Kidney Diseases Print

A number of disorders can affect the kidneys. Diet can help prevent and treat minor kidney disorders. It may also dispel the need for dialysis or kidney replacement in more serious cases of renal failure.

The South African Medical Journal of March 2015 estimated that over 5 million South Africans over the age of 20 may have chronic kidney disease. Untreated infections and conditions such as high blood pressure damage the kidney’s ability to expel waste products effectively. Kidney disease is also amongst the long term complications which may arise from diabetes.

Drinking plentiful amounts of water is the best way to prevent kidney stones. 2-3 litres per day are recommended. If you are prone to this condition, ensure that liquid intake exceeds liquid lost through perspiration, urine and stools. Dehydration may cause crystallisation of stones. One should therefore be extra cautious during heat, exercise, vomiting or diarrhoea.

Stones are usually formed from calcium combined with oxalate or phosphate. Oxalate is the prime substance in the formation of stones and the body absorbs more oxalate when calcium is restricted. The previous belief of cutting calcium (e.g. dairy) to prevent stones is thus incorrect.

Instead, oxalate rich foods should be restricted and calcium increased. Beetroot, spinach, chocolate, rhubarb, strawberries and peanuts are rich in oxalate.

Damaged kidneys cannot effectively excrete the chemicals the liver produces when it metabolises protein. Thus a moderate restriction of protein may alleviate symptoms such as appetite loss, nausea and vomiting. Consume food that fulfil the body’s protein needs in small precisely measured portions, in order to reduce strain on the kidneys. This includes meat, fish, milk and eggs.

Failing kidneys cannot control the blood’s sodium levels. Thus salt intake would have to be restricted. High sodium levels induce thirst, which makes one drink more. However, the kidneys are unable to excrete the excess sodium and the body retains fluid and swells. If the lungs also fill with fluid one may experience respiratory problems. Many processed foods are high in sodium.

The weakened kidney may also fail to expel excess potassium and phosphorus. This can harm the heart and muscles. Potassium rich foods should be restricted in such circumstances, e.g. bananas, avocados, pulses, seeds, dried fruit, chocolate, toffee, fudge, instant coffee and powdered milk. Many fresh fruit and vegetables are rich in potassium, but the potassium is reduced during cooking. 

High phosphorus levels lower the calcium level and can lead to bone disease. Meat, cheese, eggs and milk contain phosphorus.

Boil dandelion and drink as a tea to treat fluid retention. Cape Gooseberry may help to dissolve stones. Celery, parsley, fennel seeds and fresh coriander are known to help clean out the kidneys.


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