A plant-based diet and lifestyle changes are increasingly recognized as the best way to prevent, manage, and treat chronic kidney disease when diagnosed early enough. Discover the foods and lifestyle habits scientifically proven to help below.
Each year, approximately 120,000 Americans develop end-stage kidney disease and start needing dialysis 1.
More than 1 in 7 (that’s 15%, or 37 million) US adults have chronic kidney disease 2.
Chronic kidney disease is one of the top ten leading causes of premature death in the United States.
Jennifer Wetherington, MD on how to manage the main risk factors for developing kidney disease.
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Associations of Dietary Macronutrients with Glomerular Filtration Rate and Kidney Dysfunction: Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study
A study of 5,316 people looking at the association between plant and animal protein and the risk of CKD found those consuming the most amount of plant protein had a 30% lower risk for CKD compared to those who had the smallest intakes. Additionally, those consuming highest levels of animal protein had a 37% increased risk for developing CKD 3.
Lifestyle Interventions, Kidney Disease Progression, and Quality of Life: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
An analysis of 68 separate trials found that lifestyle interventions significantly improved measures for creatinine, 24-hour albuminuria, blood pressure and body weight among patients with chronic kidney disease. Quality of life for patients with chronic kidney disease improved after lifestyle interventions.
Plant-Based Diets and Incident CKD and Kidney Function
This paper included 14,686 adults enrolled in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. The results showed people that adhered to a healthy plant-based diet had a 14% lower risk of developing CKD, and those that consumed a pro vegetarian diet had a 10% lower risk of having CKD. Overall plant-based diets and healthful plant-based diets were also associated with slower decline in kidney function 4.
Healthy Dietary Patterns and Risk of Mortality and ESRD in CKD: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies
A study combining the results of 7 separate studies included 15,285 patients with established chronic kidney failure. The results showed that plant-centered diets rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fiber together with a lower consumption of red meat, sodium, and refined sugars were consistently associated with lower mortality in people with chronic kidney failure 5.
Our kidneys cleanse the blood by filtering out wastes, toxins, and excess fluids to be excreted in the urine.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD), or chronic kidney failure, describes the gradual loss of this function. Overtime, dangerous levels of fluid, electrolytes and waste accumulate until kidney function is significantly impaired.
Chronic kidney disease is split into five stages. The stage is determined by the eGFR (Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate) number, which is a blood test reading that acts as a measure of how well your kidneys are working. The stages are:
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease, because they both cause significant damage to the kidneys.
Usually, an individual will have few signs or symptoms in the early stages of chronic kidney disease. You may not realize that you have kidney disease until the condition is advanced; as many as 9 out of 10 people with CKD do not know they have CKD 2.
When chronic kidney disease progresses symptoms can appear. The symptoms of kidney disease can include:
There are certain questions that your doctor may ask as the first step towards your diagnosis, these include:
After this, there are several tests your doctor may conduct including a physical exam, checking for signs of problems with your heart or blood vessels, and a neurological exam.
There are further tests that can then determine how severe your kidney disease is (the stage) including:
Chronic kidney disease doesn’t have to be progressive. Treatment can significantly slow the progression of kidney damage, and a plant-based diet along with lifestyle changes has the power to reverse some of the damage.
Plant-based diets can manage CKD due to the presence of healthy plant protein and the absence of animal protein. Animal protein increases the workload of the kidneys due to the higher generation of urea and nitrogenous waste products, whereas plant protein has protective properties.
Plant-based diets are also beneficial because of the high fiber and phytonutrient content. The higher intake of micronutrients from plant-foods can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, thereby reducing the risk of kidney disease 6. Plant foods have powerful healing properties that can reverse the damage caused by years of unhealthy diets, along with other tools like sleep, exercise, and avoiding risky substances.
The development of CKD is most commonly due to an individual having diabetes and/or hypertension 7. Lifestyle interventions with plant based diets can reverse both hypertension and diabetes, further reducing the risk of developing kidney failure, and controlling any further damage in pre-existing cases.
The National Kidney Foundation also supports the use of plant-based diets for management of kidney disease.
Diet and lifestyle changes are most effective under the guidance of a qualified health professional who can support you to make the changes best suited to your unique health circumstances and condition.
Think you may be suffering with this and need help? Join us today to make a change.
1. Kalantar-Zadeh, K. et al. Plant-Dominant Low-Protein Diet for Conservative Management of Chronic Kidney Disease. Nutrients 12, 1931 (2020).
2. Chronic Kidney Disease in the United States, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/publications-resources/ckd-national-facts.html (2022).
3. Yuzbashian, E., Asghari, G., Mirmiran, P., Hosseini, F.-S. & Azizi, F. Associations of dietary macronutrients with glomerular filtration rate and kidney dysfunction: Tehran lipid and glucose study. J. Nephrol. 28, 173–180 (2015).
4. Kim, H. et al. Plant-Based Diets and Incident CKD and Kidney Function. Clin. J. Am. Soc. Nephrol. 14, 682–691 (2019).
5. Kelly, J. T. et al. Healthy Dietary Patterns and Risk of Mortality and ESRD in CKD: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies. Clin. J. Am. Soc. Nephrol. 12, 272–279 (2017).
6. Moore, J. Whole-Food Low-Protein Plant-Based Nutrition to Prevent or Slow Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease. J. Ren. Nutr. 31, e1–e4 (2021).
7. Chen, T. K., Knicely, D. H. & Grams, M. E. Chronic Kidney Disease Diagnosis and Management: A Review. JAMA 322, 1294 (2019).
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