Friday, September 25, 2015

The Kidney Kitchen: You Want Me To Follow What Kind of Diet?

 Welcome to the first part of my five-part series on the renal diet that I follow.  I wanted to share some insight on one of the biggest ways that kidney disease affects my everyday life, and how I still manage to eat like a king on a renal diet.  **Please note that these posts are based on information I was given for my particular situation.  This information may not be appropriate for you, and you should always consult your own doctor about your particular situation.
 So... what the heck is a renal diet, anyway? In the simplest sense, it's a diet designed to help reduce the workload on failing kidneys while still allowing the person to maintain proper nutrition. You've all taken health class, and know about Canada's Food Guide and the four food groups and how proper nutrition is essential for helping us to stay healthy.  But what you may not know is that there are a lot of foods that, while they are considered healthy by Canada's Food Guide standards, may not be that good for kidney patients. As an example, consider that milk you poured on your breakfast cereal this morning.  Milk is considered to be very good for you.  It's full of calcium, potassium, phosphorous and protein and lots of vitamins.  Many Canadians (if not, most Canadians) do not consume enough milk products.  However, all of those good things that milk has in it may not be so good for someone whose kidneys don't work properly.  Milk and diary products are something that is commonly limited on a renal diet (more about this below).
  To really understand what the renal diet is trying to accomplish, you have to first understand what it is that your kidneys do.  Your kidneys perform 3 essential tasks:
  - they regulate the amount of water in your body
  - they remove wastes and excess minerals from the body
  - they produce hormones
When kidney function decreases, the kidneys are unable to perform these tasks as efficiently as they could before.  That's where the renal diet can help.  Following a renal diet can also help alleviate some of the symptoms of kidney failure. However following a renal diet can be very complicated, particularly if you have other health concerns that require a special diet, such as diabetes or food allergies.
  So that brings us back to the renal diet. Let me start by saying that there is no one renal diet. This is not a "one size fits all" type of deal. The dietary restrictions vary based on the individual and factors such as what stage of kidney failure they're in and what their lab results show. In my case, I have to control my intake of sodium, potassium, phosphorous and protein. I call it my "Low S3P diet".  Now that I am on dialysis, I also need to reduce the amount of fluid I consume, but that's a topic for another post.
  Let's look again at that milk.  Milk contains potassium, phosphorous and and protein - the 3 P's.  I can still have milk and dairy products, but I need to really limit how much I eat or drink.  (In case you're wondering, I'm allowed two 1/2 cup servings of things like milk and yogurt, or 1 oz. of hard cheese every day.)  As a result, I've been looking for products that I can have in place of milk and dairy.  Instead of white milk, I use unfortified rice milk.  Instead of ice cream, I've just discovered the most awesome triple berry sorbet (made by Chapman's - a Canadian company!).  And there is a dairy and soy-free cheese product that I want to try.  You can see five of my favourite kidney-friendly foods to cook with in this post here.
  After reading all this, you might be wondering how on earth I manage to figure out what I can and can't eat.  The most valuable resource I have is the renal dietitians at the hospital.  They can best help me figure out what I should and should not eat.  There are also lots of great resources online; I've created a list in the left sidebar of some of my favourites.  Feel free to check them out for some great kidney-friendly recipes, and don't be afraid to try some of them yourself!  Finally, I use the nutrition facts table and ingredient lists on packaged foods.  I know what I can and can't eat, and this information helps me figure out whether the item is something falls within my diet.  It's important to use both because manufacturers are not required to list potassium and phosphorous content in the nutrition facts table.  By looking at the ingredient list, you can easily see if the food contains potassium or phosphorous additives.
  If you're still reading this, thank you! I realize this is a lot of information to get through.  But I appreciate you taking the time to learn more about my diet.  In the next part of the series, I will be taking a detailed look at potassium and sharing a recipe I created.

  Until next time,


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