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- Medline Plus: Diet – Chronic Kidney Disease
- National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse: The Kidneys and How They Work
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Kidney patients may have a variety of related conditions, including kidney stones and mild to severe kidney failure. They are often at an increased risk for other health complications as well, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Kidney patients require a specialized diet that includes close monitoring of protein levels. When protein is limited, making healthy protein choices is especially important.
When your kidneys are not working optimally, they may have to work harder to weed out the good from the bad. In many cases, a sign of early kidney failure is protein in the urine, as the kidneys are not able to separate all of it from the waste. While monitoring your protein will not end your kidney problems, it can slow the degenerative process and may also reduce the risk of other complications. Reducing the amount of protein intake can help prevent the buildup of byproducts, such as urea, in the blood, and may decrease the kidneys’ workload.
Healthy Protein Choices
When your protein intake is limited, be sure your protein choices are nutritionally sound. Protein can come from both animal and plant sources. Most people are aware that meats and dairy products are rich sources of protein, but you can also find protein in grains and vegetables. Because there are so many types, some found in unlikely sources, it is important to follow the guidelines of a dietitian who can tailor an appropriate menu based on your particular protein needs. Choose leaner cuts of meat, opt for low-fat dairy products, and include fish in your diet. This can not only optimize your intake of vitamins and minerals, but it can also help control secondary factors of kidney disease such as high blood pressure and heart disease 1.
In addition to protein, other foods often contain ingredients that may have to be regulated in the renal diet, such as phosphorous, sodium and potassium. Phosphorous is found in dairy, beans and nuts, all healthy protein choices, but too much can cause bone density loss for kidney patients. Potassium that is not efficiently filtered by the kidneys can throw off heart rhythm. Potassium-rich foods include citrus, beans and nuts. Sodium can increase your blood pressure as well as cause you to retain fluids. Medline Plus recommends avoiding cured meats and not adding salt to your meals.
Eventually most kidney patients end up on dialysis. Once this happens, your protein needs actually increase. You need extra protein to repair muscle and tissue damage, and the dialysis process compensates for your kidney function by filtering waste from the blood. Medline Plus recommends 8 to 10 ounces of protein-rich foods daily, which may be supplemented with egg whites or protein powder. Your dietitian can alter your renal diet once dialysis treatment begins.
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