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Your Kidneys and How They Work

What Can I Do About Kidney Disease? continued...


People with reduced kidney function need to be aware that some parts of a normal diet may speed their kidney failure.


Protein is important to your body. It helps your body repair muscles and fight disease. Protein comes mostly from meat. As discussed in an earlier section, healthy kidneys take wastes out of the blood but leave in protein. Impaired kidneys may fail to separate the protein from the wastes.

Some doctors tell their kidney patients to limit the amount of protein they eat so that the kidneys have less work to do. But you cannot avoid protein entirely. You may need to work with a dietitian to find the right food plan.


Another problem that may speed kidney failure is too much cholesterol (koh-LEStuh-rawl) in your blood. High levels of cholesterol may result from a high-fat diet.

Cholesterol can build up on the inside walls of your blood vessels. The buildup makes pumping blood through the vessels harder for your heart.

Although scientists do not know exactly why, patients with high cholesterol are more likely to have kidney problems. They also know that kidney patients who keep their cholesterol under control -- either through diet or medicine -- are more likely to preserve their remaining renal function.


Sodium is a chemical found in salt and other foods. Sodium in your diet may raise your blood pressure, so you should limit foods that contain high levels of sodium. High-sodium foods include canned or processed foods like frozen dinners and hot dogs.


Potassium is a mineral found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, like potatoes, bananas, dried fruits, dried beans and peas, and nuts. Healthy kidneys measure potassium in your blood and remove excess amounts. Diseased kidneys may fail to remove excess potassium, which can slow down the heart.

Treating Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which the blood does not contain enough red blood cells. These cells are important because they carry oxygen throughout the body. If you are anemic, you will feel tired and look pale. Healthy kidneys make the hormone EPO, which stimulates the bones to make red blood cells. Diseased kidneys may not make enough EPO. You may need to take injections of a manmade form of EPO. Other types of anemia may be treated with iron supplements or folic acid (a B vitamin) injections.

Preparing for End-Stage Renal Disease

As your kidney disease progresses, you will need to make several decisions. You will need to learn about your options for treating ESRD so that you can make an informed choice between hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and transplantation.

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