Taking care of the kidneys

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Consuming foods with moderate protein content like dishes made from cassava, three or four times a week will help reduce 20-30 percent of the workload on your kidneys, says Dr. Tuyet Mai of Ho Chi Minh City-based Gia Dinh People's Hospital

A diet with less protein and salt keeps the kidneys healthy and functioning, a doctor says.

Dr. Ta Thi Tuyet Mai, head of the Nutrition Department at Gia Dinh People's Hospital, a popular medical facility in Ho Chi Minh City, tells Saigon Tiep Thi newspaper that proper nutrition is enough to ensure strong kidneys.

More than 70 percent of kidney failure cases are due to high blood pressure and/or diabetes.

People should thus avoid habits that enable the conditions, like smoking, drinking, insufficient exercise, and diets over loaded with salt and fat.

The purpose is to reduce the work load on the kidneys, whose main tasks are to remove waste, especially urea, filter the blood, and regulate blood pressure.

Overworking the kidneys damages them.

"Normally, a diet without too much protein around one gram per kilogram of body weight per day and a moderate amount of salt 3-5 grams a day is good for your kidneys," Mai says.

She suggests several kinds of foods with moderate protein content, including dishes made from cassava, like miến, a kind of vermicelli, tapioca and water chestnuts.

Consuming these foods three or four times a week "will help reduce 20-30 percent of the workload on your kidneys."

For people who prefer having rice in their meals, the doctor recommends having rice cooked with miến in a proportion of 2:1.

"Each bowl of rice with miến has 1.8 grams of protein less than otherwise," the doctor says.

People should never starve or eat too much, and those with diabetes or high blood pressure have to follow a strict diet recommended by doctors.

The diet becomes a tricky issue when someone already has already suffered kidney failure.

A damaged kidney causes loss of appetite and energy, forcing the body to use the energy from muscles, and that increases urea production, which means more work for the kidneys.

Kidney patients have to consume foods high in calories but less with protein by having more fried dishes instead of boiled or stewed ones.

They should also reduce sodium, potassium, and phosphorus from roots and vegetables by cutting them into smaller pieces, boiling them with a lot of water, or soaking them in water for a while before cooking.

People should consult their doctors about any medication they take for possible damage it can cause to their kidneys.

They should take every opportunity to exercise by walking instead of riding, using the stairs, or attending dance classes.

People should have regular health checks, including microalbumin urine test to detect the presence of albumin, an early sign of kidney failure, Mai says.

Otherwise, they will only notice the condition through symptoms like increased urination, anemia, high blood pressure, exhaustion, and appetite loss, but by then the kidneys will be functioning at less than 10 percent of their normal capacity.

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