Living with Renal Failure: Life Goes on.
Kidney disease has become a serious issue in the United States with several conditions causing kidney function loss in more than 26 million adults, which causes them to suffer from chronic kidney disease. The most common condition is type 2 diabetes, however cardiovascular disease is also a known culprit. Sometimes old age is the reason behind the illness, but other times, genetics are to blame. Whatever the underlying reason may be, once kidney function deteriorates to the point where they can no longer remove enough toxins from a person’s blood, the individual develops end-stage renal disease and must start dialysis.
Dialysis does the work that the kidneys can no longer perform. Unless a patient receives a kidney transplant, he or she will stay on dialysis indefinitely. Patients who are on dialysis need to restrict certain dietary nutrients to maintain their health, renal diets can be incredibly challenging for patients. Living with chronic kidney disease means changing many of the basic thoughts one might have about food and nutrition.
To help you stay as healthy as possible, patients should start to think differently about what they eat and drink on a daily basis. This will help prevent any further possible diseases, and the good news is that “different” doesn’t have to be intimidating. Taking control of what patients eats, and how much they eat can really impact their overall health. The most common question that most individuals beginning dialysis ask is, ‘ What I can eat.’ For this reason, finding ways to stick to a diet without robbing it of flavor is a critical concern but easier said than done. Due to increased thirst and fluid retention in individuals with kidney disease, salt needs to be eliminated from renal diets to the greatest extent possible. What a patient should eat (and how much) depends on how well their kidneys operate.
Foods that contain phosphates, like nuts, beans, dairy products, and colas, are problematic. Lean cuts of meat are also preferred because excess fat can lead to cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 killer of patients on dialysis. Adding to the difficulty, many food manufacturers add phosphates to their products for longevity and to extend shelf life. An excess amount of phosphates in the blood can affect bone and heart health – particularly for those who rely on dialysis. When the kidneys can no longer keep phosphorus at the right level, it builds up. At this point, phosphorus becomes harmful to the body; and high-phosphorus levels cause an increased risk of a hip fracture, a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and puts calcification at a high risk for organ calcification.
Dialysis patients need to eat about 1.5 times the amount of protein that a person without diet restrictions would need as well as additional calories. Protein is an important building block for the body. However, it creates a waste product called urea. When a patient suffers from chronic kidney disease their body doesn’t remove urea very well—so they can feel tired, as well as lose their appetite. When kidney function is less than 25%, or stage 4, individuals may be told to cut back on red meat, poultry, fish and dairy, since they contain high levels of protein. However, be mindful that protein is still essential for all body functions; it’s just a matter of portion control.
As Americans we love salt, and it’s added to so many foods that we wouldn’t expect. With chronic kidney disease, patients must pass salt by. Fast food and prepared foods are loaded with it. While these foods are cheap and tasty, when someone has chronic kidney disease, salt is not their friend. Salt is mostly sodium, and a patient on dialysis has trouble keeping their sodium and water in balance. That can mean feeling thirsty, fluid weight gain, and high blood pressure. The average American consumes 3,400 mg of sodium a day; and the recommended daily allowance is 1,500 mg for adults over 50, all African Americans and/or people with chronic kidney disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. Cook with herbs and spices for flavor instead of salt. Believe it or not, the less salt you use, the less you will crave. Some people don’t even miss it after a while—or they notice many prepared or restaurant dishes are too salty to enjoy. Look at food labels for sodium. Some foods may not taste salty, but still contain a lot of salt. Cut back on convenience foods and prepackaged or frozen meals. They’re salt central.
Holidays are a time to enjoy family, friends—and food. It’s okay to indulge a bit as long as it’s in a kidney-healthy way. Holidays can also be a particularly stressful time of year, so it’s a good idea not to stray from healthy eating habits and routines. Family and friends will lovingly offer food, so patient must stay strong knowing their taking care of themselves. Moderately drinking of alcohol—wine is the safest bet. Beer is high in phosphorus and mixed drinks are generally high in sugar. People with diabetes, should never drink on an empty stomach. That can lead to dangerously low blood-sugar levels as their liver works to remove alcohol instead of regulating their blood sugar. Patients should aim for an assortment of colors on their holiday plate. A colorful plate can help balance nutrients. A mix of crispy and crunchy with smooth and creamy can help avoid too many fried foods, potatoes, rice or dairy. Choosing foods that complement each other, like sweet, tart, and savory. Variety can help balance nutrients like protein, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and carbohydrates. Dialysis patients should avoid overfilling their plate by leaving some space between foods. Eating to excess will not only makes them feel stuffed, but can lead to dangerous blood levels of potassium and phosphorus; too much sodium will make the individual thirstier.
If it seems hard to know exactly what to eat, you’re not alone. At Gourmet Services we know that beginning dialysis can be daunting and everyone starts off with questions about what’s okay for meals and how much they can have. The goal of all these tools is to provide patients and their families with as much information as possible to improve their quality of life. Starting dialysis can be overwhelming, and the associated food restrictions can be especially difficult to understand as well as implement. Dialysis treatments can be difficult for patients and sometimes they need to know that, outside of dialysis, they can still enjoy life.