A reader who read a recent column about caring for our kidneys, writes: “I did not realize that the kidneys provided so much to our bodies. My granddaughter was born with 3 kidneys; by the time she was 2 she had to have the two kidneys that were together taken out because they were non-functioning. She is now 6 and she has many (urinary tract infections) and gets sick easier than other children. We have been having her drink water all the time. What else can we do to help her body to function properly with only one kidney?
— Jodi Z.
According to experts at the National Kidney Foundation (www.kidney.org) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (niddk.nih.gov), most people with one kidney live healthy, normal lives with few problems. But when one kidney must do the work of two, we need to protect it with a few extra precautions.
Be water-wise. To help a lone kidney remove wastes from the blood, children the age of your daughter need 6 to 7 cups of fluids a day. And that includes liquids like milk and juice. Of course, her pediatrician or dietitian may have more specific recommendations for her particular health condition.
Eat a healthful diet. I know, I know, what in the heck does that mean? It means diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure can seriously injure kidneys, so eating to avoid these problems is especially important for people with just one of these valuable organs. This is a perfect time to expose your granddaughter to a dietary pattern that can help avoid these problems as she gets older.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, for example is rich in fruits and vegetables and low fat dairy foods whose nutrients work synergistically to maintain a normal blood pressure. Your six-year old needs about 1 cup of fruit, 1.5 cups of vegetables and 2.5 cups of low fat milk or yogurt a day.
Avoid excess protein. To help her grow and fight infections, a typical 6 year-old needs about 3 ounces of meat, fish, eggs, peanut butter, and other high protein foods each day. Too much protein, however, could make her lone kidney work harder to process the by-products of this nutrient.
Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight puts kids (and adults) at risk for diabetes which can put extra strain on kidneys. Help your granddaughter grow normally with resources such as ChooseMyPlate for kids (www.choosemyplate.com/kids).
Protect that kidney! Although children should be encouraged to be physically active, a single kidney may be more vulnerable to injury. Some doctors advise their patients with a solitary kidney to avoid contact sports such as football, boxing, hockey, soccer, martial arts, or wrestling.
Have regular check ups. At least once a year, your granddaughter’s pediatrician may want to check her blood pressure and run simple blood and urine tests to make sure her kidney is doing well.
Hope this helps.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.