Your kidneys are powerful filtration systems that remove toxins from your blood to keep you healthy. And many of those waste products your kidneys filter out come from the foods you eat. Consuming certain things creates more waste that your kidneys have to work harder to remove, which can put unnecessary stress on them — something you don’t want to do when you’re living with kidney disease. Watching what you eat and drink is important for overall health, but it’s especially essential to know the right things to eat (and avoid) when your kidney function is impaired. Learn more about the basics of a kidney-friendly diet that can help protect your kidneys from more damage.
The Role of Minerals
When we first start learning about nutrition — and just about every time we research it throughout our lives — we’re always told how important it is to get vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat. While that is true, it applies in a different way for people with kidney disease. When you digest food, minerals, other nutrients and water go into your bloodstream so your body can use them in the ways it needs to. If there are excess amounts of these substances, they remain in your blood and your kidneys filter them out, eventually excreting them as waste through your urine.
However, when you have kidney disease, it means these organs are damaged and are not as efficient at removing waste products from your blood. This can cause those toxins to build up in your blood instead of leaving your body like they need to do, which can create a wide range of other health issues. In particular, two minerals — potassium and phosphorus — tend to build up in the blood of people with kidney disease. Potassium is essential for helping your muscles and nerves work properly, but if much more of it than you need builds up in your body, it can cause weakness and cramps and keep your heart from beating normally. Phosphorus works with calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone health, but too much of it can actually weaken your bones and cause them to break more easily.
When you have kidney disease, it’s critical to work with your doctor to manage your intake of these minerals. Your physician may want you to limit your consumption of foods that can elevate your potassium and phosphorus levels so that your kidneys don’t need to work as hard at removing the minerals from your blood. One of the main roles your kidneys play is maintaining the proper balance of fluids, nutrients and minerals in your blood, but when their ability to do that is impaired due to damage, you may need to take over doing some of that work by making different diet choices.