Our bodies are a system – so many components that are dependant and linked to each other that you cant just impact one part of it in isolation. The kidneys do so much more than clean toxins out from blood. They help regulate blood pressure; regulate acidity and electrolyte levels (like potassium, sodium and phosphorus) in the blood as well as playing a role in hormone production to keep bones strong and blood healthy. As the function of the kidneys drop, its not just that toxins build up, its those other important functions that are impacted too – the most important of which is the regulation of potassium as this impacts the heart.
Do you see where this is going? Bad kidneys = poor potassium control = heart problems. This is one of the scariest implications for me and that’s why it has been so important for us to be mindful of ensuring C has not too much Potassium (or sodium – the electrolyte black sheep) whilst I still get enough from our food. Cue scenes of us closely studying food labels in supermarkets and scouring recipe books for suitable interesting meals.
If you search the internet for “low potassium food” you tend to get a lot of food and meal ideas to help you boost your potassium with avocados, bananas, seeds, nuts and all the other trendy super foods – not what we were looking for at all! There are also results that feature foods suitable for those with CKD (this NHS one being a very good starting point) but meal ideas were lacking… So I’m making up my own and am happy to share them (remembering this please). I’ll add recipes to the blog as and when I’m happy they are suitable for sharing – there wont be anything fancy, but hopefully it will go beyond boiled cabbage and chicken!
As well as looking for low sodium, low potassium foods and meal ideas, we have started these other habits to help monitor and be aware of what C is eating:
- Using the MyFitnessPal app to record food and water intake. This isn’t about monitoring calories, this is about being armed with as much knowledge about the food we are eating and being able to look back over the week and see clues in how he has been feeling that may be the result of food choices. You do need to have the paid for version to monitor micronutrients, but its a very good app and worth it. They also do a free 30 day trial and you can export meal diaries from the website if you are meeting with a dietician or a doctor to take a closer look at your diet.
- Removing or at least halving the salt requirements from recipes. Being a salt fiend I did miss it at first, but there is a whole world of spices and herbs out there for you to add flavour and seasoning without relying on salt. We also have stopped adding salt when boiling pasta and have switched to unsalted butter – small changes will add up.
- Adjusting recipes so I can add in things like sauces or seeds and nuts (or some salt!) after cooking but before serving so that I can still benefit from them but C can avoid them.
It’s been an interesting, engaging challenge to look at food in a different way and I feel more educated and aware as a result. I’m not a chef but cooking quality, nourishing food that is not going to be a further danger to C’s health is just one of the small ways I can help and support him through this new land.