Thu, 02 Aug 2012

What’s it really like to follow a kidney diet?

While I talk (and blog) about the kidney diet a lot, I am fortunate enough not to have to fit it into my life on a daily basis.  But what about those who do?  Everyone’s experience with their kidney disease is different but I was really excited when one of our dialysis patients, Lori Kraemer, offered to share her story about following the renal diet.  I think we can learn a lot from people who live with CKD every day - I know that I do.  Want to share your story?  Try out one of the discussion forums at

Lori said she hopes to inspire others with her story – she certainly inspires me with her positive attitude and courage!  Here is Lori’s story:

People look at me like I have two heads when I tell them that I am on the renal diet. “The what diet?”  people ask. I get that kind of response a lot. I then explain that it is low-phosphorus, low-potassium and low-sodium food diet.  I also tell them why I began this special diet.

On August 15, 2010, I suffered end-stage renal failure. I almost died because I was so sick from the toxins that had built up in my bloodstream. Upon being admitted to Grand River Hospital, I started dialysis which was a process to begin the removal of the deadly toxins in my body. While I was in the hospital for about nine days, I was approached by a renal dietitian who told me that I would have to eat a low-phosphorous diet. I was shocked and devastated that I would have to watch everything that I would eat from that point onward. I felt like the world had come to the end when I was told that.  I loved a lot of dairy foods pre-renal failure and knew I’d have to drastically reduce my dairy intake. That would be so hard, I thought.

I went home feeling very overwhelmed so within a short time I called the hospital and requested to talk to a dietitian.  June Martin, one of the renal program dietitians, offered to come into my home to talk to me. June talked to me about different foods that I could eat now that I was on the renal diet.  Since I was on a low phosphorus diet she gave me some very helpful ideas on how to still eat some of the foods that I still loved, with some changes.  One of the foods I vividly recall her telling me about how to change was cheese. I love cheese and dreaded having to cut back in eating cheese.  She told me that brie cheese is lower in phosphorous. I had never eaten brie cheese before and thought I would give it a whirlwind of a try. I loved the taste of it. I started to feel like the renal diet wasn’t such a bad thing after all and that I could do it.

One thing that I have learned since renal failure is that having a good attitude helps.  I decided early on in the dietary changes that having a positive attitude towards food would help me to adjust easier to the change of lifestyle.   I also realized that a positive attitude would also make it easier to cope with the diet changes.
Exercise, not diet alone, has helped me a lot too.  I love to walk and exercise at least a half hour daily.

Over the last almost two years that I have been on dialysis, I have lost a lot of weight. I realize now a lot of my pre-dialysis weight was likely fluid gain. Before renal failure I was drinking a can of Coca-Cola and a can of Iced Tea every day. Cutting back on a lot of sugar has really helped me to lose a lot of weight and now maintain a good, healthy weight. Eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and cutting back on the processed foods was very helpful for me also. Drinking only water after my kidneys failed has helped a lot too in losing weight and maintaining my weight also.

I love chicken and fish too, which are very high in protein. These meats are great to eat when you are post dialysis. I take phosphate binders, but with taking my binders regularly, taken with food at meals, I’m able to keep my phosphate levels under control.  It’s a really good feeling every month when my dietitian, Rebecca Larratt-Smith, visits me at the Freeport Satellite clinic and has a smiley face on my monthly blood work progress report card!

Now, after having been on dialysis for almost two years, I have adjusted to the renal diet. I’m not sure when I will have a transplant that I can have a more liberal diet, but for now, I’m okay following the renal diet. I am enjoying the foods that I now eat. It’s great to also eat and not feel like there is a metallic taste in my mouth nor feel nauseated when I eat.  Since I’ve been on dialysis, I’m finding that foods that I never used to like pre-renal failure, I enjoy now. One particular food is cream cheese. It’s low in sodium and is actually fairly low in phosphate that I can eat it. I enjoy eating it on occasion now.  My taste buds have changed for the better.

I also enjoy using “Spice It Up” recipe books!  My most favorite recipe is the Honey- Ginger Crackles cookies, they are so good!   They are renal-friendly, low in potassium and phosphorus. Recently I visited a grocery store called Vincenzo’s. It’s located in Waterloo.  June Martin had suggested getting a chili olive oil there that is low in sodium. It is quite good, you just drizzle it in olive oil and it is great for dipping white bread in. While shopping there, I also stumbled across a no-salt added pasta sauce so that I can enjoy one of my favorite meals, spaghetti once in awhile.

In my experience of being on the renal diet, it doesn’t always mean that you have to totally ‘give up’ some foods if you are able to find a low-sodium product. I used to hate grocery shopping. I now find it a fun experience and enjoy looking for foods that are healthier

for me! I have found that inquiring to my dietitians have helped me a lot. If you’re ever stuck for ideas or need help to find out information they are very helpful. Over the last two years I have learned to live with my kidney disease and have adjusted to the diet. Cooking and baking while on the renal diet can be a lot of fun. My hope is that I inspire others with kidney disease to think outside the box when it comes to the renal diet and explore different ideas for foods to experience with when cooking and baking is involved.

Lori Kraemer