Have you ever played chess before?
One of our RenalTracker members used to play chess in University and she used to tell us how interested she was in signing up. But later on, she got scared because she had no clue how to play the game, what the rules are, and was too shy to ask help from the chess club.
But when her dad visited her in the city and told him about what happened, her dad explained everything to her. From there, she was able to ask questions, learned different strategies, and came up with a perfect game plan.
I’m sure you’ve been there before as well?
When you know what you’re supposed to do but completely have no idea how to do it, where to start, and who to ask help from?
Well, I had a patient named Carol, who too was in that situation.
The doctor got her routine blood analysis reports but never really discussed what it meant or how it would affect her. Only to find out later on, she has CKD Stage 4.
Now…before this happened, she used to ground her own wheat and other grains to make her own bread, crackers, and other baked goods. She also grew her own fruits and vegetables in her own backyard. So you can say that she tried to eat healthy most of her life.
You can only imagine how shocked she was when she found out about her diagnosis. She started to have certain feelings that were hard to make out, had a lot of questions, and also didn’t know what to do.
The doctor started explaining to her about how she should only eat a hand-sized piece of meat and occasionally threw the word “dialysis” into the conversation. It definitely shook her up even more.
She was too afraid to eat almost anything because she didn’t know what the right foods were for her.
It put Carol in a rather distressed state.
So, she started searching for answers on the internet and looked up anything kidney related.
With all the possible areas to begin the process, she was left confused and started to panic even more.
Luckily, she found what she was looking for here at RenalTracker ―a kidney disease diet.
And that’s where she found me.
She was relieved when I explained to her that a kidney diet was not only a great start to a healthier kidney, but lessens the chances of it getting worse.
I then told her how she should go about the process of changing her lifestyle.
And you know what happened to her?
I’ll tell you a little bit about that later but for now, I will tell you exactly what I told Carol when she started her journey to a healthier lifestyle, the right way.
Carol struggled the first few weeks but eventually, she started to get used to it. And I know that you will too.
The difference between a regular diet and a kidney-friendly one is that a kidney-friendly diet has more restrictions and diet meal plans need to be stricter especially when it comes to minerals needed for the body.
As your kidneys may get worse, you have to limit your Potassium, Phosphorus, Sodium, and Fluids. One of kidney functions is to make sure all minerals and fluids are balanced. If not, it causes build up in the body.
This build up may cause complications in the heart, bone, and other health problems. But don’t worry, a kidney-friendly meal plan can prevent all of these from happening.
I know what you’re thinking… “What am I supposed to eat then?”
I’m not saying you can’t eat anything, you still can but the recipes or ingredients need better alternatives that are safe for your kidneys.
But before we go there, here are some tips on how to keep your nutrients under control:
Potassium can be found in most foods. But we still need it to make the muscles work.
The difficult part about it is that when the kidneys aren’t working well as they used to, your potassium level may be too high or too low. Having both can cause problems like muscle cramps, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeats.
Here are a few helpful steps to keep your potassium level in check:
Watch portion sizes of fruits and vegetables.
Rinse canned fruits and vegetables.
Replace dairy products with substitutes.
As much as possible, avoid salt substitutes.
Leach your vegetables.
If you do all these, you can help balance your potassium level.
Sodium helps control the fluid content of your tissues and cells.
Too much salt in the body leads to high blood pressure and potential heart failure. No matter what stage you’re in, it is still best to limit your sodium intake to avoid possible problems.
Here is how you help manage your sodium intake:
Keep a food journal and make sure you record what you have eaten. Also weigh yourself once a week and record it as well.
Limit your intake on processed foods.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables instead of crackers or other salty snacks.
Avoid adding additional salt to your meals and choose alternatives that are low in sodium like spices and herbs.
Also, when grocery shopping, avoid salt substitutes that are “low in salt” or “reduced” because more often than not, they are high in potassium.
With Calcium and Vitamin D, they work together to keep the bones healthy.
When phosphorus builds up in the body, it results in weak bones. Weak bones mean it can break easily.
What you need to do is to limit the amount of dairy foods that contain large amounts of phosphorus like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Instead, you can use margarine, butter, cream cheese, and etc.
Too much fluid inside the body causes high blood pressure, swelling, and even heart failure. If there is extra fluid, it can also build up around your lungs which can make it harder for you to breathe. And honestly, we’d want to avoid everything as much as possible.
If the doctor needs you to limit your fluids, you can measure it and drink from a small cup which makes it easier to keep track of how much you’ve had to drink. You can help limit your fluids by limiting your sodium. But if ever you do feel thirsty, you can do the following:
- Chew gum.
- Rinse your mouth.
- Suck on a piece of ice, mints, even hard candy.
Since you can do these to keep your overall minerals balanced, you still need to know how to eat your meals the right way…
For this next part, I want you to take down notes because this is how you can successful start a kidney disease diet:
1. CONTROL YOUR PORTIONS
This illustration is your guide in controlling your portions. These are all recommended servings that will help your kidneys gradually improve in no time! All you have to do is make sure that you don’t go beyond what is recommended in the illustration. If you start now, you’ll start seeing results a day earlier than starting tomorrow.
Not only will this improve your kidneys, but in a few weeks, you can see your weight drop too! Wouldn’t that make your diet more fulfilling?
Furthermore, you should start getting rid of the foods that are simply unhealthy like junk food, cookies, chocolate, and etc. You will feel a lot better about yourself if you do this.
2. READ FOOD LABELS
Some people often neglect this little tool. But what they don’t know is that this can help you choose healthier and aim for a more kidney-friendly food. However, you need to consult your dietitian in order to check what your limitations are in certain nutrients. Once you have, you can go grocery shopping!
Here are 5 simple steps on how to read food labels:
1. Look at the serving size
This is where you can compare the serving sizes to the amount that you actually eat. If you find yourself with the same serving size in the label, you can get the amount of calories and nutrients listed in the label.
2. Look at the calories
Calories can help you see how much energy you can get from one serving of the packaged food.
3. Look at the Percent Daily Value
The % Daily Value tells you if there is little or too much nutrient in one serving. You can use this percentage to compare the nutrient content of various foods.
> 5% DV or less is little and > 15% or more is a lot
4. Try to get more of these nutrients
- Vitamin A/C
5. Try to get less of these nutrients
- Saturated Fat
- Trans Fat
3. KEEP TRACK OF WHAT YOU EAT
If you keep track of what you have eaten in a food journal, you can learn to control your calories; you can take note of the breakdown of your protein, carbohydrates, fat, and etc. Through your food journal, you would know where you are in your diet and how you are doing. It is also easier for your doctor to see the results or progress of your diet.
I know that’s a lot to take in just one day, but I just want to let you know that if you discipline yourselves well enough to improve your kidneys, you may end up like my patient Carol.
Speaking of, starting was definitely a struggle and a challenge, but eventually when she understood how important this was for her, everything else followed. She got used to it and got this, she loves it!
After 10 months, she maintained her diet, lost so much weight, and her kidney lab numbers are back to normal. Carol now worries less because she knows she’s doing it right.
It wasn't easy…but it started with a choice.
Have you made yours yet?
Here’s what you can do starting today:
If you want to learn more about more about today's blog post you can click here to get started.