The topic of Salt and Your Kidneys is one of astronomic importance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Diabetes mellitus affects 37 million people in the US, prediabetes affects 96 million people and Hypertension affects approximately 116 million adults in the US which is an astounding 47% of the adult population. The correlation between chronic kidney disease (CKD) and the statistics is sobering: approximately 30% of people with diabetes have chronic kidney disease and approximately 20% of those with hypertension according the The National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Hypertension or high blood pressure is the second leading cause of kidney failure: end stage renal/kidney disease (ESRD/ESKD). In the normal healthy body, the kidneys are needed to help control blood pressure. Excessive salt intake increases the blood pressure which healthy kidneys thereafter tackle by mechanisms which include getting rid of the salt and restoring the blood pressure to normal, safe levels. In kidney disease, the kidney disease are not as healthy. Therefore, in kidney disease, a vicious and dangerous cycle eventually occurs where the sick kidneys are not able to control blood pressure as effectively as well kidneys resulting in higher blood pressures which in turn further damage the kidneys.
Limiting salt in the diet is important in:
- Delaying the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- Controlling high blood pressure as excessive salt helps to increase the blood pressure
- Helping the effectiveness of many blood pressure medicines as some blood pressure medicines cannot function optimally when the diet is high in salt
- Decreases protein levels in the urine (proteinuria) as high salt intake also worsens the spillage of protein in the urine. This benefit of lowering salt is manifold because proteinuria
- Damages kidneys and
- Increases the risk of cardiovascular death ( called cardiovascular mortality).
- So lowering the salt in your diet has gigantic benefits already: still there is more:
Salt and Your Kidneys: Salt Does Not Only Affect Your Kidneys
Considering that limiting salt in the diet is important in controlling high blood pressure, as excessive salt helps to increase the blood pressure and also interferes with the effectiveness of many blood pressure medicines: The effects are therefore more far reaching to other parts of the body that high blood pressure can hurt!
- Brain: Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure increases the risk of a Stroke which can cause life changing paralysis (most commonly seen as inability to properly move a whole half of your body while causing a twisting or drooping of a half of your face)
- Heart: Uncontrolled High Blood Pressure increases the risk of a heart attack and congestive heart failure
- Blood Vessels: Uncontrolled High Blood pressure damages the blood vessels and can cause circulation disorders that
- Help increase your risk poor circulation, gangrene and amputations more commonly of the toes or lower extremities
- Aneurysms and Dissections of the Aorta which is the largest blood vessel in the body: If those conditions result in a rupture of the aorta: without medical attention death can occur very quickly
- Eyes: uncontrolled hypertension/high blood pressure can result in damage to the retina called hypertensive retinopathy which can result in blindness
The combination of too much salt and your kidneys is therefore never good.
You should therefore always aim to limit the salt in your diet. How? Think about trying the following:
- Know 1 very important bit of scientific information that taste buds eventually adjust to modifications in salt intake within approximately 2 weeks and so foods will still be enjoyed when we limit salt intake.
- Talk to your doctor about your limits for salt intake: Depending on your case, your doctor may choose to limit your sodium intake to about 2000mg to 2300mg of about 1 teaspoon of salt daily. This includes ALL salt hidden in food already packaged or bought, not just the salt you add. For example a microwave dinner can have 950my of sodium in one serving and turkey bacon may have ~750mg in just 2 slices so you must do some reading of labels and adding!
- Avoid fast foods, canned foods, microwave dinners and other processed foods as they contain many preservatives including a large amount of salt to help prolong their shelf life
- Prepare your own food at home and be sure to include lots of fresh fruits and veggies guided by your nephrologist’s advice based on your stage of kidney disease
- Utilizing other methods besides salt to help make your food tasty, like
- Choosing seasoning mixes with lower salt content instead of using salt: Table salt contains approximately 500mg Sodium in 1/4 teaspoon while many seasoning mixes contain 140-200mg sodium in the same 1/4 teaspoon quantity
- Adding unsalted seasons and condiments and seasonings like thyme, Italian seasoning etc.
- Caution However: You must however be very careful in selecting condiments and seasonings as there are salt substitutes that are high in potassium which may be harmful in advanced chronic kidney disease and in patients on dialysis whose doctors have limited their potassium intake to 2000mg of Potassium per day. Other condiments like tomato sauce may also be high in potassium. Please speak with your nephrologist to learn more as your doctor’s recommendations will be based on your lab results to which he or she has access.
At The Kidney Protector we believe in empowering through education and therefore motivating people to make positive, life changing choices to adopt behaviors that help promote good health. We aim to create helpful resources like the “ Salt and Kidney Health Poster: 1 Very Important Thing” that shows small but important pieces of scientific information that affect our personal lives and quality of life. Check out the American Association of Kidney Patients which has a very helpful alphabetized nutrition counter to help you make the right choices for salt and your kidneys, as well as potassium, phosphorus and protein for your kidneys.
Read the important related information below:
“The Salt and Kidney Health Poster: 1 Very Important Thing” is a work of Photography of salt and photography of simulated kidneys. The kidneys are digitally decorated to depict the emotions of kidneys in the setting of tasty food and drinks, giving early snarky advice to the person who may be unaware that, unfavorable dietary practices like high salt intake, help to damage kidneys. It reminds one of the quality of life benefits in addition to the benefit of the ability to enjoy life with family in the absence of kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. Loved ones are happy when they get to celebrate life with matriarchs and patriarchs: moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas!
One 1 very important thing is a bit of scientific information is that taste buds eventually adjust to modifications in salt intake within approximately 2 weeks and so foods will still be enjoyed when we limit salt intake.
These posters were produced in collaboration with Happy Ingenuity Solutions in “the kidney dialogue” series.
Little Choices Matter Regarding Salt and Your Kidneys
Be empowered to make healthier choices: Fast food, microwave dinners and preserved foods contains astronomically more salt than foods prepared at home!
This page and these posters are not medical advice. It was produced for the purpose of education and entertainment. Always talk to your doctor.