up in the blood and become dangerous. In particular we are referring to phosphorus, potassium and sodium, and we will look at why each of these is a problem and the foods that should be avoided.
On the other hand, not only the renal diet, but all diets should avoid high levels of sodium. Sodium can increase blood pressure, which is not only a danger to the cardiovascular system but also to the kidneys. High blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney disease, as it forces the kidneys to filter at a higher rate, which over time places pressure on the kidneys, causing damage. To add to insult, kidney damage also causes high blood pressure. So we certainly do not want to make matters worse by consuming foods that increase blood pressure further.
Obviously this means not adding salt to meals and also avoiding fast foods and take-away, which usually contains a lot of salt for flavoring. But what many people are unaware of is that there are many foods that contain hidden sources of sodium. These include processed meats, frozen and canned foods, sports drinks and flavored and processed snacks.
Potassium is another mineral that is found in many foods, most of which are usually considered healthy. Potassium is an essential mineral that is required for nerve function, cardiac function and fluid balance, but when the levels in the blood are not correctly balanced this presents a danger in regard to these functions.
In the case of kidney damage, potassium levels can build up in the blood and can cause an imbalance of fluids and result in cardiovascular problems. For this reason the renal diet requires that potassium be limited. The extent of this will depend upon blood test results. The foods highest in potassium include; tomato, potato, banana, nuts, seeds, pumpkin and chocolate. In cases of excessively high potassium levels it may be necessary to perform a process to remove the potassium from vegetables, as it is not possible to avoid potassium completely.
Additionally, there's Phosphorus that needs to be limited in the renal diet. Phosphates are found in high levels in several foods including; dairy foods, meat, wheat, peanuts, legumes, chocolate, coconut, eggs and beer. Many of these products should be avoided in a healthy renal diet for other reasons however it is important to be aware of phosphate levels in otherwise healthy foods such as eggs and legumes if phosphorus levels are high in the blood.
Phosphorus is an essential mineral and one of its most important functions is formation of bones and teeth, as it is involved in the regulation of calcium. However in the case of kidney damage, phosphorus builds up in the blood and can lead to osteoporosis as too much blocks absorption of calcium. High levels of phosphorus can also contribute to high blood pressure, which as we have seen is an extreme danger to the kidneys.
Other Concepts Involved In Renal Diet
One other concept of the best renal diet is following a predominantly alkaline diet. One of the functions of the kidneys is to balance the pH level of the blood and this does not occur effectively in kidney disease. So to take some of the pressure off the kidneys, removing acidic foods from the diet is a huge help, and will give the kidneys a chance to heal.
Meanwhile, acidity can contribute to a myriad of health issues throughout the body, many of which are associated with kidney problems. The wide list includes; kidney stones, urinary problems, high blood pressure and poor immunity.
Now, following the alkaline diet is unfortunately not as simple as avoiding foods that taste acidic. It is the residue that is left once a food has been metabolized within the body that dictates whether or not that food is acidic. A good example of this is lemon. It tastes acidic but it actually produces an alkalizing effect once it is digested.
Generally speaking, most foods that are considered unhealthy are acidic so should be avoided regardless as part of the renal diet. This includes meat, sugary treats, wheat, alcohol and most dairy products. However there are some acidic foods that are a healthy component of the renal diet, such as olive oil, fish, soymilk and nuts.
But the good news is that this system in not too complicated. Initially in the renal diet you need to consume 80% alkaline and 20% acidic foods, so you can choose some of the healthy acidic options as part of your daily diet. It is possible to test your urinary pH daily, and once it has shown consistent improvement you can change to a maintenance diet of 60% alkaline and 40% acidic foods.
Most alkaline foods are considered healthy as part of the renal diet and include fruit and vegetables, brown rice, green juices, most herbal teas, tofu and sprouts.
As you can see the best renal diet can vary depending upon your specific health problems and level of kidney damage, but there are some specific rules that it helps to be aware of. The appropriate renal diet is absolutely essential to both heal your kidneys and protect them from future damage. If you want to go even further to heal your kidneys there are many herbs and nutrients that have shown to improve kidney health.
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