A Low-Sodium Diet
Following a low sodium diet can be a crucial step in controlling your disease process. It’s important to check with your nephrologist to determine how much sodium you should be consuming in your daily diet.
Sodium is a mineral found in most natural foods. Most people think of salt and sodium as interchangeable. However, salt is actually a compound of sodium and chloride. Foods we eat may contain salt or they may contain sodium in other forms. Processed foods, however, often contain higher levels of sodium due to added salt.
Sodium is one of the body’s three major electrolytes (potassium and chloride are the other two). Electrolytes control the fluids going in and out of the body’s tissues and cells. Sodium contributes to:
- Regulating blood pressure and blood volume
- Regulating nerve function and muscle contraction
- Regulating the acid-base balance of blood
- Balancing how much fluid the body keeps or eliminates
Why should kidney patients monitor sodium intake?
Too much sodium can be harmful for people with kidney disease because their kidneys cannot eliminate excess sodium and fluid from the body. As sodium and fluid build up in the tissues and bloodstream, it may cause:
- Increased thirst
- Edema: swelling in your legs, hands, and face
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure: excess fluid in the bloodstream can overwork your heart, making it enlarged and weak
- Shortness of breath: fluid can build up in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe
How can patients monitor their sodium intake?
- Always read food labels — sodium is always listed
- Pay close attention to serving size
- Use fresh meat, rather than packaged meats
- Choose fresh fruits and vegetables or no salt added canned and frozen produce
- Avoid processed foods
- Compare brands and use items lowest in sodium
- Use spices that do not have “salt” in their title (choose garlic powder, instead of garlic salt)
- Cook at home and do NOT add salt
- Limit total sodium intake to 400 mg per meal and 150 mg per snack