It’s easy not to think about kidney health, but these two bean-shaped paired organs are incredibly important for overall health. They are responsible for maintaining a normal balance of water, salts and minerals in the blood, as well as for removing metabolic products and toxins from the body. When kidney function is impaired, a person may experience a range of symptoms, ranging from high blood pressure and lethargy to persistent headaches, swelling of the face, and lower back pain.
In an effort to understand why Americans are increasingly developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) and how the risk of developing the disease can be reduced with just a few lifestyle changes, a group from the international Meatless Monday movement spoke with an expert. Their interlocutor was Gail Torres, a registered dietitian-nutritionist, deputy director of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) for public relations. For better understanding, her answers have been edited.
CKD stands for chronic kidney disease, which means having problems with the kidneys for three months or longer, which can lead to damage and gradual loss of function in these organs. As a result of damage to the kidneys, their ability to remove metabolic waste, fluid and toxins from the blood is reduced, and other functions are affected, causing high blood pressure, anemia, bone disease, malnutrition and nerve damage. CKD also contributes to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
According to the 2021 annual report based on the US Kidney Disease Database, the prevalence of chronic kidney disease is driven by rising risk factors that can lead to its development, such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. The authors of the report emphasize that factors such as sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition may contribute to an increase in obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, which ultimately lead to the development of CKD.
– CKD is called the “silent killer” because often its symptoms appear only at a late stage. In principle, 90% of the 37 million US adults with CKD are not even aware of their condition because they do not feel sick. Therefore, it is very important to regularly check the indicators of kidney activity. These simple tests are critical for detecting CKD at an early stage when there are no symptoms. At the same time, timely treatment can be started fairly quickly to prevent further damage to the kidneys.
As the disease progresses to an advanced stage, the following symptoms may appear:
— The Hypertension Control Diet (DASH) and the Mediterranean diet are low salt and sodium diets that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, unsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and low dairy products. fat/sugar, lean meat and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. They are associated with a reduced risk of developing CKD.
These diets include uncooked, whole foods, and plant-based foods, and may help reduce the risk of diabetes and hypertension, and therefore CKD. In doing so, they help maintain a normal weight, which is also associated with a reduced risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Plant-based diets low in animal products reduce acid production overall, which can provide a healthier environment for the kidneys, especially in those prone to kidney stones and gout, two risk factors for developing CKD.
“The NKF Board of Nutrition for Kidney Disease has compiled a list of foods to start with. The organization recognizes that while complete prevention or treatment through the use of certain products is an attractive method, in reality it is not so simple. While some foods are certainly more nutritious than others, no food can do wonders for health. There are plenty of recommendations for meat-free meals from the Meatless Monday movement and the National Kidney Foundation.
Below is a list of what should be included in the CKD diet: