After CKD Diagnosis: What Now?
Your kidneys may be as small as a computer mouse, but they play a huge role in maintaining your overall health.
They keep your blood clean and free from toxins. They also eliminate excess fluids from the body. Plus, they help manage your blood pressure, ensure the steady production of red blood cells, and strengthen your bones.
Well-functioning kidneys are to the body what a well-oiled machine is to a vehicle. Inversely, when your kidneys conk out, your essential bodily functions are affected as well. This is what happens in people with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).
What is Chronic Kidney Disease?
CKD refers to the condition where your kidneys are not working as they should. Due to impaired functions, the kidneys are not able to efficiently filter blood and dispense waste materials through the urine. This can result in the buildup of waste in the blood and other disorders, like stroke and heart disease.
CKD is a common condition in the US, plaguing 37 million American adults according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s described as ‘chronic’ since the condition is long term.
CKD is categorized according to stages. If left unaddressed, it can worsen over time and may lead to kidney failure.
If you have CKD, you may also become prone to the following health conditions:
When your kidneys shut down completely, you need to either get on dialysis or have a kidney transplant to survive. The advanced stage of CKD resulting in kidney failure is called end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
What are the Symptoms of CKD?
The thing about Chronic Kidney Disease is that it can sneak up on anyone without warning. People who have stages 1 to 3 CKD (meaning mild to moderate levels) might not feel any kind of uneasiness, as kidney disease symptoms most often don’t emerge until stages 4 and 5.
During the advanced stages, you may experience these telltale signs:
As in any kidney-friendly meal plan, your daily vegetarian meals should nourish your body with adequate amounts of protein and a healthy balance of sodium, phosphorus, and potassium. We highly encourage that you cook your own meals using fresh ingredients.
- Muscle cramps
- Weight loss
- Difficulty in concentration
- Poor appetite
- Dry and itchy skin
- Swollen feet and ankles due to fluid retention
- Puffiness around the eyes
In addition, when your kidney functions start to decline, nutrient imbalance between calcium, phosphate and other chemicals can be observed which may result in tiredness and bone fractures.
It’s Never Too Late to Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle!
However, the good news is that people with kidney disease (particularly those that are at the early stages of CKD) can influence the progression of their condition.
And when you consistently lead a healthy lifestyle to preserve your kidney functions, it’s possible that you won’t have to undergo dialysis or kidney transplantation.
7 Tips for People Newly Diagnosed with CKD
Other than sticking to healthy habits, a deeper understanding of your CKD condition is key to improving your health outcomes. It’s normal to feel a range of emotions when you first learn about your diagnosis.
Many people report feeling worried, anxious, or disconcerted about their health status in relation to kidney disease. Know that it’s totally normal. In order to move forward, it’s important that you take the time to thoroughly understand the implications of CKD to your daily life as well as the steps you need to take to manage your condition.
Here is what nephrologists, renal dietitians, and CKD patients themselves recommend to those who have just been diagnosed with kidney disease:
1. Follow your doctor’s advice.
Chronic Kidney Disease doesn’t automatically result in kidney failure. Your nephrologist will ask you to take certain medications and adjust your diet and lifestyle to minimize the risk of progression. Follow what your doctor recommends you to do. They have an expert oversight of your current health status. Work closely with them in determining ways to keep your CKD from progressing and prevent dialysis.
As mentioned, pursuing a healthy and active lifestyle is crucial in protecting your kidneys from further damage. Your active participation is much needed in the success of your treatment. Your nephrologist will become increasingly involved in managing your health from now on, so it’s also important that you establish a good relationship with them.
2. Understand your lab values.
Your lab values are very important as you monitor your condition. Your doctor will evaluate these numbers and interpret them for you so you would know whether your CKD is getting stable or progressing.
During checkups, your kidney health care provider will test your blood and urine. They will also check your blood sugar and blood pressure levels. It helps to familiarize yourself with what blood test values reveal about your CKD status.
There are other lab values you need to understand, like your estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), urine protein, creatinine levels, and cholesterol levels, but your blood test values are a good place to start.
One way to eventually get a grasp of what numbers actually represent is to ask your doctor questions when your lab results come in. Then discuss with them how you can tweak your diet or medications to improve these values.
3. Commit to a kidney-friendly diet.
What you feed your body hugely affects your kidney health. This is to say that you need to start eating foods that are easy on your kidneys to avoid overworking them. In essence, a renal-friendly diet consists of controlling your intake of certain foods and minerals to prevent them from accumulating in your body.
Be more mindful of what you eat and drink. No matter your CKD stage, it’s very important that you limit your food choices, serving and portioning sizes, and nutrient intake.
There’s so much science and measurements involved in designing a kidney-friendly diet, so you don’t have to do it on your own. Seek the expertise of a renal dietitian in creating your meal plans. They can help you identify which foods to eat while considering your CKD stage and nutritional requirements.
Making dietary adjustments is no piece of cake. It can get difficult at the beginning. But rest assured it’s going to be all worth it once you learn your kidney health has become stable.
4. Consult with a dietitian.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to renal dieting; every person with CKD has unique nutrient and dietary needs.
This is why it’s important to turn to a dietitian with a proven track record in working with kidney disease patients. Talk to a renal dietitian first before making any adjustments to your diet!
5. Stay physically active.
A study published in the journal BMC Nephrology suggests that regular exercise can be beneficial for non-dialysis CKD patients. Specifically, exercise helps lower blood pressure, improve eGFR, and maintain healthy weight (all important factors in managing CKD).
Physical activity doesn’t have to be boring. Look for things you enjoy doing that get your body moving. You can go for a run, walk, or perhaps bike around your neighborhood. Just make sure to ask your doctor about exercises that are suitable for your condition (and fitness level).
6. Have a support system.
We all need people who can rally alongside us in fighting our battles. In your journey toward an improved kidney health, you will face humps and bumps along the way. There will be days when you don’t feel motivated to keep up with a healthy lifestyle.
This is why it’s necessary to surround yourself with people who will encourage you and speak life to you. Get moral support from your spouse, kids, siblings, and friends.
Also, consider getting connected with a group of individuals who are also going through the same journey as you. Find a network of like-minded people with CKD in your area. No one can give you advice and emotional support better than someone who has walked miles in your shoes.
7. Educate yourself.
It pays to be knowledgeable about your condition. When you understand the nature of CKD and the ways you can manage your health, it gives you a sense of control and ownership over your well-being.
Take time to sit down and learn everything about kidney disease. Read articles or watch videos on how you can better care for your kidneys. Seek knowledge from credible health experts and published studies.
As you educate yourself, make sure to relay useful information to your family and even to people you know who also have the disease.
While Chronic Kidney Disease has diminished the functionality of your kidneys, it doesn’t mean you cannot live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life. You can save your kidneys from failure by eating kidney-friendly foods, staying active, and complying with your nephrologist and dietitian’s advice.
RenalTracker wants to help you in improving your kidney health. We want to provide you with credible educational resources you need to take care of your kidneys and delay dialysis.
Our team of kidney experts, renal dietitian, and chef is here to guide you in living your best life even with CKD. To set you on the right path to renal dieting, we’ve compiled a list of delicious and easy-to-prepare kidney-friendly recipes you can try today.
Scroll down to get your FREE Kidney-friendly Food List eBook!
Chronic Kidney Disease Basics
A Guide to Understanding Your Chronic Kidney Disease
Exercise Therapy Improves eGFR, and Reduces Blood Pressure and BMI in Non-Dialysis CKD Patients: Evidence From a Meta-Analysis
New to Kidney Disease? Nine Things You Should Do
Understanding Your Lab Values