Improve Kidney Function with the DASH Diet - dummies

Improve Kidney Function with the DASH Diet

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is designed to help your kidneys function at their very best. While a typical Western diet provides much more salt and far less potassium than your kidneys were intended to handle, DASH attempts to bring that balance back to a more natural state.

It does so by greatly reducing added salt and by increasing potassium-rich fruits and vegetables. By bringing potassium and sodium levels back into equilibrium, blood pressure improves.

DASH can also help reduce your risk for kidney stones. These crystalline collections of minerals are created in the kidneys and then travel down the ureters, often getting stuck on the way, creating excruciating pain. Anything that may increase urinary excretion of calcium, oxylate, or uric acid increases risk for kidney stones. Risk factors for kidney stones include:

  • Dehydration — drink enough water daily

  • Excessive fructose (found in table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, and other added sugars in processed foods and sugary beverages; fruit juices are also a prime source)

  • A high-protein diet

  • Too much salt

Though fructose is the sugar found naturally in fruit, it’s best to eat more whole fruit and keep juices to small servings, such as 4 to 6 ounces.

Although some kidney stones are made up primarily of calcium, a diet high in dairy products actually reduces the risk of this type of stone, and the addition of more vegetables to the diet helps by keeping the body more alkaline.

A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people whose diets were most consistent with DASH had a 45 percent lower likelihood of developing stones compared to those whose diets were the least DASH-like.

Many popular diets encourage you to eat a lot of high-protein foods. Though DASH offers a healthy amount of protein (18 percent of calories are from protein-rich foods), it doesn’t go overboard. That’s important because a high-protein diet can make kidney disease worse.

If you have kidney disease, check in with your doctor or dietitian before making any sort of drastic change to your diet. Your doctor can make individualized protein recommendations, and in some cases, you may need to limit potassium-rich foods. Alternately, your doctor may decide to adjust your medications to accommodate your healthier way of life.