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How to manage your diet for a pair of healthy kidneys

How to manage your diet for a pair of healthy kidneys

To keep the kidneys healthy, focus on a diet that is low in sodium and potassium. However, experts suggest that it is important to consume superior quality protein alongside
foods inside kidney representation
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Sreeja Basu, a 22-year-old graduate from Bengaluru, fainted on the kitchen floor and was rushed to hospital with a fever touching 104 degrees. Her pale face indicated she was dehydrated. She was immediately put on IV (intravenous fluid) drips. A plethora of tests followed, which revealed that she had upper urinary tract and kidney infections.

“I had compromised on both water and food during my semester exams. I had also ignored the early symptoms of weakness and upset stomach, which aggravated my condition,” recalls Basu, two weeks after she recovered.

The good news, however, is that our kidneys are easier to take care of than one would imagine. As long as we drink enough water, eat healthy and stay moderately active, our kidneys will work well. “Eating on time, taking ample rest and drinking plenty of fluids has helped regain my lost strength and stamina,” says Basu.

The kidneys play a key role in filtering out the toxins from our body. Removing unwanted substances and reabsorbing important ones, they maintain homeostasis (total fluid balance in our body) that plays a major role in keeping us alive. However, the delicate functioning of the kidneys can be severely affected by our lifestyle choices.

Lifestyle factors that affect your kidney health

A study published in the peer reviewed journal, Frontier’s in Genetics, states that genetic predisposition increases your risk of developing kidney disease by 30 to 70 per cent. Additionally, Vaishali Marathe, Chief Dietician at Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital Pune, Maharastra says, “Irregular sleep, irregular food intake, lack of exercise, excessive consumption of junk, packaged and non-vegetarian foods, and excess intake of salt in our daily diet can make kidney diseases surface faster.”

While discussing lifestyle factors that can be detrimental to health, Dr Priyanka Rohtagi, Research Consultant, Lifestyle medicine coach and print media columnist at Apollo hospitals, emphasises the importance of being in sync with our body’s circadian rhythm. Deviating from the circadian rhythm for sleep (both quality and quantity), not getting enough hydration, indulging in cigarette and alcohol abuse, and over stressing — all of these lead to inflammation and pose a load on the kidneys, she says.

The heart and kidney connection

Health conditions such as heart diseases, high blood pressure, and diabetes can further affect the functioning of the kidneys.

Our heart health is closely related to the ability of our kidneys to filter out toxins. When the kidneys start to malfunction, our blood ends up with unfiltered water and unwanted minerals that lead back to the heart.

In a discussion on how the heart is connected to the kidneys, Dr Rohtagi says, “When the heart is no longer pumping efficiently it becomes congested with blood, causing pressure to build up in the main veins in the heart. These main veins are in turn connected to the kidneys leading to congestion of blood in the kidneys as well.”

Marathe adds, “Kidneys help to control blood pressure by removing water and salt from the blood. They also produce the hormone renin which helps in controlling blood pressure by keeping a sodium-potassium balance in the blood.” Moreover, they play a vital role in maintaining cardiac output and blood pressure by regulating the volume of the blood, he says.

Individuals who are diabetic need to be extra mindful of their diet and lifestyle. Elevated levels of blood sugar, if left uncontrolled, injure the small blood vessels throughout the body including the kidneys, rendering them ineffective.

Foods that are kind to your kidneys

Foods play a key role in maintaining the health of our kidneys. A 2021 study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, indicated that not taking adequate amounts of micronutrients as well as taking too much of micronutrients, are both associated with developing kidney diseases. It is, therefore, imperative that adequate amounts of all micronutrients should be taken via dietary modes to preserve the delicate functioning of the kidneys.

Our gut microbiota also protects the kidneys from infection and harm, which when altered, can lead to kidney diseases and infection. “Ultra-processed foods impact gut microbiome negatively which impacts our digestive health, in turn raising the risk for chronic kidney disease,” says Dr Rohtagi.

She adds that one needs to understand the importance of gut microbiome and not make changes in the portion sizes, especially proteins.

Discussing the effect of eating proteins for people with kidney diseases, she adds, “10-15 per cent of the total calories needs to be contributed by proteins, especially animal proteins. Soy chunks, pulses and millets are good sources of proteins for vegetarians.”

Marathe says that even people who have kidney problems should consume She adds, “Milk and milk product like curd, paneer, soyabean and soya paneer (tofu), egg white and chicken should be added in adequate amounts.”

Dr Rohtagi suggests eating low potassium and low sodium foods for better kidney health. Deriving these nutrients from natural sources like fruits and vegetables is a good way to go about it. Marathe also recommends low potassium fruits like papaya, apple, pear, guava, pineapple, and orange for those with kidney dysfunction.

While Rohtagi advises to stay away from pulses given that they are also rich sources of phosphorus, Marathe suggests soaking dal, pulses, and leafy vegetables in warm water to remove anti-nutrients like phytates and tannins before cooking.

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