Nutrition Connection to Kidney Disease and Women’s Health

The month of March is an interesting month because it represents — Nutrition Month, Kidney Disease Month, and Women’s Health Month. In this article, I will discuss the genesis of nutrition, kidney disease, and how it relates to women’s health.

Genesis of Nutrition: Nutrition and nutritional research from the earliest days of history have had a positive effect on our health and well-being. The word nutrition is defined as, “the process of nourishing or being nourished, especially the process by which a living organism assimilates food and uses it for growth and replacement of tissues.” Nutrients are substances that are essential to life and must be supplied by food. In 400 B.C., Hippocrates the “Father of Medicine,” said to his students, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” He also said, “A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings.”

Scientific Developments in Nutrition: Antoine Lavoisier, in 1770, developed the concept of metabolism, the process and transfer of food and oxygen into heat and water in the body to create energy. Lavoisier was named the “Father of Nutrition and Chemistry.” In 1840, Justus Liebig of Germany, conducted research on the chemical nature of foods, such as, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. He discovered that carbohydrates were made of sugars, fats were fatty acids, and proteins were made of amino acids.

In 1912, Casimir Funk, a Polish doctor, conducted research with vitamins and determined that vitamins are essential factors in the diet. In the early 1800s, the elements of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, the main components of food, were isolated and discovered to have a great impact on health. As the nutrition research and discoveries continued to evolve, the role of dietitians and nutritionists became more relevant. Dietitians and nutritionists were trained to champion and disseminate the role of nutrition and its importance in providing good health to the population.

Dietitians and Nutritionists: In 1919 after World War I, dietitians began working throughout the United States, in the area of public health to help monitor and improve the health of war veterans. They, also, became increasingly involved in the nation’s private sector healthcare system and beyond.

Dietitians are registered with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and are only able to use the title “Registered Dietitian” when they have met strict, specific educational and experiential prerequisites and passed a national registration examination.

The title “nutritionist” is protected and designated by many, but not by all states within the United States. Traditionally, dietitians work in hospitals, schools and prisons, and nutritionists often work in private practice, education and research, although there is some overlap between the two.

Women’s Health and Kidney Disease: 26 million American adults have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) and millions of others are at an increased risk. One population group with kidney failure more than any other group is African-American women, aged 50 and older. Chronic kidney disease is a condition characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function over time. The most prevalent chronic disease associated with kidney disease is Type 2 diabetes, which is usually brought on by obesity. While diabetes is the number one risk factor for kidney disease, high blood pressure is the second most common risk factor for kidney disease. Making women aware of the risks of and the measures to prevent CKD will hopefully reverse this upward trend.

Women are encouraged to talk to their doctor about CKD and inquire if they are at risk. Symptoms of chronic disease in women include: irregular periods, lack of interest in sex, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness, changes in urination whether too much or too small, decreased mental sharpness, muscle twitches and cramps, and trouble sleeping.

Kidney Friendly Foods: Making healthy food choices is very important in reducing the risks of developing chronic kidney disease. Good nutrition can help to: provide energy to perform daily tasks, prevent infection, avoid muscle-mass loss, help maintain a healthy weight and help slow down the progression of kidney disease. A well-balanced diet gives the right amounts of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals each day. Eating a healthy diet, staying physically active and taking prescribed medications are critical to staying healthy and feeling well. In addition, it is important to control how much protein, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, or potassium you consume. Your dietitian or healthcare provider can discuss the amount of these nutrients you should consume in a well-balanced kidney-friendly meal. Eating too little or too much of these nutrients can have serious kidney health implications. It is of uttermost importance for women to take control of their health, become more proactive in seeking medical care and maintaining a healthy body to reduce the devastating burden of CKD. Early detection and treatment can often keep the disease from getting worse.

Let’s toast to great Women’s Health!

Written by:

Edith Ezekwe, MS, RD, LD, MT (ASCP)

Instructor/ Practicum Coordinator

Nutrition and Dietetics

Department of Human Sciences

Phone: 601-877-6258

Email: [email protected]

References: (Accessed 3/7/2017)

Sources: United States Public Health Service, American Dietetic Association (ADA), (Accessed 3/7/2017)

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