Life Desk :
The kidneys are a pair of small bean shaped organs present on the either side of the spine just below the ribs, near the back. The main function of the kidneys is to work as a blood filter, thus eliminating extra fluids and waste from the body. This metabolic waste is eliminated through the urine.
A kidney disease can develop due to various reasons. However, it does not occur overnight but develops over a period of time and in stages. Kidney disease commonly goes unnoticed due to the slow occurrence of mild symptoms and is called as chronic kidney disease (CKD). Generally, both the kidneys are affected by the disease. Most patients do not show any symptoms in the initial stages, hence it is usually detected only when severe symptoms are visible in the advanced stages. The degeneration can be slowed down or controlled if detected early.
When kidneys are damaged, waste gets accumulated inside the body and can cause various problems like high blood pressure, low red blood cell count, swelling, weak bones and so on. When CKD advances or is left untreated, it can lead to kidney failure or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). The treatment for kidney failure is dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Anyone can suffer from kidney disease and at any age; however, the most common causes of chronic kidney disease are as follows:
Diabetes: In cases of uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes, chances of kidney problems are high. High sugar levels can also affect other organs like muscles, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, as well as kidneys.
High blood pressure: In people with very high blood pressure there are high chances of developing chronic kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke. Increasing age: Persons over the age of 60 years are at an increased risk of kidney damage.
Many other health conditions can harm the kidneys and trigger CKD.
Glomerulonephritis: an autoimmune disease that damages the kidney's filtering unit.
Inherited diseases: Diseases like polycystic kidneys cause cyst formation in the kidneys.
Urinary tract obstruction: Any blockage caused by kidney stones, abnormally shaped ureters, tumors and enlarged prostate gland in males.
Repeated Urinary Tract Infections.
Other risk factors include obesity, heart diseases, high cholesterol, and lupus disease. High risk groups include people over the age of 60 years with a family history of kidney disease and persons who have been taking medications for other diseases for a long period of time.
The key to prevent CKD is getting tested at regular intervals. If you have one or more risk factors mentioned above, get yourself tested as soon as you can. Most people with early stage kidney disease do not show any symptoms, but the following two simple tests can help to detect if any damage is occurring inside.
a) Routine Urine Test: Urine is tested for the presence of proteins to detect kidney function. Presence of protein in urine is called "albuminuria", which is suggestive of kidney's hampered filter mechanism.
b) Blood Tests: Blood is tested to detect creatinine levels. Creatinine is a waste product that comes from broken muscle tissue. When kidneys are damaged, they have trouble clearing creatinine from blood. The blood creatinine level is used to assess the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Your GFR value will help in assessing how well your kidneys are working. Below normal GFR levels indicate kidney damage that needs intervention. A GFR of less than 60 for three months indicates kidney damage
c) In addition to these tests, get your blood pressure and blood sugar levels checked at regular intervals of 3 months if you are diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes.
Follow a healthy lifestyle
Make sure to keep your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar under control by living a healthy lifestyle. If these triggering factors are under control, there are less chances of developing kidney problems in the future.
Reduce the intake of excess salt (less than 6 grams per day) and sugar.
Eat 5-7 portions each day of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
Maintain alcohol consumption to 1-2 times a week.
Exercise at least 30 minutes for 5 days a week. Be physically active everyday, for as long as you can.
Maintain a healthy weight for your height and age.
Foods you Should Avoid:
In order to control blood pressure, along with taking medication you are also advised to eat less salt. If you are diabetic, cut down on your sugar intake- cut down on high sugar foods like milkshakes, colas, frozen yogurt, etc.
The best way to prevent or slow kidney damage is to keep your blood sugar and cholesterol under control. One must avoid taking fatty and fried foods.
Some people with kidney disease have a mineral and bone disorder associated with it. Hence, it's recommended to avoid foods rich in calcium and phosphorus such as nuts, dairy, dried beans, seeds, and peas. Check with your doctor if you need to follow this.
Consult a dietitian specialized in kidney disease. The dietitian can help plan your meals so that you eat the right foods in appropriate amounts.
If you plan to eat out for dinner, plan your breakfast and lunch accordingly.
Consult your doctor for the amount of fluid you can have for the entire day. Two liters is a must have amount of fluids each day.
Grilled or boiled foods are good choices.
Have foods with high fiber content- raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, and less of processed foods. The more a food is processed, lesser its fiber content, higher is its sodium/sugar content.
Some easy tips to follow are to use lemon or vinegar or use little pepper to spice up food instead of using too much salt.
Avoid taking herbal supplements etc. which are used for body building without consulting a certified health expert first.
Consult your doctor before taking any medications, vitamins or supplements. Some over-the-counter drugs such as pain killers are known to have harmful effects on the kidney if consumed for a long period of time. Examples of pain killers are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Talk to your doctor if you have questions regarding their consumption.
Dyes used to make the blood vessels or organs visible on X-rays or other imaging tests can also damage the kidneys, talk to your healthcare provider before undergoing such tests.
The use of complementary and alternative medicine is growing at a remarkable speed. However, there isn't enough information available about herbs and dietary supplements use in kidney disease. These products may contain certain compounds that can be hazardous for the kidneys. Hence, it is recommended to consult your nephrologist (doctors specialized in kidney treatment) before taking any alternative medication.