Kidney disease

The kidneys work like a sophisticated rubbish filter. They filter the blood, removing waste products broken down from our food and drink along with excess liquid, turning it into urine which is passed out of the body.   

Many diseases and conditions can affect kidney function:

·         kidney inflammation (glomerulonephritis)

·         kidney infection (such as pyelonephritis)

·         genetic disorders (such as polycystic kidney disease)

·         hardening of the kidney due to a disease of the arteries (nephrosclerosis)

·         kidney failure due to atherosclerosis (plaques in the arteries supplying the kidneys)

·         autoimmune diseases (such as systemic lupus erythematosus)

·         malaria

·         yellow fever

·         certain medicines

·         mechanical blockages (kidney stones)  

·         physical injury

Mild forms of kidney disease are not uncommon but as the number of people with type 2 diabetes soars, the number of people with more serious chronic kidney disease is rising too (diabetes often causes kidney damage). Symptoms can include water building up in the body and protein leaking out of the kidney filtration system and into the urine (nephrotic syndrome). Symptoms of kidney failure include tiredness, sickness and vomiting.

Animal protein is the worst kind of enemy of people with a tendency towards kidney disease. The animal protein in red meat, poultry, fish, eggs and milk tends to overwork the kidneys causing their filtering abilities to decline. This can make matters worse in a person who already has kidney disease.

Additionally, animal protein can cause calcium to be leached from the bones and excreted in the urine, adding further to the burden on the overworked kidney. Switching from a diet containing meat and dairy products to a vegan diet containing less fat and protein and more fibre can help.

It is also very important to drink enough fluids, especially when it’s hot or when you are exercising to replace fluids lost through sweating.

Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, pulses (peas, beans and lentils), wholegrain foods such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholemeal pasta, nuts and seeds. Find out what you need to eat each day here.

Read more about kidney disease and how a diet change can help.