Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long-term condition where the kidneys don’t work as well as they should. In some circumstances, the loss of kidney function can get progressively worse over time but CKD only reaches an advanced stage in a small proportion of people. Although the damage is irreparable, sometimes if changes are made, CKD can be halted with no further damage occurring.
Chronic Kidney disease (CKD) is divided into 5 stages.
Stage 1 is the earliest stage whereby tests have indicated some level of kidney damage. It is important not to ignore a stage 1 diagnosis as this is the time to take action and make lifestyle changes so that the condition does not worsen. With every increase in stage, more kidney damage has been detected up until the last stage, stage 5. Stage 5 means the kidneys have lost almost all their function and it will be time for thinking about dialysis or a transplant.
What to do if your recent blood test shows a reduced kidney function.
Don’t panic, absorb the diagnosis and understand this doesn’t definitively mean your kidneys will stop working altogether. CKD should not be ignored as it can get worse over time but with careful monitoring and management it can be maintained and you can live long fulfilling lives without being unduly affected by the condition.
It is important to review your lifestyle and in particular, your diet. With early stage CKD (stages 1-3) it is paramount to be as healthy as possible and have a healthy balanced diet.
What do I mean by a healthy balanced diet?
- Consistently eating freshly cooked food for every meal
- Limiting your intake of processed foods and avoid highly-processed foods
- Reducing your daily salt intake
- Having considered balanced meals – your lunch and dinner meals should contain proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables. Your portion size will depend on your weight and if you have diabetes
- Ensuring you have a minimum of 2-3 portions of fruits and vegetables each and every day
- Increasing your intake of plant based proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu, soya, seitan
- Drinking lots of water to remain well hydrated (ensure your urine runs clear)
- Being as active as physically possible for you
- Avoiding non-steroidal medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen etc.
What is a renal diet?
You may have heard of the term, renal diet. The term is used quite widely amongst those who have CKD, but personally, I am not a fan of this term. It doesn’t really mean much and can often be misused. People often think it means a diet of low protein, low salt, low potassium and low phosphate – which is pretty hard to do all at once and not always necessary.
People newly diagnosed with CKD in particular often restrict their diet in a panic unnecessarily and in combination with online resources not being clear enough, this can cause a lot of confusion.
My advice would be to seek guidance from someone like myself, a dietician who can look at your lifestyle and individual health and work out a personalised diet plan. This will be much more achievable and as well as not feeling so overwhelming, you’ll only have to limit the foods you absolutely need to.
How do you monitor CKD?
The best way to monitor CKD is to have regular tests, either blood or urine. How often you require testing will be dictated by the stage of CKD. Your GP will determine what is best for you and it is best to ask them any medical and testing questions rather than your dietician who will focus solely on your lifestyle and diet.
Ruth Kander is a kidney-specialist dietitian, to book an appointment with her please click here.