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Chronic Kidney Disease(CKD)

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5 Myths about Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) You MUST Know

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
3
November 16, 2021

Kidney disease is quite common in the United States. In fact, kidney disease affects approximately 15% of adults in the country. However, kidney disease doesn’t usually show symptoms, so 90% of people don’t even know they have it. Although people may not talk so much about remedies for the kidneys, when researching, you may come across some false statements, and unproven remedies. Below are 5 things to watch out for:

Myth #1: Kidney Disease is caused by eating too much protein

False. There are many causes of kidney disease, but as far as the science tells us, eating a lot of protein will not cause kidney disease.

Kidney disease is more common in adults over the age of 65, but also occurs in younger populations, too. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of CKD. However, heart disease, obesity, family history, and past kidney damage will also increase risk of losing kidney function.

Myth #2: Kidney disease doesn’t cause any other diseases or complications

False. Kidney disease primarily increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. But it is also linked to anemia, arrhythmia, weakened bones, loss of appetite, and fluid retention (leading to leg swelling and hypertension).

Myth #3: Once you lose kidney function, you never get it back.

This is false! Proper nutrition is a key factor in managing kidney disease. But notably, protecting your kidneys and improving their function depends heavily on the original causes of kidney disease. There are a few medications used to treat other conditions that may also help protect the kidneys. The main factors that worsen your kidney disease risks are diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and a variety of other issues, such as chronic inflammation and metabolic acidosis.

Myth #4: Dietary changes won’t make a difference in improving my kidney function

Definitely false. Depending on underlying factors that may worsen your CKD risks, making dietary changes that align with those underlying factors will play an important role in slowing or stopping kidney disease from getting worse.

Currently, only 10% of patients with kidney disease see a Dietitian before reaching ‘end-stage’ kidney failure and requiring dialysis. Several different diet types have potential to help protect the kidneys from decline. Among these are the DASH diet, Mediterranean-style diets, and vegetarian/vegan, or plant-based diets.There’s no conclusive evidence that one diet is better than another, but all diet patterns seem to emphasize the importance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-processed foods, and low-sodium foods. Better for you to follow at the earlier stages, these diets are still high in phosphorous and potassium, which may not be good for people at stage 4 or 5 kidney disease.

(See other research articles here regarding CKD and diet: general diet and CKD, mediterranean diets and CKD, plant based diets and CKD)

Myth #5: I need to avoid all foods with potassium and phosphorous when I have kidney disease

False. Though the list of foods to limit are quite long, following a renal diet that restricts these may be excessive. The need to restrict potassium and phosphorous depends on your blood test results. If the kidneys lose their ability to clear extra potassium and phosphorous, these can build up in the blood, leading to muscle weakness, hypertension, bone disorders, and problems with processing of other minerals. Always consult with a dietitian and your doctor  before restricting foods, since over-restricting may mean that you lose out on plenty of beneficial plant foods that also boost alkalinity.

Takeaways

Remember, that if you have some stage of kidney disease, chances are high that someone else that you know may have it, too. Try to guide them through the rumors and education them on the facts in this article. Some basic takeaways to guide you on your journey:

  1. Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables helps with kidney function
  2. Diets should be adjusted in a Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) session with a Dietitian to determine if diet restrictions are necessary.
  3. Kidney disease progression and complications may be abated by living a healthful lifestyle

And remember- kidney disease is silent and asymptomatic. If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, or Diabetes, get your bloodwork checked regularly. Routine lab orders almost always contain basic kidney function tests - ask your doctor to discuss these with you.