Taking a more natural approach to your kidney health through nutritional adjustments can be a healthier option than many mainstream medical approaches. A natural renal diet focuses on careful monitoring of a few key substances that can build-up quickly in someone who has damaged kidneys.
What to eat?
Magnesium has proven to be an essential nutrient for a renal diet. Researchers in France, Sweden and the US have proven that an increase of magnesium in the diet results in a decrease of kidney stones and in patients with a history of cystitis. Some great food sources of magnesium are soybeans, whole wheat, kidney beans, buckwheat, cashews, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, and lima beans.
What to avoid?
Protein is needed to maintain muscles and a healthy immune system, but too much protein is considered to be hard on the kidneys, since eating it can cause a build-up of urea in the bloodstream (proteinuria), which increases the decline of an ailing kidney. If your dietician suggests an all-protein diet to lose weight quickly or for treatment during dialysis, please keep in mind the overall effect this will have on your kidney health, since it is such an extreme measure to take.
High amounts of protein cause body calcium to be moved through the kidneys and excreted from the body, increasing the likelihood of brittle bones in kidney patients.
Another renal diet tip is that refined carbohydrates should be avoided; these are simple sugars and refined flour foods. Heavy consumption of these and will increase blood glucose levels. This is in itself hard on the kidneys and can be a major cause of diabetes if left unchecked. Simple carbohydrates also contribute to kidney stone formation in those that are prone to having them.
Since it is difficult for damaged kidneys to remove excess water, regulating fluid levels in the body is crucial. Too much intake can lead to a build-up of fluids in the cells that results in shortness of breath, higher blood pressure and edema (severe swelling.) Yet flushing the kidneys out may be necessary if minerals and toxins have stagnated in them; on average, an adult should consume 6-8 glasses of water (or other non-irritating beverages) per day for proper hydration. Talk to your health care provider about what would be best for your situation.
Sodium intake must be restricted on a renal diet. Since food can be rather bland for most people without salt, seasoning foods becomes a necessity. With some practice, adding things like garlic, lemon or fresh herbs to your food can become second nature, and it is a really healthy way to take in extra nutrients. Just be careful to not add too much parsley to any meals, since it is extremely high in phosphorous. Also, if you look hard enough you can find a variety of herbal mixes at your local supermarket that are salt-free naturally.
Potassium is needed for health nerves and muscles, especially the heart. The kidneys are responsible for maintaining proper levels of this nutrient in our blood, but if function is compromised too much potassium can build up quickly causing the heart to beat irregularly, and in extreme cases it can stop without warning. Several foods containing large amounts potassium that should be avoided are apricots, bananas, oranges, tomatoes and salt substitutes.
Phosphorous is associated with calcium metabolism and can be elevated in people with kidney failure, but it is crucial for bone development and maintenance. If there is any imbalance, the body retains phosphorous and cannot absorb enough calcium to sustain health.
The kidneys will try to regulate this imbalance and steal calcium from the bones. Some other symptoms of heightened phosphorous levels may include itchy skin, and sore bones or joints. Some foods that are high in phosphorous and should be avoided on a renal diet include cola, peanut butter, chesses, sardines and nuts.
Before making any major adjustments to your diet, make sure you check with your healthcare provider and work closely with a natural healer, as this will ensure a proper renal diet and encourage prolonged kidney health.