Your kidneys filter your blood to remove wastes and prevent dangerous toxins from building up in your body. Certain diseases damage the kidneys over time, including high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes and autoimmune disorders. Keeping your kidneys healthy involves managing all potentially harmful diseases and maintaining a healthy diet that promotes proper functioning.
Protein breakdown, from either dietary intake or muscles, creates a byproduct called urea. Too much urea in the blood makes you feel sick and disrupts kidney function, according to the Medical College of Wisconsin Division of Nephrology. If you already have early stage kidney disease, your physician may prescribe a low-protein diet. Replace high-protein foods, such as meat, eggs and dairy products, with low-protein beans, grains and vegetables.
Your body needs sodium for many physiological processes, but too much sodium in the blood makes you retain extra fluid. Too much fluid in your system raises blood pressure and forces your kidneys to work harder. The National Kidney Disease Education Program notes that most of the sodium in American diets comes from packaged and take-out foods. To decrease your sodium intake, look for food labels that say sodium or salt free; reduced, low or very low sodium; unsalted; lightly salted; or no salt added. Eat fresh foods as often as possible, and rinse canned vegetables, fish, beans and meats before eating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that people with kidney disease limit their daily sodium intake to 1,500 milligrams.
Potassium keeps your muscles functioning properly, including your heart. However, the mineral has a very low blood concentration limit that your kidneys closely maintain; too much potassium in your blood from failing kidneys can cause an irregular heartbeat or stop its beating altogether, according to the Medical College of Wisconsin. You can decrease the risk of a dangerous rise in potassium by limiting your intake of high-potassium foods, including citrus fruits, bananas, chocolate, potatoes, cantaloupe, salt substitutes, dried fruits and bran products. Choose apples, grapes, pears, cucumbers, onions, rice, cranberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, peppers and zucchini instead.
Phosphorus and calcium work together to maintain strong bones. Your body also needs calcium in the blood for efficient muscle function. Their blood concentrations inversely balance; the more phosphorus you have, the less calcium you have in the blood, and vice versa. Kidney damage allows phosphorus to build up in the blood, causing calcium levels to drop. In order to preserve muscle activity, your body starts pulling calcium from bones, which weakens them and can lead to osteoporosis. To prevent weak and brittle bones, decrease high-phosphorus foods, such as cola drinks, milk, yogurt, hard cheese, sardines, chicken and beef liver. Soft cheeses, such as cream cheese and brie, most fruits and vegetables, sherbet and non-cola sodas contain very little phosphorus.
People with advanced kidney disease typically need extra iron in their diets, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Many of the best sources of iron, such as meats, poultry and liver, are foods those with kidney disease should limit. Choose beans, iron-fortified cereals and supplements to increase your iron intake.
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: The Kidneys and How They Work
- Wisconsin Medical College Division of Nephrology: Diet for Renal Patient
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Diet -- Chronic Kidney Disease
- National Kidney Disease Education Program: Eating Right for Kidney Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Most Americans Should Consume Less Sodium
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
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