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Managing CKD Symptoms Through Lifestyle Changes

May 3, 2024

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a progressive disease that affects more than 10% of the global population. Lifestyle and diet have a direct impact on the amount of waste, toxins, and excess fluid that need to be removed from the bloodstream. Lifestyle and diet also impact a person’s risk of developing other serious health conditions that can cause further kidney damage.

In this article, we will discuss lifestyle changes that can be implemented to help manage CKD symptoms, reduce disease progression, and improve quality of life.

Key Points

About CKD

The kidneys play a vital role in many functions of the body, such as controlling blood pressure, removing waste products and excess fluid from the blood, assisting in making red blood cells, maintaining healthy and strong bones, managing vitamin D levels, and regulating specific electrolytes.

CKD is a condition in which the kidneys have become damaged and cannot filter blood effectively anymore. This damage to the kidneys is permanent (cannot be reversed) and may become severe, resulting in kidney failure.

As the kidneys are not able to function effectively by removing waste products and excess water from the blood, lifestyle changes, such as diet, alcohol use, tobacco use, and exercise, are crucial in managing CKD and either reducing or preventing disease progression.

CKD Lifestyle Changes

Once you have been diagnosed with CKD, you will need to implement lifestyle changes as part of managing the disease. The goal is to help slow or prevent the damage to your kidneys while helping you feel better.

Lifestyle modifications may include:

  • Working with your doctor to control and manage high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Taking your medications as prescribed
  • Stopping medications that are harmful to the kidneys
  • Visiting your nephrologist to check overall health and blood levels regularly
  • Following a kidney-friendly eating plan set out by your dietitian
  • Being active
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Quitting smoking or using tobacco products

Kidney Friendly Healthy Eating Plan

A kidney-friendly eating plan can help manage the amount of toxins or waste products the kidneys need to filter out the blood. This helps reduce certain minerals from building up in the body, reducing the strain on the kidneys. A kidney-friendly diet also helps prevent or control other health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Both these conditions are risk factors for CKD and can make CKD worse.

A kidney-friendly diet will look to control the amount of:

  • Calcium
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat
  • Sodium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sugar

This diet ensures that you are getting the nutrients that you need to prevent infection, maintain a healthy weight, build muscle, and have energy for daily activities and tasks.

Before starting any new diet, talk to your doctor about meeting with a renal dietitian who can help you make the best food choices based on your CKD stage and lifestyle, and make the necessary changes to your diet to help control high blood pressure and diabetes. This will help prevent your kidney disease from progressing to later stages.

Limit your alcohol use

While alcohol alone will not cause direct harm to the kidneys, consuming too much alcohol can cause your blood pressure to increase. Over time, this can lead to the development of CKD or increased disease progression. General guidelines for drinking alcohol are:

  • For women: no more than one standard drink daily (one 12-oz glass of beer, one 5-oz glass of wine, or one 1.5-oz shot)
  • For men: no more than two standard drinks per day (one 12-oz glass of beer, one 5-oz glass of wine, or one 1.5-oz shot)

This does not mean that alcohol is safe for everyone with CKD or that it will lead to CKD in everyone who drinks it. If you have CKD, keep in mind the following:

  • Alcohol interacts with medications
  • Alcohol counts if you are on a fluid-restriction diet
  • Alcohol can increase your heart rate and blood pressure
  • Heavy drinking and binge drinking are associated with multiple health conditions

Talk to your doctor or nephrologist about how much alcohol you can drink, depending on your CKD stage and current treatment.

Quit smoking or using tobacco products

Using tobacco products (cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chew, shisha, etc.) can make your kidney disease worse over time or lead to kidney disease if you don’t have it. Smoking can affect the health of your kidneys and increase kidney damage as it:

  • Slows blood flow from important organs like the heart and kidneys
  • It can negatively affect medications that are used to treat high blood pressure
  • Narrows the blood vessels in the kidneys
  • Forms thickening and hardening (arteriosclerosis) of the kidney arteries
  • Increases the production of a hormone made in the kidneys (angiotensin II)
  • Damages the branches of the arteries (arterioles)

Using tobacco can also cause other serious health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Quitting can help prevent your kidney disease from getting worse. If you need help quitting tobacco use, talk to your doctor about programs or interventions.

What Exercise is Best for My Kidneys?

Physical fitness is important to keep your body healthy and strong. In addition, exercise can help:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar level
  • Lower cholesterol levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve physical muscle functioning
  • Improve muscle strength

Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. This can include walking, riding a bike, or swimming. Low-level strengthening exercises may also be beneficial. If five days a week is a lot to start for you, start slowly and work your way up to exercising most days.

Before starting any exercise plan, talk to your doctor or nephrologist. They will tell you which exercises are safe, how often you can exercise, and how long your exercise should be.

Exercise for dialysis patients

A common misconception is that you cannot exercise if you are on dialysis. Most people on dialysis can, in fact, exercise. Regular exercise can help you return to normal daily activities and manage your healthcare.

Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise as a dialysis patient, as they can tell you what exercises you can do according to your current treatment.

Living Well With CKD

While it is not possible to reverse your kidney damage, it is possible to take steps to slow disease progression depending on the extent of your kidney damage. By taking your medication as prescribed, engaging in physical activity, following your kidney-friendly eating plan, limiting alcohol intake, and quitting tobacco use, you can help slow disease progression, feel better, and improve your overall well-being and quality of life.

Panoramic Health

Panoramic Health is an integrated provider group delivering the future of kidney care. Our mission is to improve outcomes for patients by slowing disease progression and improving their quality of life. We do this through the distinctive capabilities of our comprehensive care model, which brings together an integrated provider group with operational support, clinical support, and data & analytics at scale.

Through partnerships with practices, providers, payers, and health systems, we work to advance the usage of clinically validated best practices and cutting-edge data analytics across a continuum of reimbursement models.

*No information presented in this article should be construed as medical advice. Every patient is unique, and patients should consult a qualified physician to determine what is best for them.