The Renal Dietitian's Role in the Treatment of Kidney Disease

By Burrowes, Jerrilynn D. | The Exceptional Parent, April 1999 | Go to article overview

The Renal Dietitian's Role in the Treatment of Kidney Disease


Burrowes, Jerrilynn D., The Exceptional Parent


The Key Role of the Renal Dietitian and the Importance of Nutrition

The management of chronic illness is often designed to prolong life while maintaining or improving its quality. Unfortunately, treatments for chronic disease may force people to make significant changes in their lives. Their activities may be restricted and their diets may be modified. They may need medical equipment to sustain life. Frequent clinic or doctor visits and multiple hospitalizations are common. People with kidney failure face most or all of these challenges on an ongoing basis. These articles review the details of a nutritional evaluation and the theoretical underpinnings of a dietary approach to the treatment of kidney disease. The renal dietitian is an important member of the healthcare team that manages kidney disease. The renal dietitian interacts with and educates people with kidney failure, and their family members and/or caregivers. Their job of identifying and managing nutritional problems involves a careful balance of the nutrient composition of the diet, making modifications in consultation with the physician, and should also take the cultural traditions of the person using the diet into

consideration.

Good nutrition is important in the management and treatment of diseases. Kidney disease is no exception. Several studies have documented that people who have kidney disease benefit from adequate nutrition.

The kidneys are an important organ in the body. They are responsible for filtering blood, and removing waste products and extra fluid from the body through the urine, to prevent a build-up that could poison the body. The kidneys are also important in maintaining salt and water balance, and for producing substances that regulate blood pressure, maintaining healthy bones, and preventing anemia. Many things may cause kidney failure, including chronic diseases, genetic abnormalities, or trauma. When someone has kidney failure, waste products are not removed from his or her body as they should be.

The renal dietitian's background and training

Renal dietitians are experts on diet and nutrition in kidney disease. The majority of renal dietitians in the United States are registered dietitians (RD). The letters "RD" after a person's name signifies that he or she is a registered dietitian who has completed academic and practical experience requirements in nutrition and dietetics, and has passed a registration examination established by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association.

Registered dietitians are trained and educated extensively in the science of nutrition and its application to disease prevention and treatment. They integrate and apply the principles of nutrition science, biochemistry, physiology, food management, and behavior to achieve and maintain health, and to prevent disease.

Renal dietitians have extensive training in identifying and managing the nutritional problems of people who have kidney disease. An individual who has kidney disease, whether chronic kidney failure or end stage kidney disease (more commonly referred to as end stage renal disease, or ESRD), should be referred by a physician to a renal dietitian for nutrition consultation at the first signs of kidney failure.

The renal dietitian will perform a complete nutrition assessment that includes: a review of the individual's medical, surgical, and diet histories, blood tests, and medications. The dietitian may also complete a nutrition physical assessment. Each component of the nutrition assessment provides the dietitian with important information. Blood tests are used to assess nutritional status and evaluate the degree of kidney failure. A review of medications may indicate potential drug/nutrient interactions that affect nutritional status. The diet history provides information about eating patterns, cultural and religious food practices, and food likes and dislikes. …

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