May 15, 2023
Calcium is an indispensable mineral that significantly contributes to numerous bodily functions, such as bone health, nerve function, and muscle contraction. However, individuals diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) often face challenges in managing calcium, making it a critical part of their nutritional care.
Chronic Kidney Disease is a progressive condition where the kidneys gradually lose their functionality. This leads to a buildup of waste and toxins in the body, but it also disrupts the balance of calcium, a key role of healthy kidneys. Both high levels (hypercalcemia) and low levels (hypocalcemia) of calcium in the blood can have serious health implications, ranging from cardiovascular disease to weakened bones.
Kidneys contribute to bone health by producing calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D. This vitamin helps the body absorb calcium, crucial for maintaining strong bones. In CKD, impaired kidney function hampers the production of calcitriol, leading to a condition known as renal osteodystrophy, a range of bone disorders causing symptoms from mild bone pain to severe fractures.
To manage this condition and regulate calcium levels, healthcare providers may prescribe medications such as phosphate binders or vitamin D supplements. Along with these, lifestyle modifications such as regular weight-bearing exercises, refraining from smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and a balanced diet are recommended.
Patients with CKD need to carefully manage their calcium intake. Adequate consumption is necessary for bone health, but excessive intake can lead to complications such as vascular calcification. There are several calcium-rich food sources suitable for individuals with CKD, including dairy products, leafy green vegetables, canned fish, tofu, and fortified foods. However, it is important to choose low-phosphorus and low-sodium options.
For those needing to limit or avoid dairy products, there are numerous non-dairy sources of calcium that can be incorporated into their diets. These include leafy green vegetables, fortified non-dairy milk, tofu made with calcium sulfate, canned fish with bones, nuts and seeds, certain fruits, and legumes.
Individuals with CKD have a higher risk of developing bone disease. Therefore, managing bone health is a crucial aspect of their treatment plan. A combination of supplements, lifestyle modifications, and regular monitoring can help prevent or manage renal osteodystrophy and promote strong, healthy bones.
As CKD progresses, the dietary needs of an individual change. It becomes necessary to restrict certain nutrients while focusing on others. Calcium is one such nutrient that needs careful monitoring. In addition to the sources mentioned above, there are other ways to ensure you're getting enough calcium in your diet.
While we've discussed foods that are beneficial for CKD patients, it's also important to know which foods to avoid. These include foods high in sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. Some high-calcium foods may also need to be limited, as excessive calcium can lead to other health complications. Always consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian before making significant changes to your diet.
Regular blood tests are important for those with CKD to monitor the level of calcium in the blood. This helps healthcare providers adjust treatment plans accordingly, ensuring that calcium levels stay within the optimal range. It's also crucial to monitor other related factors, such as vitamin D levels, phosphorus levels, and overall kidney function.
Managing calcium levels in CKD is a complex task that requires attention to diet, medication, and lifestyle factors. With careful management, it's possible to maintain healthy calcium levels and protect bone health, thereby improving the overall quality of life for those with CKD.
Emily Campbell is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with a Master of Science in Food and Nutrition who lives in Toronto, ON. Over the years, she has experience working with individuals with a variety of kidney conditions to help them improve their eating; and preserve their kidney function through her career in hospitals as well as her private practice Kidney Nutrition. Not only does she have experience as a renal dietitian with patients, but she also has family members living with kidney disease so she understand the stress and complexities mealtime and celebrations can present. She has been practicing as a renal dietitian for over six years and am also is a two-time cookbook author of The Complete Renal Diet Cookbook and Renal Diet Cookbook for Caregivers.
This material is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the advice or counsel of a doctor or health care professional. KidneyLuv makes every effort to provide information that is accurate and timely, but makes no guarantee in this regard. You should consult with, and rely only on the advice of, your physician or health care professional.