Nutrition for Children with Chronic Kidney Disease

February 15, 2021
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Anyone who’s a parent or legal guardian of a child can attest to the fact that they become your life. You love them. You do everything for them. Your heart melts any time they do something cute — and breaks every time they are going through hardship. Such is the case with chronic kidney disease. You may notice that your child looks paler than usual and is experiencing symptoms that indicate something may be wrong with their kidneys, such as frequent urination or swelling. But how can you know for sure? What are other symptoms? What causes the condition? And can nutrition help them feel better?

Chronic Kidney Disease in Children

Healthy kidneys filter waste and toxins that enter the body from food, the environment, and certain medications. This waste material is then eliminated from the body through urine. Kidneys also filter impurities from the blood before circulating it back to the heart. However, when a child has chronic kidney disease (CKD) — also known as chronic renal failure — the kidneys gradually lose their ability to perform their filtering functions. As a result, the child experiences waste and toxic buildup. The condition starts mildly and progresses until the kidneys are damaged permanently.

Causes of Chronic Kidney Disease in Children

Chronic renal disease can be caused by many different circumstances. The most common ones include:

  • Birth defects
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Chemotherapy
  • Long-term use of certain medications
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Glomerulonephritis — an inflammation of the kidneys’ filtering units
  • Interstitial nephritis — an inflammation of the kidneys’ tubules and surrounding structures
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract, from conditions such as enlarged prostate, kidney stones, and some cancers

Early diagnosing and treatment of these underlying conditions may help slow down the progression of chronic kidney disease. Unfortunately, in some cases, the illness can become resistant to treatment.

Symptoms of Chronic Kidney Disease in Children

The symptoms of chronic kidney disease may vary from child to child, depending on how advanced the condition is. However, the most common ones include:

  • Frequent urination — if the child is young, this often includes wetting the bed
  • Fatigue
  • Paleness
  • Swelling on the face, feet, and ankles
  • Chronic nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Persistent itching
  • Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
  • Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs

How Managing Nutrition Can Help Children With Chronic Kidney Disease

While chronic kidney disease has no cure, you can slow down its progression with the proper diet. This is especially important if your child is an infant, as children grow at a faster rate during the first two years of their life — and the earlier CKD is diagnosed, the more likely it will affect their growth.

Which diet plan works best for a specific child depends on the stage of the disease, whether they are on dialysis, and whether they’ve undergone a kidney transplant. A diet plan may also have to be modified as kidney function decreases.

Nutrition Tips for Children With Chronic Kidney Disease

Before getting started, note that each child’s needs and circumstances are different. Therefore, talk with their pediatrician and dietitian for an individualized plan. That said, there are certain things that serve as a base to help you best care for a child with renal disease.

1. Limit Phosphorus

Phosphorus is important, as it helps keep strong bones. When a person consumes too much of it, the surplus is eliminated from the body through the kidneys. Since a child with CKD cannot do that, phosphorus buildup can pull calcium from the bones — making them weaker. High phosphorus levels can also lead to calcium deposits in the blood vessels, lungs, and heart. This increases the risk of a heart attack. Ask your child’s pediatrician about the grams of phosphorus they should be consuming daily and for recommendations for food substitutes.

2. Increase Calories

This is especially important if your child is an infant or if they have experienced a loss of appetite. If they don’t want to eat much, add sauces to their food, and serve them meals that are calorie-dense, such as mashed potatoes, avocados, peanut butter, pancakes, waffles, or french toast with syrup, yogurt, and fruit smoothies. Top their meals with other calorie-rich ingredients, such as shredded coconut, olive oil, and nuts.

3. Increase Iron Intake

Some children with chronic kidney disease develop anemia. When this occurs, it can affect your child’s ability to carry adequate amounts of oxygen throughout the body. This can be treated by providing foods that are rich in iron — such as spinach, quinoa, legumes, fish, turkey, dark chocolate, tofu, dried fruit, and iron-fortified cereals, bread, and pasta.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of skilled professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.