A focus on food can help you manage your kidney disease

As a nephrologist, food lover, cook and Kidney Kitchen® contributor, I can tell you with certainty that choosing the right foods can make a big difference in your overall kidney health. And, if you are anything like the patients I see in my office, you probably want to do everything in your power to protect your kidneys and prevent the need for dialysis or kidney transplantation.

Here are the top ways that a focus on food can help you better manage your kidney disease:

Improved blood sugar control

Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney disease, and the foods you eat are directly related to how well you maintain your blood sugar. We also know from multiple studies that improved blood sugar control is associated with better long-term kidney outcomes. That means the more you eat in a manner that keeps your blood sugar at the level your doctor has recommended, the lower your risk of developing kidney failure.

Lower blood pressure

Kidney disease leads to high blood pressure, and high blood pressure leads to kidney disease. In fact, it is the number two cause of kidney disease. It can be a vicious cycle, but by eating lower sodium foods, loading up on fruits and vegetables and maintaining a healthy weight through portion control and better eating habits, you can bring down your blood pressure and help your kidneys.

Delayed dialysis

By understanding what foods to avoid and what foods to eat more of, you may be able to slow the progression of your kidney disease and postpone the need for dialysis. Ask your doctor to refer you to a renal dietitian, who will work with you to come up with a food and fluid plan that will help you manage important nutrients for people living with kidney disease, like sodium, potassium, phosphorus and protein.

Fewer medicines

If you have kidney disease, you likely take a lot of medicines to help manage your disease and any other conditions you may have. These medicines are vital for your health, and you will likely need to take most of them even if you eat kidney-friendly foods. However, by making small changes in your routine, like cooking at home more often, eating out less frequently and managing your diabetes and weight, you may be able to lower the doses of these medicines, or even give up some of them completely.

Quicker access to a kidney transplant

For many people with kidney failure, the best treatment option is a kidney transplant. Unfortunately, many transplant centers have a weight limit for becoming actively listed for a transplant. That means you need to be under a certain weight, or body mass index (BMI) to be listed. If you are able to manage your weight through eating healthy foods, you may be able to get listed for a transplant more quickly.

More control over your kidney health

Kidney disease can feel relentless, burdensome and out of your control. Though this struggle is often difficult to overcome, it doesn’t have to feel this way all of the time! By understanding how food can improve your kidney health, you can take some control back. There are things you can do every day with food to manage your kidney disease.

Better tasting food

I know it sounds impossible, but food can be both good for your kidneys and taste good. In fact, I tell people who see me in my office that it’s much easier to follow a healthy, kidney-friendly food and fluid plan when you enjoy the taste of what you’re eating and drinking. Learning to season foods without salt, understanding cooking techniques and attending a class to learn a few cooking skills can allow you to satisfy your kidney health and your taste buds all in the same meal. Check out my Kidney Kitchen recipes for some inspiration to get you started!

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About the Author(s)

Dr. Blake Shusterman

Dr. Blake Shusterman is a Greenville, South Carolina-based nephrologist and cooking enthusiast with a passion for helping his patients enjoy healthy, kidney-friendly foods. Dr. Blake, as he is known by his patients, is a contributor to AKF’s Kidney Kitchen®, the author of The Cooking Doc’s Kidney-Friendly Cooking cookbook and the creator of The Cooking Doc®, a popular online cooking show and educational site dedicated to helping people manage their kidney disease through delicious meals. You can watch Dr. Blake’s AKF webinar, The Cooking Doc: Potassium Friendly Cooking Demonstration, for free at your convenience at KidneyFund.org/webinars.

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