Eating to save your kidneys

BY: Arku Jasmine


The kidneys are bean shaped, paired organs with many functions. They are an essential part of the urinary system, thus they are responsible for the production of urine.

Also, they serve homeostatic functions such as the regulation of electrolytes, maintenance of acid-base balance, and regulation of blood pressure.

In producing urine, the kidneys excrete wastes such as urea and ammonium; the kidneys also are responsible for the reabsorption of water, glucose, and amino acids from the filtered blood.

The kidneys also produce hormones including calcitriol, renin and erythropoietin which help regulate many body functions.

When function is abnormal

In the absence of a normal kidney function, the toxic end products of metabolism will remain in the blood and poison the victim to death in a very short time.

This is because the kidneys are not able to filter waste products and fluids from the blood. Such people will need a kidney transplant as a permanent solution if both kidneys are affected.

As a stop gap measure, they can be placed on a machine that will do the job of the kidneys, a process called dialysis. These are very expensive options and just a few can afford it in our part of the world.

Kidney transplantation costs between GH¢10,000 and GH¢50,000 depending on which part of the world it is being done. Haemodialysis may cost up to GH¢200 a day in Ghana.

In Ghana, it was estimated that 3,000 persons develop Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) each year and very few survive because of the high cost of kidney dialysis treatment. Tragically, the majority of individuals who suffer from CKD were young people between age 20 and 50.

Good control of diabetes

Although chronic kidney disease sometimes results from primary diseases of the kidneys themselves, the major causes are diabetes and high blood pressure. Type one and type two diabetes mellitus cause a condition called diabetic nephropathy, which is the leading cause of kidney disease. High blood pressure if not controlled can damage the kidney.

It often becomes too boring for the diabetic patient to follow their treatment regime especially, their diet. This, however, leads to bad control and complications such as diabetic nephropathy.

Diabetic nephropathy typically affects the network of tiny blood vessels (the microvasculature) in the glomerulus, a key structure in the kidney composed of capillary blood vessels.

The glomerulus is critically necessary for the filtration of the blood. Features of diabetic nephropathy include the nephrotic syndrome with excessive filtration of protein into the urine (proteinuria), high blood pressure (hypertension), and progressively impaired kidney function.

When it is severe, diabetic nephropathy leads to kidney failure, end-stage renal disease, and the need for chronic dialysis or a kidney transplant. Strict adherence to the diabetic diet is ,however, recommended among diabetics.

Clogging and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) leading to the kidneys causes a condition called ischemic nephropathy, which is another cause of progressive kidney damage.

Choosing low fat diet most of the time has been found to be useful in preventing clogging of the arteries throughout the body.

Problematic nutrients

As stated earlier, the kidneys are no longer able to filter waste products and fluids from the blood in kidney disease. It is possible to control a build up of these substances by avoiding foods that tend to make the problem worse.

It is also important to make sure you get enough calories. Healthy eating can help control blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol and blood sugar levels to help slow the progression of kidney disease.

Each person has different needs, based on body weight, size, and remaining kidney function.

By Wise Chukwudi Letsa/The Mirror/Ghana

The writer of this article is a dietician at The Trust Hospital, Osu-Accra