Written by Tamara Farhat, reviewed by Anna Richardson, MPH RD
Conservative kidney management is an active treatment choice in which kidney disease is managed with no plans for a transplant or dialysis. The goal of conservative kidney management is to preserve kidney function for as long as possible through diet and medication. Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in conserving kidney function and maintaining overall health in all patients, but especially in those choosing conservative kidney management.
Below are some key nutrition factors to keep in mind to maintain your well-being as long as possible:
Manage Protein Intake
One of the biggest concerns for individuals with CKD is managing protein intake. A reduced protein diet can help preserve the health of your kidneys. This article: The Power of Protein on Your Kidneys, explains how protein affects our kidneys and the importance of knowing how much protein you should consume. We encourage you to speak to a registered dietitian to determine your appropriate level of protein intake, as we all have unique requirements.
Phosphorus and potassium need careful management in CKD patients, at all stages of their kidney journey. It’s important to know how much phosphorus is absorbed from each source. This blog post: Phosphorus Bioavailability-How much phosphorus do we absorb from different types of foods? will help you better understand phosphorus and how the body absorbs it.
As kidneys are responsible for managing the level of potassium in blood, it is important to keep an eye on your potassium levels when you have reduced kidney function. High potassium levels in the blood can affect your heart rhythm. Speak to your healthcare team to see how much dietary potassium is right for you. To see what foods are highest in potassium, check out our blog post here: https://www.kidneycommunitykitchen.ca/dietitians-blog/comparing-potassium-sources/
Sodium and fluid Control
Eating a low sodium diet is important in conservative kidney management to control blood pressure and reduce fluid retention. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2018) highlights the impact of sodium intake on cardiovascular health in CKD patients1. Staying away from high-sodium foods like processed foods, canned soups, and pickles can help reduce sodium in your diet. It’s also important to carefully read food labels and aim for food with less than 15% per serving or less than 600 mg per meal. Learn more in this blog post: Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy: Why Lowering Your Sodium Intake Matters.
Some people may also need to cut back on how much fluid they are drinking, especially if they are making less urine or experiencing swelling. Fluid overload can lead to heart and breathing problems.
Choose Heart-Healthy Fats
Focusing on heart-healthy fats can help improve cardiovascular outcomes in CKD patients. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and flaxseeds, have anti-inflammatory properties and may protect against cardiovascular complications associated with CKD2. Replacing saturated fats with these healthier options can be beneficial.
Adequate Caloric Intake
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for your overall health. Malnutrition can lead to muscle wasting and weakness. Adequate caloric intake, in consultation with a dietitian, ensures that individuals get enough energy to support their daily activities while managing their overall health. If you’re struggling with excessive weight loss, this blog post might be helpful: How to Increase Calories on a CKD Diet.
Lastly, regular monitoring of kidney function and nutrition status is important. Collaboration between patients, health care team, and dietitians ensures that dietary adjustments can be made as the disease progresses. Stay in contact with your health care team and discuss with them any concerns you might have.
Conservative kidney management places a significant emphasis on nutrition to slow the progression of CKD and manage associated complications. Evidence-based nutrition tips, including protein management, electrolyte control, sodium reduction, healthy fat choices, fluid monitoring, adequate caloric intake, and regular collaboration with healthcare professionals, are essential components of conservative kidney management. By following these guidelines and working closely with a healthcare team, individuals with CKD can maintain their health and well-being.
Mente A, O’Donnell M, Rangarajan S, et al. Urinary sodium excretion, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and mortality: a community-level prospective epidemiological cohort study. Lancet. 2018;392(10146):496-506.
Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2016 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016;133(4):e38-e360.