What is a renal diet is being asked more and more in recent years. This is due to the fact that kidney disease is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States. Moreover this type of disease is now the eight leading cause of death in the USA.
There is also a possibility that you might have renal disease without even knowing it. Unfortunately, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure then kidney disease is bound to follow.
What is a renal diet exactly?
The answer to the question what is a renal diet or kidney diet is simple. It is a diet plan that is drawn up specifically to improve kidney functioning for a person suffering from kidney disease.
There is no standard diet for renal disease. Renal diets will differ according to the nature of the renal disease and will change over time according to the progression or regression of the disease under observation. The different types of kidney diets prescribed depend on various factors including:
Diagnosis of what type of kidney disease is present.
Severity of the renal disease.
Your food intake.
Your overall health.
A registered dietician will take all these factors into account when drawing up a renal diet for person’s particular needs.
What a renal diet aims to achieve
The overall goal of a renal diet is to simultaneously nourish the body while at the same time not upset the functioning of the kidneys. To accomplish this overall goal, a renal diet must satisfy the following conditions:
Be nutritious enough to keep the body in good shape.
Minimize toxin levels within the body to prevent complications and discomfort.
Cause the least amount of stress on the diseased kidneys.
Given the above factors, suitable and effective renal diets are usually drawn up by renal doctors or registered dieticians.
Typical Renal Diet and Recommended Foods
As mentioned before a kidney diet will differ from person to person. It also depends on the nature of kidney disease. However one will find these common underlying factors in the majority of renal diets:
Minimize Sodium intake.Sodium is most commonly found in salt. The body needs sodium for important functions such as controlling fluids and blood pressure.
Excess sodium is removed efficiently and effectively by healthy kidneys. During kidney disease, sodium is not excreted properly and fluid retention becomes a problem. The result is bloating and swelling of the limbs. Even worse, blood pressure starts to rise. The combination of these two factors increases the work load of the kidneys, increasing the incidence of kidney failure.
High sodium foods such as table salt, bacon and many processed foods should be avoided.
Herbs, spices and lemon could be used to substitute salt as seasoning. Low salt foods should be eaten especially those that have low-sodium, sodium-free, unsalted on the food label.
Restrict fluid intake as kidneys will have to work overtime. Fluids are mainly found in drinks, food, vegetables and fruit. Examples are water, soups, ice cream, jelly, grapes, melons, tomatoes, milk, tea, coffee and soda.
Since diseased kidneys cannot remove excess fluids, fluid retention will take place. The consequences are high blood pressure, shortness of breath and further kidney deterioration.
To minimize fluid intake, it is best only to drink when feeling thirsty. Also avoid salty foods, suck on ice cubes, keep cool on hot days, use small glasses and use sugarless chewing gum.
Reduce Potassium intake as levels of potassium tend to rise when suffering from kidney disease. Potassium is vital for proper functioning of the heart, muscles and nerves. Too much of this mineral within the body will cause irregular heart beat. At its worst, the heart stops without warning.
Foods that are high in potassium should be avoided. These are vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms and potatoes and fruits such as bananas, oranges and raisins. Other foods include chocolate and bran.
Instead low potassium foods should be eaten. These are vegetables such as lettuce, carrots and rice. Fruits include apples, cranberries and grapes. Noodles and bread are also suitable.
Since potassium is found in all foods at some concentration or other, it obviously means going with the low potassium foods. However it must be noted that eating large portions of low potassium foods will have the same effect as eating high potassium foods. So monitoring of portions is called for.
Phosphorus intake has to be kept to a minimum. Phosphorus is an essential element for proper functioning of the nervous system and muscles. It is also necessary for strong bones and teeth. Healthy kidneys remove excess phosphorus and absorb calcium. However, patients suffering from renal disease will often have too much phosphorus and too little calcium in their bodies. In this case calcium is taken from bones making them weak. High levels of phosphorus compound the problem by making bones brittle. Additionally, the patient experiences itchy skin and joint pain.
Foods high in phosphorus such as cheese, liver, milk, nuts, beer and ice cream should be avoided. Instead foods such as broccoli, hard candy, sherbet and non cola sodas should be consumed. Again, a large serving of low phosphorus foods can add up to become high phosphorus content.
Calcium supplements, vitamin D and phosphate binders may be prescribed by your doctor to help increase calcium and lower phosphorus.
Controlled protein intake. Depending on the type of kidney disease present, a patient may have to increase or decrease their protein intake.
Protein helps maintain muscles, repair and build body tissue and increases resistance to nasty infections. When protein is broken down in the body, urea is formed. Healthy kidneys have no problem in controlling the amount of urea in the blood stream. But urea starts to build up in the blood when kidneys are diseased. Because of this reason, in most kidney disease cases high protein foods are to be avoided and low protein foods should be consumed. In the case of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and patients who are on dialysis, the reverse is true.
Foods high in protein include poultry and poultry products, seafood, meat and milk and dairy products. Low protein foods include grains and vegetables.
Carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are important as they provide energy. They are also necessary for muscle and tissue development and maintaining body weight. It stands to reason that overweight persons and people with diabetes have to reduce the number of carbohydrates they eat.
Depending on the type of protein diet advised earlier, a nutritionist may advise reducing or increasing carbohydrate intake. If a low protein diet was advised, then a high carbohydrate diet might be advised to replace the carbohydrates lost. This high carbohydrate diet will contain foods high in carbohydrates such as honey, grains, jam, vegetables and fruits.
And for those that like watching a video instead of reading, here is a short video that lists 4 main tips that answers the question: what is a renal diet?
Renal diet conclusions
So as you see the answer to what is a renal diet is not clear cut. Many factors come into play especially the type of renal disease present. What is clear however is that certain foods are to be avoided and surprisingly should be avoided or kept to a minimum whether our kidneys are healthy or not. And the fact that you are searching for “what is a renal diet” means that you are interested in taking more care of your kidneys. In fact kidney disease has become so problematic that even a day in our calendar has been assigned as World Kidney Day to raise awareness. If you would like more information about kidney diets, please click here.