A diet high in cholesterol hurts your heart. Sudoku keeps the mind active. Cutting back on alcohol makes your liver happy.
We all know how to take care of these major organs, but do you know how to keep kidneys healthy?
The two bean-shaped wonders are some of the hardest-working body parts. Each day, around 200litres of blood passes through them to be cleaned of wastes and excess fluids. Not bad for something the size of your fist.
But with one in nine Australians showing at least one sign of chronic kidney disease (CKD), we need to do more for the little guys.
Accredited practising dietitian Kelly Lambert says following a diet low in salt and with the right amount of protein is one of the best ways to keep your kidneys functioning at an optimum level.
While reducing salt and protein is especially important for people who already have CKD, this dietary changes can benefit everyone.
‘‘A lot of people say they don’t add much salt to their food, but the problem is most get it from the foods that they’re eating that are packaged,’’ she says.
Too much salt increases your blood volume, meaning kidneys have to work harder to filter the extra blood. Your salt intake should be around five or six grams per day, equivalent to 1 teaspoons.
Drinking extra water won’t ‘‘flush out’’ excess salt, so stick to two to 2 litres a day.
‘‘The best analogy is the kidney is like a sponge, it has to have an adequate amount of fluid to function, so don’t drink too much or too little,’’ Lambert says.
While a diet high in protein won’t directly cause kidney disease, Lambert says most Australians eat more than the recommended 125 to 150 gramsper day, which makes extra work for their kidneys.
‘‘The more protein you eat, the more protein that gets broken down and digested and eventually filtered through the kidneys, making them work harder,’’ she explains. ‘‘People on these high-protein diets may lose a lot of weight, but they’re actually putting stress on their kidneys.’’
Those already in stage one or two of the fives stages of CKD can make other dietary changes to slow progression. Eating fruits and vegetables with an alkaline pH, such as apples, peaches and carrots, can help counteract the changes to blood pH the disease causes.
But keep a close eye on your CKD. Dietary advice changes depending on what stage you are in.
For example, sweet potatoes are fine early on, but from stage three onwards their high potassium level can do severe damage.
People with CKD need to monitor their potassium and phosphorous intake because kidneys that aren’t functioning properly can’t fully remove these from the bloodstream.