Kidney Problems & Brown Rice

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If you have kidney disease, navigating what you can and can't eat gets very complicated. Even seemingly healthy foods such as brown rice can be off limits if you have to limit your intake of phosphorus and potassium. Double checking your lab results at every nephrologist appointment is a good practice because you can assess whether additional dietary changes are needed.


Some kidney patients are on low-protein diets to prolong the life of their kidneys. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that patients on low-protein diets eat approximately 0.8 g of protein for every kg of body weight. This means that a 160 lb. man is allowed to eat approximately 58 g of protein. One cup of cooked brown rice has 5 g of protein. This food fits easily into a low-protein diet.


Patients with advanced kidney disease and those on dialysis often have elevated levels of phosphorus in their blood. The excess phosphorus causes calcium to be leached out of bone, which weakens the bone and creates painful calcium deposits on muscles and blood vessels. This symptom can be alleviated by following a low-phosphorus diet and taking phosphorus binders when you eat. One cup of cooked brown rice has 162 mg of phosphorus. Given the phosphorus content of this food, brown rice should be eaten very sparingly.


High levels of serum potassium can be a life-and-death issue for patients with advanced disease because they cause irregular heart beats and heart attacks. If serum levels creep above 5.0 mEq/L, nephrologists recommend a low-potassium diet. This can be difficult because even drinking water contains potassium. One cup of cooked brown rice has 84 mg of potassium, which is an acceptable amount of potassium for most renal diets. Many patients eat brown rice frequently because other carbohydrates such as potatoes have prohibitively high levels of potassium.


If brown rice is okay for you to eat, be careful not to drown it in soy sauce or other high-sodium condiments. Hypertension is an issue for almost every kidney patient. Even though you may take blood pressure medication, following a low-sodium diet is still important to prevent blood pressure spikes caused by consuming too much sodium.