Kidney and bladder health

11 October 2004

Kidney problems and diet

If you suffer from kidney problems, diet can help. We give you the facts.

Step 1: Understanding the relationship between kidney problems and food
Patients with various degrees of kidney disease and hypertension (high blood pressure) may need to restrict both their protein and sodium intakes. With impaired kidney function, the kidneys are not able to metabolise proteins as they should, and even intake of normal amounts of protein can “overload” the kidneys to such an extent that it can lead to kidney failure.

The kidneys regulate the body’s sodium-potassium balance. In people with hypertension or acute or chronic kidney disease, this regulation is crucial and impaired kidney function can lead to a Na-K imbalance. Kidney problems can lead to hypertension and vice versa.

Patients with hypertension may be advised to reduce their protein and sodium intakes.

Step 2: Adopting healthy habits
You can do something to help control your kidney problems better.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight
  • Lower intake of proteins
  • Eat a low-fat, high-fruit and -vegetable diet to increase your intake of potassium
  • Limit your salt intake to no more than 2,4 g per day – about 1 teaspoon of salt

Step 3: Basic dietary guidelines for treating kidney problems


  • 1. Eat four to five fresh fruits daily
  • 2. Eat two ladles of vegetables per day

1. Limit your intake of high-protein foods, including:

  • Meat - beef, pork, lamb, organ meats, chicken and poultry
  • Fish - all types, including shell fish
  • Cheese - all types
  • Milk and diary products including yoghurt
  • Legumes - dry beans, peas, lentils, soya and products made with textured vegetable protein

2. Limit your salt intake
Eat less of the following foods:

  • Ham, cold meat cuts, bacon, pickled or smoked meat, biltong, sausages
  • Fish - salted, dried or smoked fish, canned fish with added salt
  • Cheese - most types
  • All products made with baking powder - cakes, biscuits, rusks, cookies
  • All canned products - check the labels for added salt or monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • All frozen products - check labels for added salt or brine
  • All soup or gravy powders
  • All meat extracts
  • All pickles and condiments such as garlic salt, Aromat

Any patient with kidney problems needs to have his or her diet worked out by a clinical dietician who will take all the patient’s individual factors into consideration. Such factors may include: the type and severity of the kidney problem, other medical conditions, age, gender, activity level, type of medical treatment the patient is receiving (medications, dialysis), blood test results, and urine output.

Failure to seek the assistance of medical and dietetic experts in this field, may be fatal.

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