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To raise awareness about kidney health, the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and International Federation of Kidney Foundation (IFKF) declared March 8, World Kidney Day.

Given that the initial symptoms of kidney disease do not become apparent until the disease/dysfunction has reached an advanced stage, it is difficult to dispense timely treatment; recent research indicates that there is a strong correlation between renal anomalies and diet.

Here are four dietary restrictions to take note of, to ensure that your kidneys remain healthy:

1. Limit your protein intake. Although essential for healthy growth, proteins produce urea as a by-product, which requires the kidneys to work overtime in order to expel them from the body. People suffering from kidney ailments should therefore substitute animal proteins (meat, dairy and poultry) with vegetable protein sources such as beans, grains, lentils, soy and tofu as vegetable proteins create less urea.

2. Cut out sodium. Sodium helps regulate blood volume and pressure and maintains osmotic equilibrium. However, it is dangerous for renal disease patients because it can cause fluid imbalance, increased blood pressure, oedema (swelling), shortness of breath and even heart failure. Say no to table salt, and avoid canned and processed foods which have high sodium content. Tangy spices and herbs are a good alternative.

3. Reduce potassium. Although potassium ensures that nerves and muscles function optimally, too much potassium can lead to impaired kidney function and even cardiac arrest. High-potassium foods, such as avocados, bananas, potatoes, raisins and tomatoes should be avoided.

4. Avoid phosphorous. In combination with calcium, phosphorus helps form bones and teeth. Kidneys regulate the body’s phosphorus levels maintaining optimal calcium absorption; however, high levels of phosphorous can be harmful to the kidneys. Avoid phosphorus rich foods such as cheese, chocolate, corn, milk, parsnips, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and yoghurt.

– Beenish Israr
The writer is a PhD scholar, studying Human Nutrition at the University of Reading, UK. She is also a lecturer of Food and Nutrition at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on March 11, 2012.