Fish is a staple diet in many parts of the globe. The prevalence of kidney diseases is increasing all over the world. So, I’m often asked, “Is fish good or bad for kidney disease?” Instead of a straight good or bad, I will give a more nuanced but useful answer. The answer below is mainly relevant for people with chronic kidney disease.
How fish can be of benefit in kidney disease?
Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are an important addition to any diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the body but the body can not make these on its own. Therefore, these have to be consumed through our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the levels of triglyceride (fat) in the blood. Fish are one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
There is always a high risk of developing kidney diseases in a person suffering from hypertension (high BP). The fat lowering property of omega-3 fatty acids, make fish highly beneficial for people having high BP. Consuming natural and nutritious food like fatty fish might also help protect the kidneys.
Which fish is good for kidney disease?
Salmon has abundant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and is a rich source of protein and vitamin – D. It also has very low levels of saturated fat. All these features make it an ideal choice for a person suffering from kidney disease.
Tuna is one of the bigger fishes which is considered a good source of lean protein. It has fewer calories and is low in fat, making it a kidney-friendly food.
Canned tuna, on the other hand, should be eaten in moderation because that may contain high amounts of sodium which is not good for a kidney patient.
Tilapia is a fish that contains lean protein, vitamins, and minerals. In comparison to other fishes like salmon, the omega-3 content is less in tilapia, and the omega-6 levels are higher which could cause inflammation in your body. Hence, tilapia should preferably be consumed in moderation.
Cod is another fish that is rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids. The only thing to keep in mind with this fish is the presence of mercury. Consumption of mercury is harmful to the body as it is toxic to the brain. However, cod is usually considered safe to eat in limited amounts.
It is important to keep in mind that the fish that eat other fish in the ocean such as king mackerel or swordfish have higher amounts of mercury in them and so it is better to eat them in fewer amounts.
Is fish oil good for kidney disease?
Fish oils are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. There are two different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids. One is known as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and the other one is called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Early studies have indicated a positive result of fish oil in kidney patients. However, a lot more trials and long-term follow-ups are needed to come to a definitive conclusion.
Fish oil is also used to treat patients suffering from a kidney disease known as IgA nephropathy. The kidney health of the people suffering from this condition may get worse as time progress.
Hence, the consumption of fish oil is preferred in patients suffering from IgA nephropathy. It is believed that the omega-3 fatty acid content in the fish oil helps the kidney in fighting off the inflammation and slow down the development of this disease.
Taking fish oil supplements is helpful for people who need to increase their intake of EPA and DHA.
Is fish good for dialysis patients?
Fish is a good choice of food for dialysis patients. For people undergoing dialysis, a diet containing high protein is recommended because the process of dialysis removes the essential amino acids along with the built-up toxic materials.
An adequate protein intake is necessary for all people because proteins are the main building blocks of our body, that also carry out a lot of different functions. People suffering from chronic kidney disease should also maintain a sufficient dietary intake of protein to prevent problems like weakness and a decrease in immunity.
A high protein diet can include foods like chicken, eggs, pork, etc which also contain saturated fat. These are not suitable for people with heart diseases. For a person with high LDL levels or a person suffering from cardiovascular diseases, a diet containing lean protein like salmon and tuna is a better choice.
Processed meats and fish should be avoided or limited because they contain high amounts of phosphorus and sodium which are excreted by the kidneys. This puts an extra workload on the kidneys.
A huge part of our body is formed of proteins like the immune cells, muscles, hair, nails, etc. Hence, protein is an essential part of every diet and fish are a great source of lean protein.
Eating fish while suffering from kidney diseases is generally not a problem. But specific dietary modifications can be made for each person according to their specific condition. In some cases, patients may be advised to lower their protein intake and so personalized diet charts are very important for people suffering from kidney diseases.