Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
Understanding the importance of healthy kidneys
Kidneys are one of the most vital organs located right below the rib cage in the lower back. They are bean-shaped and lopsided, i.e. the right kidney is smaller than the left one because the liver is located right above it.
Healthy functioning kidneys are about the size of a big fist that performs several important functions for the overall well-being of the body. These vital functions include:
- Removing waste products and other toxic substances like drugs via urine
- Removing excess fluid to maintain fluid balance
- Releasing blood regulating hormones
- Promote healthy functioning of other organs
- Controlling calcium metabolism
- Promoting bone and muscle health by releasing an activated form of vitamin D
- Controlling the production of red blood cells
- Regulating salt, potassium, and acid levels
In this article, we look at the foods to include in the diet to boost kidneys’ performance and the dietary choices to avoid if you have any kidney diseases.
The magnitude of kidney ailments in India is on the rise in both men and women. Two of the most common causes that can give rise to various kidney conditions are diabetes and hypertension. Some of the most prevalent kidney illnesses are as follows:
- Kidney stones
Minerals present in urine form crystals (stones) and obstruct the urine flow, giving rise to intense pain.
- Acute renal failure (kidney failure)
A condition that occurs abruptly and worsens the functioning of kidneys due to dehydration, obstruction in the urinary tract, or kidney damage.
Acute renal failure is a reversible condition, but lack of care can lead to chronic renal failure which causes permanent or partial loss of kidney function.
- Diabetic nephropathy
The high blood sugar levels caused due to diabetes can potentially damage the kidneys, giving rise to chronic kidney disease (CKD).
- Hypertensive nephropathy
This condition causes kidney damage due to complications arising from high blood pressure, which can eventually aggravate and cause chronic renal failure.
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
CKD is a condition in which the kidneys fail to filter blood in the way they should due to sustained damage. CKD causes excessive fluid and waste build-up and can give rise to other ailments such as heart disease and stroke.
Kidney damage and the complications arising from it is usually a gradual process. During the course of time, an affected person can manifest several related symptoms, which include:
- Excessive fatigue
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble sleeping
- Dry and itchy skin
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Blood in the urine
- Urine with excessive bubbles
- Persistent puffiness around the eyes
- Swollen ankles and feets
- Cramping muscles
- Loss of appetite
One of the best ways to promote kidney health and prevent kidney ailments from developing is by eating a healthy and kidney-friendly diet as well as avoiding foods that can have adverse effects on your kidneys.
This measure can boost the kidney’s performance and reduce the chances of developing the above-mentioned ailments while controlling the potential risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
The dietary choices for kidney patients may vary depending upon their health. However, experts suggest that every kidney patient should limit the intake of the following nutrients to:
- Sodium: Less than 2000 mg per day
- Potassium: Less than 200 mg per day
- Phosphorus: Less than 800 to 1000 mg per day
- Protein: Less than 54 grams per day
Best dietary choices for healthy kidneys
Cauliflower is rich in various nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin K, and the B vitamin folate. It is also a great source of fibre and consists of compounds like indoles, which are anti-inflammatory.
This staple vegetable is good for the health of people with kidney issues as it contains very low amounts of sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Garlic is a great source of nutrients like manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and its therapeutic anti-inflammatory properties promote kidney health. It is a great alternative to regular potassium-rich salt as it adds both delicious flavour and healthy nutrients to the food.
People with kidney problems are advised to consume garlic because of its nutritional benefits and low sodium, potassium, and phosphorus content.
Buckwheat is another healthy food option that kidney patients should add to their diet. Many whole-grain foods are high in phosphorus content, but buckwheat isn’t one of them. It is a gluten-free grain, rich in B vitamins, magnesium, iron, fibre, and low in nutrients that are harmful to kidney patients.
Cabbage contains a very low amount of sodium, potassium, and phosphorous, and is loaded with nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin C, and several B vitamins, which makes it a good food for people with kidney problems. It also provides insoluble fibre which makes the digestive system healthy.
- Bell peppers
Unlike several vegetables, bell peppers are low in potassium and are loaded with other nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin A, which are essential for the healthy well-being of people with kidney ailments
Foods that are a strict NO for kidney patients
- Potassium-rich foods
People with kidney problems and diabetes should limit the intake of fruits such as bananas, avocados, apricots, kiwi, and oranges as they are high in sugar and potassium and their bodies may not be able to process them.
This aggravates the risk of increased blood potassium levels, also known as hyperkalemia. The condition should not be left untreated or it may give rise to fatigue, muscle weakness, heart problems, and may even become life-threatening.
- Dry fruits
Irrespective of the fact that dry fruits are extremely beneficial and rich in several vitamins and minerals, they are not an ideal option for people with kidney issues as they are loaded with concentrated amounts of potassium and sugar.
- Beans & lentils
Beans are without a doubt very beneficial for the overall well being of most people. But when it comes to ones with kidney problems, this often healthy food can have adverse effects as it’s rich in potassium and phosphorus.
- Ready to go meals and fast food
Ready to go meals like packaged foods and instant meals tend to have high sodium content, low nutritional value and are unhealthy in general, but are known to be even more harmful to people with kidney problems.
Food options like instant noodles, frozen pizza, frozen boxed meals, and microwaveable meals are some examples of ready to go meals and fast foods that must be avoided, especially by kidney patients.
- Certain green leafy vegetables
Although, green leafy veggies are largely considered to be food for health, yet a few of them including spinach, chard, and beet greens can aggravate the health condition of people with kidney problems as they are rich in nutrients like potassium and oxalic acid.
Oxalic acid can form oxalates and increase the risk of developing kidney stones. You should consult with a doctor before opting for leafy greens in your diet, as he/she can recommend the best ones for you, taking into account your current kidney health.
Note: If someone has donated one of their kidneys or is left with one functioning kidney due to any medical condition, can still lead a healthy and productive life by taking precautionary measures like taking regular medications, staying physically active, and consuming a healthy diet.
Many people with kidney ailments often tend to neglect the importance of consuming a healthy diet and rely only on medicines, which is completely wrong. Diet plays a very crucial role in managing ailments while maintaining good health.
Symptoms alone are not enough to confirm whether a person has any kidney disease or not, and thus getting diagnosed is vital to get a comprehensive understanding of your overall kidney health.