One of the most difficult problems faced by kidney failure patients is that of diet. While dialysis will remove toxins and excess chemicals from the blood and therefore the body, sodium, potassium and phosphorous can build up between treatments causing serious and potentially fatal situations. While these three chemicals are needed for healthy living, and healthy kidneys will flush excess amounts out of your system in your urine, toxic levels can build up quickly, unless you follow a healthy diet.
Sodium is one of the most abundant elements on earth, and is found in almost everything you eat in one form or another, not just as salt, which is sodium chloride. It is one of the major electrolytes in the body, along with potassium and calcium. As an electrolyte, it is vital for life, as it helps to regulate blood pressure, helps transmit impulses for nerves and muscles, and helps to regulate the pH balance of blood and body fluids. A low sodium diet such as one for persons with kidney failure might require a maximum of 2000 mg of sodium daily, which is about 1/2 teaspoon sodium from all food and beverages ingested. Typically, a single slice of bread contains 150 mg of sodium, or about 7.5% of the recommended daily sodium intake. Excess sodium can cause edema, high blood pressure, high blood volume and shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing due to fluid buildup in the lungs.
Phosphorous is found naturally in many of the foods we consume, and many canned drinks, such as colas have extremely high amounts added. It is the second most abundant mineral in the human body, after calcium. The body uses phosphorous or phosphates (phosphorous combined with oxygen molecules) for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, to maintain a proper pH balance, to get oxygen to body tissues, convert proteins, carbohydrates and fats into energy, and hormone production. High levels of phosphates can lead to bone and heart problems, excess production of parathyroid hormones (causing brittle bones), low blood calcium (causing the blood to rob bones of much needed calcium, calcification of tissues (especially the heart and lungs, bone pain, itching, and even death. While dialysis removes much of the phosphates from the blood, your physician or nephrologist may recommend a phosphate binder, which will prevent the body from absorbing excess phosphorous through the intestines, allowing it to be eliminated in your stool.
Potassium, as an essential electrolyte, helps to control nerve and muscle function, heartbeat and normal heart rhythm. Low potassium levels may result in muscle weakness, cramping, fatigue, confusion, poor muscle coordination, irregular heartbeat, or heart failure. Excess levels can lead to nausea, weakness, numbness or tingling, slow, erratic pulse, heart failure, and sudden death.
Phosphorous and Potassium Contents
Want to know how much Phosphorous or Potassium is in the food you eat? Use the charts below, and on the following pages to find just how much each food item contains. You can also check out www.nephinc.com for more information on the levels of vitamins and minerals in your food.