It’s easy to forget about kidney health, but these two bean-shaped organs are extremely important to your overall health, and are responsible for maintaining a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in your blood, as well as filtering out harmful waste and toxins. When the kidneys are not working properly, an individual may experience a number of symptoms, ranging from high blood pressure and lethargy to persistent headaches, facial swelling, and lower back pain.
On Meatless Monday, the team spoke with Gail Torres, MS, RD, RN, senior clinical communications director for the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) to better understand why more Americans are developing chronic kidney disease (CKD), and how individuals can reduce their risk. To develop the disease by making some small changes in lifestyle. Answers have been edited for clarity.
Related: #1 Best Food for Your Kidneys, Says a Dietitian
What is chronic kidney disease and why is it increasing in the United States?
CKD stands for Chronic Kidney Disease, which means that there is a problem with the kidneys for three months or more that can damage the kidneys and lead to a gradual loss of kidney function. Kidney damage reduces the kidneys’ ability to filter waste products, fluids, and toxins from the blood, while also impairing other kidney functions that cause high blood pressure, anemia, bone disease, poor health, and nerve damage. Chronic kidney disease also increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
According to the 2021 Annual Data Report of the US Kidney Data System, increased rates of risk factors that can lead to chronic kidney disease, including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, are contributing to its continuing prevalence. The report stresses that factors such as a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet may contribute to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which eventually lead to chronic kidney disease.
Why may people with the disease not know that they have it?
Chronic kidney disease is known as the “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms until it is very advanced. In fact, of the 37 million adults in the United States with chronic kidney disease, 9 out of 10 don’t even know they have it because they don’t feel sick. This is why it is so important to have your kidney numbers checked regularly. These simple tests are essential to detect chronic kidney disease early when there are no symptoms, and treatment can be started in time soon enough to prevent further kidney damage. To learn more about the CKD test, click here: https://www.kidney.org/kidney-basics
What are the symptoms?
As chronic kidney disease progresses to an advanced stage, symptoms may include:
- increased fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- poor appetite
- Vomiting and nausea
- sleep problems
- muscle cramps
- urinating more or less than usual
- Swollen feet and ankles
How should people eat to reduce their risk of developing chronic kidney disease?
Low-salt and low-sodium diets that focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, monounsaturated and monounsaturated fats, low-fat/low-sugar dairy products, lean meats, and fish with omega-3 fatty acids Dietary approaches include the Diet to Stop Hypertension ( DASH) and the Mediterranean diet, both of which are associated with a lower risk of chronic kidney disease.
These unprocessed, whole-food, plant-based diets may help lower the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and therefore CKD, while helping to maintain a healthy weight, which is also linked to a lower risk of chronic kidney disease. Plant-based diets with few animal products have lower net production of acids, which may provide a healthy environment for the kidneys, especially for those prone to kidney stones and gout, two risk factors for chronic kidney disease.
What are the best food options for kidney health that should be included in an individual’s diet?
The Renal Nutrition Council of the National Kidney Foundation (CRN) has compiled a list of foods that are a good place to start, while also recognizing that complete prevention or management of kidney disease by eating certain foods is attractive, the reality is not that simple. While some foods are definitely more nutritious than others, no food is a panacea for good health. You can find lots of tips on meatless meals from Meatless Monday and the National Kidney Foundation.
CRN’s menu includes the following foods:
- Root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnips)
- Nuts and seeds
- all grains
- leafy vegetables
- An apple
Interested in learning more about the health benefits of eating plant-based? Check out Meatless Monday for recipes, cooking tips, and additional resources focused on incorporating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains into your diet.
Monday without meat
Meat-Free Monday is a global movement that encourages people to reduce meat in their diet for the sake of their health and the health of the planet. Read more