The bladder and kidneys are both part of the urinary tract. They play an essential role in filtering out wastes and toxins from the bloodstream and removing them from the body as urine. What we eat and drink has an impact on the amount of waste, toxins, and extra fluid that needs to be removed from the bloodstream.
In this blog, we discuss the top foods to help keep your kidneys and bladder healthy so that the urinary system works as it should.
- Kidney damage reduces kidneys’ ability to remove nutrients and excess wastes, toxins, and fluid from the bloodstream. A kidney-friendly eating plan can help manage the amount of waste products and toxins that need to be filtered out of the bloodstream.
- For patients with non-dialysis-dependent CKD, lifestyle and dietary changes still remain an effective, low-cost intervention for preventing disease progression.
The kidneys are part of the urinary system and filter the blood, removing waste products, toxins, and excess water. This makes up the urine, which travels through the ureters to the bladder, leaving the body through the urethra. The filtered blood returns back into the bloodstream through the veins.
The kidneys also have an essential role in controlling blood pressure, maintaining healthy bones, making red blood cells, regulating certain electrolytes, and managing vitamin D levels.
If the kidneys become damaged, they can no longer work as well as they should, reducing their ability to remove waste products and excess fluid from the body.
Therefore, your lifestyle and diet become crucial in managing kidney damage and reducing or preventing disease progression.
The Kidneys and Food
As the kidneys are responsible for filtering out waste products (anything your body doesn’t need) from the bloodstream, it is important to eat a diet that promotes kidney health.
Adults with healthy kidneys and who eat adequate amounts of protein have very low urine albumin excretion. This is due to healthy structural barriers in the glomerular capillary wall preventing proteins from entering the urinary system.
In adults who have multiple risk factors for developing CKD, high-protein diets are linked with increased urine albumin excretion. In contrast, low-protein diets may reduce the excretion of urinary albumin.
CKD patients may need to have a low-protein diet as it has been shown to reduce nitrogenous waste and ease the kidney workload by reducing glomerular pressure. A renal dietician will advise the amount of protein each CKD patient needs to avoid protein-energy malnutrition and protein-energy wasting.
Fat is a nutrient that provides the body with an energy source. Dietary fat comes from both plant and animal products. However, not all fat is the same. Good fats, or unsaturated fats, may help lower the amount of bad cholesterol in the body and increase the amount of good cholesterol.
High amounts of trans and saturated fats may cause heart disease, which is a common risk factor for kidney disease. Kidney disease is also a high-risk factor for heart disease. The heart and the kidneys are interconnected, with the heart pumping blood throughout the body to the kidneys, which then filter the blood and remove waste products and excess water.
Consuming too much phosphorus in the diet can put additional stress on the kidneys. Phosphorus occurs naturally in protein-rich foods and is an additive used in processed foods. Small studies have shown that a high phosphorus diet may cause a positive phosphorus balance, which is directly correlated with albuminuria and renal calcification.
In people with CKD, phosphorus can build up in the blood, as the kidneys are not able to remove it from the bloodstream.
Potassium plays an essential role in maintaining normal levels of fluids inside the body’s cells. Too little or too much potassium can cause heart or muscle problems. If the kidneys are damaged, it is harder for them to remove excess potassium from the bloodstream, causing high potassium levels in the blood.
Salt and sodium
Sodium is a naturally occurring mineral that is commonly found in salt (sodium chloride). Sodium directly impacts the body’s ability to retain (hold) water. When the body retains excess fluid, it places more pressure on the heart, making it harder for the kidneys to work and excrete the excess fluid.
Reducing sodium/salt in the diet is an essential tool in managing or preventing kidney disease or the progression of the disease.
The Best Foods for Kidney Health
Eating a diet that is low in salt and fat can help preserve kidney function and reduce the stress placed on them.
Cleveland Clinic lists the following foods as the best for kidney health:
- Red bell peppers
- Berries (cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, or raspberries)
- Egg whites
- Red grapes
- Sweet potatoes
- Drinking enough water
If you have CKD, following a kidney-friendly eating plan will ensure that you are getting the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fat to help prevent infection, build muscle, maintain healthy body weight, and have enough energy to perform daily tasks.
The amount of and type of protein needed will be determined by your size, kidney health, and activity. Talk to your nephrologist or renal dietician about your personal dietary needs.
The Bladder and Food
The bladder is an organ that makes up part of the urinary system and collects the urine until it is time to remove it from the body via urination. Urine contains all the excess water, toxins, salt, and other waste products that have been filtered from the blood by the kidneys.
Some people are sensitive to certain foods and drinks, which can irritate the bladder. If your bladder is irritated, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Pain in the lower abdomen (belly)
- Sudden and strong urge to urinate
- Increased frequency of urination
- Incontinence (leakage)
Sometimes, bladder irritation can be a sign of other urinary tract conditions, such as a urinary tract infection, interstitial cystitis, or very rarely, urinary tract cancer. Seek help from a healthcare provider if symptoms are persistent or there is blood in your urine.
Food and drinks that cause bladder irritation differ from person to person, with common causes being:
- Caffeinated drinks
- Carbonated drinks
- Acidic foods such as tomatoes or citrus fruits
- Artificial sweeteners
The Best Foods for Bladder Health
Some people may find that certain foods and drinks do not cause bladder irritation. For example, foods that are not likely to irritate the bladder:
- Whole fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, pears, and bananas
- Lean proteins, such as turkey, fish, chicken, pork, and low-fat beef
- Vegetables such as carrots, green beans, potatoes, and squash
- Whole grains such as quinoa, oats, and rice
- Nuts such as peanuts, almonds, and cashews
- Eggs rich in protein
- Diary such as mild cheese and whole or low-fat milk
Examples of drinks that are not likely to irritate the bladder:
- Spring water
- Herbal teas
- Low-acid coffee options, such as dark roasts, cold brews, and chicory or mushroom blends
It is recommended to keep a food diary to understand which foods may cause bladder irritation or may help reduce irritation.
Panoramic Health is a physician-led provider group with 16 years of experience managing and caring for patients across the CKD-ESRD spectrum. Our outcomes are driven by the capabilities of our comprehensive care model, delivering better outcomes for patients at a lower cost for everyone.