Mapping out your treatment plan
As with anything in life, having a plan can help you stay focused and feel more in control. Here we review treatment options and provide opportunities for you to personalize recommendations you discuss with your care team, take notes, and prioritize next steps.
Taking care of yourself and making changes to how you live your life – for example, eating healthy, staying physically active and shedding any extra weight – can help protect the kidneys, control blood pressure, and prevent or manage other health problems. Talk with your care team about what changes to make. Decide which ones to start to avoid feeling overwhelmed and set realistic goals.
Switch to a kidney-friendly diet as best you can.
What you eat plays a role in your kidney and overall health. But what works for one person may not work for another. There is no universal guidance. In general, eating simple, unprocessed foods can ease the workload and stress on the kidneys. Ask your nephrologist or kidney care team for recommendations.
- Choose mostly plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains rich in fiber. The Mediterranean or DASH eating plans may be a good place to start.
- Limit salt (sodium). Remember that many sauces, soups, prepared foods, cold cuts, breads, and other processed foods are high in sodium. Limiting sodium can help prevent swelling and excess fluid in the body (edema) and lower blood pressure.
- Try to consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium a day. (While current U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, this recommendation is often much lower for people with chronic kidney disease. Ask your doctor.) 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,500 mg sodium, which is often what is recommended with kidney disease
- If you don’t already, read food labels. Look for words like: sodium-free, low salt/low sodium, no sodium added, unsalted.
- Remember that foods you cook from scratch are naturally lower in sodium than most packaged foods or prepared meals or soups.
- Don’t be afraid to swap the salt shaker for fresh spices and seasonings; for example, herbs, lemon, garlic, ginger, vinegar and pepper.
- Be mindful of how much protein you eat. A diet that is low in protein and saturated fat is generally best at certain stages of kidney disease and for adults (children need a certain amount of protein for healthy development). Some common examples of proteins include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, many dairy products, nuts, lentils, and tofu. Other foods, such as smoothies, granola or energy bars may have protein too. Not all protein is the same either; plant-based proteins may be easier on the kidneys.
- Stay well hydrated. Creatinine levels can rise if you are dehydrated. Drink plenty of water – try adding some flavor with fresh mint, cucumber, lemon, or other fresh fruits.
- Limit alcohol. In general women should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day and men should have no more than two, but this may be too much depending on your kidney disease.
- Ask your provider if a referral to a registered dietitian is appropriate. If you need more guidance, a dietitian or nutritionist can help you come up with a kidney friendly eating plan. Not all insurance plans will cover a nutrition consult. It is often covered with more advanced disease, diabetes and other health conditions. Based on your lab values, your provider may recommend dietary supplementation (for example, iron or vitamin D) or restrictions (phosphorous).