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Food Insecurity and Chronic Kidney Disease

Food is medicinal for our bodies.

Access to nutritious food is vital for people with chronic health conditions, like chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Nutrient-dense foods are rich in vitamins and minerals necessary and beneficial to our health. As a social determinant of health, food security can profoundly impact the incidence and progression of CKD and improve an individual’s overall health outcomes. However, food insecurity, a well-recognized problem affecting millions of people around the globe, may complicate the lives and well-being of kidney disease patients.

Food Insecurity Is a threat to health

Food insecurity is a lack of consistent access to nutritious foods that allow a person to live an active and healthy life. This lack may be due to food unavailability or the lack of resources to obtain nutritious foods. Disparities in other social determinants of health like socioeconomic status, where one lives, and access to health care has led to millions of undernourished people worldwide, with Asia-Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa being the most heavily impacted.

In some parts of the world, people tend to have less access to enough calories for sustenance, which results in poor nutrition; but in other regions, like the United States, foods that are highly processed, calorie dense, and high in fat and sugar are often more accessible, leading to chronic conditions like obesity, cardiovascular disease, and CKD.

Studies show that food insecurity and malnutrition are major contributing factors of poor health care outcomes in patients with CKD and end stage renal disease (ESRD). Conversely, food-secure individuals have a decreased risk for developing chronic kidney disease because diseases that cause kidney problems, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease are more common if an individual is not eating nutritious foods.

Accessibility to nutritional food Is essential

There are dedicated global efforts to combat food insecurity issues, such as the World Food Programme, which provides food assistance and makes nutritious food more available, and the Food is Medicine Coalition in the United States, which supplies medically tailored meals designed to meet the nutritional needs of people with specific chronic illnesses.

At Fresenius Medical Care, we are planning to launch a national quality improvement project that will aim to lower food insecurity in the ESRD population under care in the United States. This multiyear effort will include screening and developing interventions to lower food insecurity.

We also prioritize educating our patients about renal-friendly foods and providing dietary counseling. A kidney-friendly diet emphasizes the importance of controlling protein intake and eating a variety of wholesome protein sources like fish and lentils, which have lower phosphorus content, instead of processed meats. Phosphorus and potassium management is crucial for people with CKD because excessive levels can accelerate the disease’s progression. Foods rich in phosphorus and potassium, including processed foods and carbonated beverages, should be limited, while whole grains, fruits, and vegetables low in phosphorus and potassium are healthier alternatives. Opting for fresh, unprocessed foods also allows for better sodium restriction, another pillar of managing CKD to help control blood pressure and fluid retention. Incorporating antioxidant-rich foods, like spinach, bell peppers, and berries, and adequate hydration is also beneficial for CKD patients, while remembering that fluid management is important for CKD patients undergoing dialysis treatments.

Food plays a pivotal role in shaping individual health outcomes, and good nutrition can serve as a powerful determinant of an individual’s quality of life and susceptibility to chronic diseases.

Nutritious food Is fundamental for long-term health

Food is not just sustenance; food is medicinal for our bodies. This is especially true for individuals battling CKD and ESRD.

The phrase “food is medicine” recognizes that nutrition and chronic disease are linked. For people with chronic diseases, each meal acts as an opportunity to promote healing and manage their condition effectively. Understanding the medicinal properties of food is crucial in crafting a diet that supports kidney health and overall well-being.

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