A renal diet is prescribed for patients whose kidneys are malfunctioning, often because of kidney disease. Doctors also frequently recommend a renal diet for patients who must undergo dialysis. The benefits of a renal diet, which is also known as a kidney diet, include a better feeling of well being for the patient, less taxation of the kidneys and the relief of symptoms of kidney disease. The diet also aims to slow down a patient’s development of kidney failure.
It is important to keep kidneys in good working order, or working at an optimum level, because they serve an important function. People might think the kidneys do nothing more than help eliminate urine and other waste such as ammonia and toxins from the body, but their work includes helping the body to create red blood cells and holding blood pressure steady. To do all this work, these organs use about one-fifth of the body’s blood supply.
Medical experts advise that people with kidney problems should not begin this type of diet on their own without first seeking a doctor’s advice, because there are associated risks. The benefits, however, are often considered by the medical community to outweigh the risks. Failure to follow such a diet, if prescribed by a doctor, could result in the progression or development of renal failure. Patients are often advised to consult a special dietitian, known as a renal dietitian, to help them better understand their bodies’ needs and craft an eating plan they can live with. A renal dietitian also can guide patients to the correct supplements their bodies need.
The levels of protein, phosphorus and potassium in the body are of special concern to people with kidney problems. If the kidneys aren’t working as they should, levels of these substances can become unbalanced and cause serious illness. The renal diet helps a patient to limit protein to the correct amount, and preserve bone strength by ensuring there is not too much phosphorous present. Excess potassium can adversely affect a patient’s heartbeat.
The level of sodium in the body is also of special concern for a person with kidney problems, and a renal diet can help regulate the sodium level. Patients will not excrete adequate amounts of fluid from the body if their diets do not pay specific attention to sodium and the amount of liquid they drink. Failure to comply with recommended sodium and fluid intake levels could result in the retaining of fluid and swelling of areas of the body, such as the legs, and this can cause pain. This is especially true in the later stages of kidney disease.