Monthly Archives: January 2011

Kidney care and natural nutrition

What should you do when someone you love has kidneys that are not functioning the way they should? Can further damage be prevented? What is your diet plan?

The only ancient kidney damage prevention food item that I am aware of is okra. There are several recipes on other wordpress blogs you could try.

There are five stages of kidney disease discussed here. The National Kidney Foundation has a lot of advice. There are other sites (below) with more advice. What concerns me is that nobody is showing that spinach which is high in potassium and iron is in a special category. It is the best natural help for anaemia (see below) because of it’s very high iron content and yet, probably needs to be taken in moderation because of its high potassium content (see below). Also, a few beans have been listed as high in potassium and yet are all beans to be avoided or just those few. One is advised to take a restricted protein diet, but which protein source is most safe? I will be looking for those answers and will keep you posted.

A healthy and sick kidney is described beautifully by the Royal Cornwall Hospital Renal Unit.

A healthy kidney’s function is to remove waste products from your body and to produce a substance that is needed to make red blood cells (a hormone called EPO). When a kidney is not functioning properly, waste products accumulate reducing appetite. Also, red blood cells carry oxygen in the blood. Shortage of red blood cells leaves you with less oxygen in the body. A poorly functioning kidney may initially show few symptoms, but gradually as it gets worse, you begin to feel tired because you lose your appetite and you are breathless because you are anaemic from fewer oxygen enriched, red blood cells. The doctor will point out other associated symptoms.

Kidney-EPO-bone marrow-Red blood Cells-Anaemia

The bone marrow makes red blood cells which carry oxygen. The healthy kidney makes a hormone called Erythropoietin or EPO which is essential to form red blood cells in the bone marrow. A diseased kidney cannot make enough EPO, causing the bone marrow to make fewer red blood cells, triggering anaemia and fatigue. Hemoglobin is the oxygen carrying protein in the red blood cells and foods rich in iron and folic acid help the red blood cells make hemoglobin.

It is obvious that a person with a kidney not functioning properly needs to have select list of food items to include or avoid. Any change in diet plan should be discussed with a Dietician or a Nutritionist with special knowledge about a diseased kidney.

In kidney failure, Potassium levels can rise to high in the body. So, it is important to limit potassium intake. Increased potassium can cause hyperkalemia; salt substitutes and “low salt” packaged foods often contain potassium so care is needed here when planning a diet for kidneys. Potassium regulates muscle tissue. Symptoms of hyperkalemia include slow, weak pulse, nausea and irregular heartbeat and may need emergency care. Why have a salt substitute in the diet at all?

You may need to balance other important nutrients too, such as sodium, phosphorus and calcium. When kidneys function improperly, sodium can build up and it’s intake may need to be limited. Salt has sodium and may need to be limited in your diet.

List of food that is specific for Kidney care is highlighted in detail by the Renal Unit of the Royal Cornwall Hospital. Remember that Potassium needs to be monitored in the diet. Protein restriction is an important part of the diet and appropriate. They are found in meat, poultry, fish, egg, milk, cheese. Researchers at the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs (2005) state that there is no indication that a healthy individual should restrict protein intake to prevent kidney damage. Potatoes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and drinks that are high in potassium are best to avoid. Also, you may want to research a renal-healthy list of vegetarian food options for your renal menu. Remember to reduce salt amounts and salt substitutes in the recipes and double check the list of “avoid” vegetables, fruits and nuts. Listing just a few food options below, at the end (I would encourage you to visit the Cornwall Hospital and National Kidney Foundation sites) for a more detailed suggestion of menus.

The Renal section of the Utah Medical Center has done studies on 1074 patients on nutrition modification in kidney failure, age, gender, race, creatinine production and glomerular filtration rate (GFR).  Your GFR tells your doctor about the stage of kidney failure. Doctors can calculate your GFR from your blood creatinine test. The Renal unit found an excellent correlation between serum creatinine and a diet modified for renal failure. Each 5ml/min increase in a modified renal diet GFR was associated with a 21 % higher odds of malnutrition. So, a renal specific, healthy diet is important.

List of Foods to avoid:
Potassium containing foods
Jacket potato, mashed potato, potato chips
Banana, melons, all dried fruit
All varieties of nuts
Cartons of milkshake, tomato juice and fruit juice
Cider, strong Ale

Foods you can enjoy:
A delicious omlette with (part boiled) sauteed potatoes
Scrambled eggs and toast – now that’s a tradition you can continue forever
Chick peas – many Indian menus
Humus – middle eastern menus
Tofu – japanese menus
Apparently, the Asian and Eastern diet has some vegetarian protein options for a renal diet as long as you monitor your potassium, sodium, calcium and phosphorus intake.

I shall continue to post suggested renal healthy menus when I find reliable sources. If you have authentic sources, do share them with us. We are especially interested in peer-reviewed, researched, scientific article links from Departments of Nutrition. Also, if you have any suggestions on how to make the caregivers of the suffering loved ones less fearful, and happier, do share. Let’s beat renal failure together!


Filed under Health