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Health management tips for people suffering from kidney disease

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Kidney disease affects millions of people all over the world and is known as a silent killer. Quite often it does not exhibit any symptoms in the initial stages and the disorder goes undetected till it has reached an advanced stage. A person suffering from kidney disease, on dialysis, or having undergone transplant must take extra care to avoid additional stress to the kidneys. Here are some health management tips for people suffering from kidney disease – 

  • Hydration is important but be careful

Water plays a key role in flushing out toxins from the body and healthy people are typically advised to drink about 8-10 glasses of water per day. For kidney patients however, too much water or fluids puts excessive stress on the kidneys and can make dialysis painful, lead to water retention, fluid build up in the lungs, higher blood pressure and heart issues. Fluid intake includes not just water but fruit juices, milk, tea, coffee and water rich fruits and vegetables. Ideally, healthy urine should be pale yellow or colourless whereas dark yellow urine indicates dehydration. 

Dialysis patients must consume only as much fluid as advised by their doctor.

  • Watch your diet

Diet is a key factor in managing kidney disorders. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, it becomes difficult for the body to remove toxins, excess nutrients and waste. In such patients, not everything can be digested properly and excreted by the body easily.

  • Avoid Sodium-Rich Foods

Avoid high-sodium foods such as chips, fried foods, biscuits, salted nuts, pickles, sausages, certain types of meat etc. Excessive sodium intake increases the blood pressure and puts pressure on the kidneys, which can lead to further health complications. The body tends to retain water when sodium levels are high, leading to symptoms such as difficulty breathing, fluid build up and swelling in the feet. 

  • Limit Intake of Phosphorus-Containing Foods

People with kidney disease cannot process phosphorous easily however since most food items contain this mineral; it may not be possible to completely avoid it. When the phosphorous level is high, the body tries to absorb calcium from the bones in order to achieve balance. This has a direct impact on the bones and leads to bone weakening and higher susceptibility to fractures. Kidney patients can avoid or limit the consumption of food items such as banana, milk, meat, guava, etc which are high in phosphorous. 

  • Restrict Consumption of High-Potassium Foods

Similarly, patients with kidney impairment cannot remove excess potassium adequately and over time this can lead to build up. Excess potassium can lead to heart failure. Foods with high potassium content such as coconut, coconut and its water, potato, sweet potato, green papaya, spinach, coriander leaves, amaranth, chocolates, instant coffee etc must be avoided. ORS powder is also rich in potassium and patients suffering from kidney issues or on certain medications should restrain from using that without a prescription.

  • Keep a Check on Protein Levels

Protein rich foods contain a high amount of purines which increase the production of uric acid in the body. This in turn leads to uric acid stones causing damage to the kidneys. Hence it is crucial to keep a regular check on the protein levels and follow a diet that does not contain a lot of proteins.

  • Stay Physically Fit

Kidney patients are at high risk of weight gain, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disorders. Regular and light physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging, skipping, swimming, cycling etc is advised to maintain kidney health and keep potential comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension at bay. In patients with early kidney disease, regular and appropriate exercise could also potentially reverse the damage. 

  • Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs

Smoking is highly injurious to your health in any form – active or passive. It can increase the chance of heart disorders and kidney cancer. If you are suffering from kidney disorders, it is advisable that you quit smoking completely. Alcohol and other drugs can worsen the condition of the kidneys and cause irreparable damage.  

  • Consume Medications only as Prescribed 

Long term use of pain medications, drugs, antibiotics, protein shakes or vitamin supplements etc can cause great damage to the kidneys. If you are diagnosed with any kidney disorder, make sure your doctor knows about any OTC medications and protein or vitamin supplements that you may be taking.

  • Seek professional help and community support 

Managing a chronic health condition can be tough and overwhelming. It is important to speak to your doctor, therapist, family and friends whenever you need help. Proper medical care and support can go a long way in ensuring a patient’s overall well-being. Depression is a major indicator for adverse events, morbidity and mortality when it comes to renal failure and hence a positive mindset important to cope with it. 

By Dr. Veerabhadra Guptha K, Senior Consultant, Nephrology, Aster RV Hospital

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