The holy month of Ramadan holds religious significance to Muslims worldwide as they observe a month of Sawm (fasting) that begins at dawn and ends at sunset. While it is not compulsory for adults to fast if they are sick, many still wish to partake in Sawm. Individuals with kidney disease are encouraged to discuss whether they can fast, or not, with their physician and/or renal dietitian, taking into consideration the severity of their condition, the season Ramadan falls in, and the potential risk associated with fasting.
Kidney-Friendly Diet Tips & Reminders during Ramadan
Suhoor should be a hearty, healthy meal to provide energy throughout a day of fasting. Here are some tips and reminders to help you start your day off right:
- Try to eat lower glycemic foods– Complex carbohydrates break down slowly and release glucose gradually into the bloodstream and may help you feel satiety longer (feeling full), such as legumes, whole wheat naan, and fiber-rich foods.
- Avoid empty calories– such as chips, sweets, and sugary drinks. These kinds of food make you feel temporarily satiated, but lack the nutrients necessary for a day of fasting.
- Be mindful of protein intake– A diet too high in protein may make the kidneys work harder and may cause more damage; however, a diet too low in protein prevents growth and healing. Ask your doctor or dietitian how much and which sources of protein are right for you.
- Be mindful of salt intake– Sodium is found naturally in almost all foods. To control blood pressure and avoid feeling thirsty throughout the day, cook with fresh herbs, lemon juice or other salt-free seasonings. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables. If you use canned vegetables, rinse well to remove excess salt.
- Be mindful of potassium intake, if required- Potassium is a mineral found in most foods. Lower-potassium foods include pita, tortillas, white breads and rice, beef, chicken, cauliflower, onions, peppers, summer squash, grapes, and apples. While dates are traditionally eaten at the start of iftar, they contain large amounts of potassium. If potassium restriction is required and you wish to eat dates, limit the amount.
- Be mindful of phosphorus intake, if required- Phosphorus can be found naturally in food and can be added to processed food as a preservative. While some animal protein sources have relatively lower phosphorus content compared to other animal sources, plant-based proteins contain the least amount of phosphorus. In addition, phosphorous from animal sources and phosphorous additives are more easily absorbed in the body than phosphorous from plant-based proteins.
- Be mindful of fluid intake- Depending on your stage of kidney disease, too much fluid can be dangerous and cause high blood pressure, swelling and heart failure; however, too little fluids can lead to dehydration, fatigue, and low blood pressure. It is important to remember that food, such as sorbets, fruits and vegetables also contain water. If you need to monitor your fluids, keep track of how much you drink, reduce your salt intake, and rinse your mouth with water during the fasting hours without swallowing it.
- Replace caffeinated drinks with non-caffeinated ones– Caffeine is a diuretic that increases the excretion of water from the body. Try drinking water, decaffeinated tea, apple juice, or cranberry juice.
Iftar marks the end of fasting. While iftar is an enjoyable experience with friends and family, it can be daunting for individuals with chronic kidney disease to be surrounded by lavish feasts. Try to make meals at home for iftar instead of eating at the mosque or at gatherings where people are not on a kidney-friendly diet. A balanced kidney-friendly diet at iftar will help to replenish energy stores for the next day, and prevent worsening kidney function. It is useful to remember that moderation is key because too much of anything, even healthy foods, can be a problem. It can be easy to overeat as you approach iftar with an empty stomach, so try to eat slowly as it takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to send signals to the brain that you are full.
If you experience any difficulties while fasting, seek medical attention immediately.
Have a safe and fulfilling Ramadan!