Your kidneys play a crucial role in your body, eliminating excess water and salt along with waste products and toxins from your blood. They also balance your electrolyte levels, regulate blood pressure, and strengthen your bones.
But when your kidneys are damaged, they may not function as well as they should. That’s why patients with kidney failure need to be very careful about what they eat and drink, since your kidneys aren’t able to remove waste properly.
Eating right with kidney failure
What to eat and avoid with kidney problems will depend on both the stage of kidney disease and your overall health. It’s best to talk to your doctor or dietitian, who can help you design a customized diet plan. General diet recommendations include the following:
Since damaged kidneys can cause salt to build up in the body, it’s important to limit your intake of foods that contain sodium. Avoid adding table salt or soy sauce to your foods and use herbs and spices to flavor your dishes instead. Stay away from fast food and packaged foods, and rinse canned foods before consuming.
If you have kidney disease, your body is unable to filter out extra potassium. Doctors recommend consuming less than 2,300 grams per day. You may be able to consume low-potassium foods, like apples and peaches. However, you should limit your consumption of potassium-rich foods such as:
- Sweet potatoes
With kidney failure, your phosphorus levels can get too high, which can be detrimental to your bones. It’s best to limit your intake to less than 1 gram a day. Examples of foods and beverages high in phosphorus include:
- Baked beans
- Black beans
- Bran cereals
- Canned iced teas
- Dark cola drinks
- Kidney beans
- Organ meats
- Whole grain products
Although doctors don’t recommend a protein-rich diet for patients who have damaged kidneys, some amount of protein is essential for your body to function. General protein guidelines are as follows:
- Early and moderate kidney disease: protein consumption should be reduced.
- End-stage kidney failure: more protein may be consumed depending on your doctor’s recommendations.
The majority of your protein should come from sources such as beans, legumes, and nuts. Avoid red meats and shellfish. You may have small portions of lean cuts of meat, such as loin, poultry without the skin, and fatty fish (steamed) such as tuna, halibut, or cod.
Even water consumption needs to be monitored if you have kidney failure. Since your recommended intake depends on the extent of kidney damage, be sure to talk to your doctor how much water is safe to drink each day.
Can kidney failure be prevented?
Taking certain preventive measures may reduce your risk of kidney failure:
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Maintaining adequate hydration to prevent renal stones and infection
- Reducing risk factors such as overuse of painkillers and herbal remedies
- Reducing alcohol intake
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining healthy weight
- Regular exercise
- Controlling blood pressure and sugar levels
- Treating urinary tract infections to prevent kidney damage
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