How to Improve Kidney Disease Naturally

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive disease affecting the kidneys. 

It causes irreparable damage to the kidneys and affects some 30 million people in the United States.

This disease represents a public health issue due to its high prevalence and high impact on peoples morbidity and mortality levels [1,2].

As CKD progresses, especially in advanced stages, more kidney functions tend to become progressively inefficient, especially the incapacity to eliminate high amounts of sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and hydrogen ions [3] from the urine. Instead, the retention of these ions and water is observed.

The disease is often caused by several pre-existing problems like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood sugar. Additionally, the number of CKD cases is higher among older people and those with family members who suffer from the disease. [4]

This disease causes irreversible damage to the kidneys. However,  with an overall healthier lifestyle and a kidney-friendly diet, you can maintain kidney function and protect your kidneys from further damage [5]

What is a kidney-friendly diet?

A kidney-friendly diet aims to limit the consumption of certain foods to reduce the accumulation of metabolic byproducts. The limitation of certain foods also helps protect against hypertension, proteinuria, and other heart and bone health problems that may lead to chronic kidney disease.

Research shows that in patients with chronic kidney disease, a diet with non-monitored intake of calories, protein, sodium, and phosphates hastens and exacerbates clinical and metabolic alterations. [6]

Following a Kidney-Friendly Diet Substantially Improves Kidney Health

An ideal diet for people with CKD is the one that emphasizes low-salt, low-fat, low-potassium, low-protein, and low-phosphorus foods. You should also include foods that promote healthy blood sugar levels. [7, 8, 9]

Low-Salt Foods:

It is essential to consume low-salt foods because an excess of sodium and water is responsible for the onset of hypertension, edema, and heart failure as well as an increase in oxidative stress [10]:

Foods with added salts are best avoided. This includes most easy-to-prepare foods, fast foods, and prepared frozen meals. 

Additionally, you also want to avoid foods like salty snacks, hard cheeses, all processed foods, and canned vegetables and beans.

Low-Potassium Foods:

Low-potassium foods, including green beans, cabbage, carrots, apples, grapes, and strawberries. 

Low-Phosphorus Foods

High phosphorus foods cause hyperparathyroidism and calcification of the arteries and heart valves. Therefore high phosphorus foods lead to an increased risk of mortality from heart disease. It is crucial to avoid high phosphate foods that have “hidden” phosphates such as additives found in preserved foods or soft drinks. Low phosphorus foods are critical in reducing the progression of chronic kidney disease and overall health. Low phosphorus foods include foods of plant origin. Boiling food also lowers phosphorus levels.

Low-Protein Foods

High protein foods lower the capacity of the body to eliminate the acid load that comes from protein breakdown. This leads to an accumulation of acids leading to metabolic acidosis. [11] Metabolic acidosis stimulates muscle breakdown, demineralization of bones, and insulin resistance. Therefore low protein foods are vital in chronic kidney disease. Low-protein foods include vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain cereals. [12] Reduction in acid load obtained by following a vegetarian diet resulted in a 50% reduction in bicarbonate prescriptions [13] and improvement in insulin resistance in people with diabetes. [14] Although in the case of metabolic acidosis, which accelerates protein and muscle breakdown, regular protein intake is needed, however, protein should come from plant-based sources to prevent the worsening of the condition.

Foods That Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels 

As mentioned, a vegetarian diet helps support healthy blood sugar levels, especially a whole-food plant-based diet with plenty of complex carbohydrates that breakdown slowly. Complex carbohydrates include whole-wheat or pumpernickel bread, other whole grains, yams, oatmeal, most fruits (not fruit juices of any kind), nuts (non-roasted), sweet potatoes, most vegetables, and legumes of all sorts.

As high blood sugar can significantly exacerbate chronic kidney disease, you want to ensure you’re doing everything to manage your blood sugar levels:

Hydration:

It is also essential to stay hydrated by drinking clean water.

Eat Regularly:

In the case of chronic kidney disease, it is essential not to skip meals. Untreated chronic kidney disease leads to undernourishment due to loss of appetite and nausea.

You want to be regularly eating throughout the day, but to ensure you maintain your weight, you should focus on eating smaller portions more frequently throughout the day. Even a few nuts, seeds, or vegetable sticks can help you maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Exercise:

Exercise is of major benefit. Exercise helps in chronic disease prevention, as it improves blood pressure control, glucose and lipid metabolism, nutritional status, and endothelial function [15]. Being inactive is associated with an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. [16, 17, 18].

Exercise should be an integral part of treatment, especially in advanced stages of chronic kidney disease.

Walking is a great way to keep active without being too complicated. You just find some spare time and get up and go. 

It is crucial to keep active to reduce disease progression. Exercise also helps manage your stress levels. I recommend exercising for at least 30 minutes each day, or most days.

If you manage to make these lifestyle changes, you will make sure your kidneys continue to function, and the disease will not progress. What’s more, your overall well-being will improve and thus your quality of life.  

Other Lifestyle Habits:

Smoking and alcohol consumption is detrimental to chronic kidney disease. Avoid these unhealthy habits.

To Conclude:

A diet comprising many fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fiber with the reduction of red meat, sodium, and refined sugar intake is associated with lower mortality in people with kidney disease.

When exercise is added, helping to lower stress levels and a healthy weight, quality of life is regained, and disease progression is hindered. [9] 

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References:

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