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Proper Nutrition is Important.

Proper nutrition is especially important to you now that you have been diagnosed with decreased kidney function. By maintaining a proper nutritional plan, you may be able to extend the function of your kidneys and your overall health. A proper nutritional plan can help build muscle, prevent infection and can help you feel and look better. Remember that no single nutritional plan is right for everybody. Your blood work will reflect what nutrients you need to increase and which nutrients you need to limit. Your doctor will recommend a well-rounded nutritional plan that is individualized for your needs. Well-rounded nutrition means that you focus on getting key nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals and calories.

Protein Should be Monitored.

Starting now, you will probably hear a lot of talk about protein. Protein is needed by the body in order to help build muscle, repair tissue and fight infection. With kidney disease, you may need to eat less of certain types of proteins. By regulating the amount and types of protein you eat, your kidneys process less protein waste, which reduces the amount of waste build up in your blood. Excess protein wastes in your blood can also cause nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, weakness, taste changes and itching. Your doctor will help you determine how much and which types of protein should be in your diet. Higher quality proteins can be found in animal products such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs. If you have high cholesterol or heart disease, your doctor may recommend eating protein rich foods that are more heart friendly. Heart friendly proteins include chicken breast, lean red meats, low cholesterol egg products, low fat soy products, and low fat dairy products. Lower quality proteins are found in vegetables and grains. You may be advised that a well-rounded diet should include both kinds of protein.

Vitamins and Minerals are Essential.

Most people get the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a variety of foods each day. However, the limitations that may be required in your diet due to your decreased kidney function can make getting adequate amounts of some vitamins and minerals challenging. You may need to take vitamin and mineral pills in order to supplement what is not in your nutritional plan. Ask your doctor before taking any herbal supplements or herbal remedies! When taking vitamins and minerals you should be sure that you only take what your doctor recommends! Just because you may find the vitamins, minerals, and popular herbal supplements in a store does not mean they are safe, especially for people with kidney disease. Most people with CKD already take multiple medications. Adding any additional medication, especially herbal supplements, raises the risk of drug interactions and possible harmful effects.

You Need Calories.

In this day and time most people are counting calories and trying to lose weight. This is not necessarily the focus for your calorie counting. Instead, you should view calories as fuel. The calories you eat will provide your body with the energy you need to live. You want to eat enough calories to keep a healthy weight. You also want to eat enough calories to give you the energy you need to be active throughout your day. If you do not get enough calories, your body will break down your muscles (protein) to use for fuel. When this happens your body may not have enough fuel to use for other important bodily functions. This can increase your chances of experiencing complications. A renal diet may include simple sugars (such as jelly beans and hard candies), low cholesterol and low saturated fats to provide needed calories. If you are a diabetic, your doctor will discuss the safe use of sugar or will discuss better options for calories in your nutritional plan.

Manage Your Cholesterol By Choosing Healthy Fats!

Cholesterol is important for some of our bodily functions, but it is unhealthy if we have increased amounts of the bad cholesterol. Too much bad (LDL) cholesterol in the blood is a major risk factor for heart disease. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that can build up on the insides of your blood vessels. The buildup can cause stroke and heart attacks. Too much cholesterol in your blood may be the result of a high-fat diet. It is important to work with your doctor to choose foods that are lower in fat and cholesterol.

Diet and Exercise Will Help Manage Triglycerides.

Another form of fat in your bloodstream is triglycerides. People with CKD often have high triglyceride levels which can also increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. Your triglyceride level will be checked along with your cholesterol level in a lipid profile. Elevated triglycerides can be due to obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet very high in carbohydrates. Therefore, it is also important to limit your alcohol intake and increase your exercise.

Sodium (Na) Should Be Limited.

Sodium is found in table salt and many processed foods. Too much sodium in your diet can contribute to excessive thirst and high blood pressure. Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure. Controlling blood pressure is important in managing kidney disease. Sodium restriction is recommended if your blood pressure is high or if you are retaining water in your body. Retaining excess water in your body can cause high blood pressure, swelling of the ankles, and swelling of the fingers and eyes. Controlling your sodium intake can help to slow your kidney disease and keep your kidneys healthier longer. Your doctor may advise you to lower your sodium intake. Here are a few common items with high sodium content:

  • Processed meats (ham, bacon, sausage, and cold cuts)
  • Canned food and frozen dinners (unless marked as low sodium)
  • Certain seasonings (salt, soy sauce, Teriyaki sauce, garlic salt, and onion salt)
  • Salt substitutes should not be used because they contain large amounts of potassium which can also be dangerous

Potassium (K) May Need to Be Regulated.

Potassium is used by the body to help your nerves and muscles (especially the heart) work properly. Potassium is found in leafy vegetables, fruits and fruit juices, tomatoes and potatoes. Excess amounts of potassium are removed by the kidneys. The wrong amount of potassium in the body can be dangerous.

Too much potassium can make your heart beat irregularly or even stop without warning. Some medications can also increase the potassium levels in those with CKD. Your potassium level may be normal and will not require any limitations. Your doctor will monitor your potassium level by looking at your blood tests and making adjustments if needed.

Phosphorus (P) May Need to Be Limited

Phosphorus is a mineral that works with calcium to keep your bones healthy and strong. It is also needed by the body to maintain normal nerve and muscle function. Phosphorus is found in most foods but is mainly present in cheese, milk and meat. Phosphorus is usually regulated by the kidneys. With renal failure, the kidneys are not able to remove excess amounts of phosphorus that may build up in your blood. If your blood tests reveal excess amounts of phosphorus, your doctor may adjust your diet to decrease phosphorus intake. As your kidney function decreases, you may also be prescribed a phosphate binder to help remove excess phosphorus so that it does not move into your blood. High phosphorus levels also cause an increase in the parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels. High PTH levels may cause bone damage.

Calcium (Ca) Should Be Monitored

As you may know, we all need calcium to build strong bones. When the kidneys fail, your body's ability to absorb and use calcium properly is decreased. Your doctor may have you take a special form of vitamin D and/or a calcium supplement to help keep your bones healthy. If your calcium level is too high, your calcium intake may need to be reduced. The combination of too much calcium and too much phosphorus makes you itch and may be damaging to your arteries as well. Remember, you should never take over-the-counter calcium or vitamin supplements unless directed to do so by your nephrologist.

Fluids Should Be Monitored

Depending on how much function you have in your kidneys, you may or may not need to limit your fluid intake. Your kidneys help to control the amount of fluid that leaves your body. As your kidney disease progresses, your kidneys may be unable to remove the excess fluid from your body. Too much fluid may cause swelling, shortness of breath, or high blood pressure.

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