What You Need To Know About Diabetes, Chronic Kidney Disease And Your Diet


“Can you check if this dish that I’m making is good for dad’s diabetes and kidney issues?” 

This was a question that I heard on a daily basis from my mother. After my father being diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 40, we had to rethink our dietary choices. As a family that loves indulging in unhealthy food,  making healthier choices didn’t come naturally to us. 

The internet became our biggest guide, as we weren’t happy with the generic advice provided by most doctors. Finding healthy recipes suited for someone with both diabetes and chronic kidney disease was a hard feat. It took a lot of effort, but we managed to find an approach that worked for our dad’s health. 

Even though his journey was very personal, and subjective, the need for more information regarding diabetes, chronic kidney disease and a diet that suits both, is universal.

The standard diabetes diet looks like any healthy diet that people are advised to eat with fresh produce, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. This can be further adjusted to suit your age, gender, disease and health goals. But having chronic kidney disease makes your diet choices harder. You’ll have to regulate your sodium, potassium, phosphate and protein intake and this warrants a lot of careful selection. 

Keep reading to know about the answers to commonly asked questions about managing diabetes and chronic kidney disease. 

Why Do I Have To Limit Certain Nutrients If I Have Diabetes and Chronic Kidney Disease?

We know how you can’t imagine your meals without salt. But if you’re living with CKD, sodium is the first mineral that you will have to cut down on. With a compromised kidney, your body can’t handle excess sodium and it will do you well to cut down on it. Lesser sodium means lower blood pressure, and decreased fluid build up in your body.

Eating flavorful meals with more spices and herbs can be a great way to cut down on your daily salt consumption. Make sure to read the labels on any prepackaged food you might be eating. Most restaurant dishes, prepackaged and processed foods tend to have high amounts of sodium. The best thing about the human body is that it can get used to most things and practising a low sodium approach to your diet will become much easier after the initial weeks. 

If you’re in further stages of chronic kidney disease, you might have to watch your potassium, phosphorus and protein intake as well. Potassium in a normal body can help keep your nerves and muscles working well, but too much of it can build up in your body and cause serious damage.

Ingredients like oranges, melons, potatoes, tomatoes, dried fruits, fruit juices and whole grain flour are examples of high potassium items. Some better alternatives for these would be apples, berries, cauliflower, cucumber, radish and zucchini. If your potassium levels are extremely high, your doctor may be able to provide you with medications that can help in this. 

In a healthy human body, phosphorus is a mineral that keeps your bones strong and your body healthy. But with a compromised renal system, it will be difficult to remove excess phosphorus from the blood. Too much of this mineral can lead to weak bones, and could even damage your blood vessels, eyes, and heart. High phosphorus food items include meat, dairy, beans, nuts, and whole-grain flours. 

It is recommended that patients with chronic kidney disease avoid meat, and it can be instead replaced with egg whites or certain seafood items. Soymilk can be used to replace dairy in your diet to manage your CKD better. You should also watch out for hidden phosphorus in your favourite packaged food, as it is often used as preservatives or additives. 

Proteins are the cornerstone of a normal healthy diet. But when you’re struggling to manage your CKD, you’ll have to find a way to eat the right amount of protein. Even though it is a necessary macronutrient, too much protein puts additional strain on your kidney and can make your condition worse, while too less will also significantly affect your disease management goals.

Working with a dietitian is the best way to figure out the best type and amount of protein for your body. But the general advice that dieticians recommend is to rely on a mix of non-vegetarian and vegetarian proteins, which is best suited for your body and severity of your disease. 

Plate full of healthy

What Exactly Should A Patient With Diabetes and Chronic Kidney Disease Do To Manage Them? 

When living with both diabetes and chronic kidney disease, it may feel like there are a lot of lifestyle restrictions. But with careful planning, it is possible for you to manage your conditions well and live a fuller life. This starts with controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure, to prevent further complications. 

Some of the steps that you can make include committing to set meal timings, avoiding empty sugars and carbohydrates, exercising every day, and most importantly, creating a routine self-monitoring habit. In addition, your doctor may also adjust your medications to ensure your kidney issues are taken into consideration. 

When in doubt about what diet to follow, it is always safer to follow a renal diet than a diabetes diet, as it closely monitors potentially problematic micronutrients. For example, according to most doctors, whole grain bread is considered more healthy, but in a chronic kidney disease patient, white bread would be better, as it is lower in phosphorus, potassium and even hidden sugars.

While you may be on a lot of medications, there are chances that you might experience hypoglycemia episodes. In the normal scenario, you’d be expected to consume sugary drinks to stabilise your blood sugar. But as a chronic kidney disease patient, you’ll have to skip on the orange juice filled with potassium and instead go for apple juice or even berry juices. If you’ve been recommended to restrict your fluid intake, you could also turn to candies to regulate the glucose level. 

How Do I Make The Commitment To Eat Better At Home? 

Changing your diet for your diabetes and/or chronic kidney disease shouldn’t get your spirits down. These dietary recommendations are guidelines that can help you manage the condition better, and will make you healthier. You could also make your family a part of your journey by encouraging them to eat smaller portions of meat, including more fresh produce and learn to read the packaging labels.

While there is no easy way to make the transition to a clean diet easier for you, focusing on your priorities can help you. Seek out more information on the best dishes that can be made with the ingredients acceptable on the diet, and make sure to share it with your family. Once this new diet becomes part of your everyday life, it won’t seem as daunting and your diseases will be better managed. 

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