Honolulu (KHON2) – Our latest In Sickness & In Health with Adventist Health Castle explores the connection between plant-based nutrition, kidney disease, diabetes and more.

Dr. David Na`ai discusses the vital functions of the kidneys.

The kidneys do much more than just produce urine, but this is an important function that most people think of when thinking about the kidneys. 

The many functions of the kidney include:

1) Filtering waste products and toxins
2) Regulating fluid balance in our body
3) Regulating electrolytes, such as sodium and, potassium and phosphorus
4) Regulating our blood pressure
5) Regulating our blood count and prevent anemia
6) Regulating our bone health through Vitamin D metabolism

Most people are diagnosed with kidney disease by their primary care providers through blood and urine tests. The majority of patients do not know they have kidney disease as there are no symptoms that are easy to recognize unless people have very advanced kidney failure. Generally, kidney disease, is divided into 3 main groups:

1) Acute kidney injury, which usually means temporary kidney damage which can fully heal.

2) Chronic kidney disease, which means that the patients have either structural or functional deficits of their kidneys for more than 3 months.

3) End-stage renal disease (ESRD),  which means the patient’s kidneys have failed and they require dialysis in order to survive.

The #1 and #2 causes of kidney disease are diabetes and hypertension, in that order.

A much smaller number of people have kidney disease from genetic diseases or diseases that cause kidney filter damage, called glomerulonephritis. Other factors, such as over-the-counter pain medications in the NSAID class can also factor into kidney function decline when not used as directed.

Here in Hawaii, it is estimated that 4.2 percent of the population has chronic kidney disease, which equates to over 46,000 people.  This number increases annually.  Rates of diabetes in Hawaii, at 11.5 percent, are higher than the average for the entire United States.  We also have an estimated 30.6 percent of our population who has hypertension.  This translates into a little over 800 people a year starting dialysis with the total number of dialysis patients currently over 5000 in the state.  It is especially relevant for our diverse ethnic population here in Hawaii, as kidney disease affects the Asian and Pacific Island peoples, especially the Native Hawaiian population, at a much higher rate than the Caucasian population.

As with most other chronic diseases, changes in lifestyle is most important and often the most difficult treatment regimen.

For everyone, decrease animal protein intake (anything with eyes) to approximately 2-3 ounces per day.

Amanda O`Neill, Dietician, gave tips. 

In addition to National Kidney month, March is also National Nutrition month. 

“With the two main contributors to kidney disease being diabetes and hypertension- both of these risks can be decreased with a plant based diet to help in lowering the incidence of kidney disease,” says O’Neill.

“For diabetes – a high consumption of non-starchy vegetables can help with inflammation, control carbohydrates by getting a lot of fiber to benefit your gut bacteria and feel fuller for longer. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertention (DASH) diet also emphasizes 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.”

For those with kidney disease substituting plant proteins for animal proteins may further reduce how hard your kidneys have to work. You should work with a dietitian to assist with the build of minerals in your blood if your kidney disease progresses.

Start with one meal a day being vegan or vegetarian – then maybe two meals or even 1-2 days per week. Reduced animal consumption not only benefits health but also benefits the environment.  

Plan your meals around the vegetable instead of thinking what goes good with chicken – what goes good with eggplant or bok choy.

Plan your meals and learn how to make vegetables taste good – Attend vegan cooking classes that are offered the 4th Thursday of every month.

The sick and the healthy can benefit from the inclusion of more plants.

You can catch the Movie “The Game Changers” – advocating for plant diet with the emphasis on sports performance. Adventist Health Castle is having a screening and discussion  April 9th from 6-8pm at Castle’s Wellness Center.

Website: http://AdventistHealthCastle.org

Phone: 263-5400