Dietary Restrictions

Well, I think I’m finally getting into the swing of this school year. However, I have resorted to living on coffee. Last semester and over the summer, my kidneys revolted. I’m okay now, but I’ve had to make a few dietary changes, like no more cola and tea, in order to keep my kidneys happy. My morning drink (super fancy black tea) and my afternoon pick-me-up (Diet Coke) are now off the table. So, time for coffee! I got a Keurig and a bunch of flavored creamers and I am going to town!

Part of the biggest challenge of switching up my dietary habits is the “advice” I get from people. Believe me, I spent a few hours at the Mayo clinic learning about what to eat and not to eat in relation to my kidneys. The dietician even said to ignore normal dietary advice because my kidneys are so touchy. See, my kidneys do not handle calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus correctly. Logically, you would think that this means I need to cut all of these out. However, completely cutting out calcium will mess my kidneys up even more. I’m not avoiding foods for the traditional reasons. I’m not avoiding cola because of the caffeine, but because it is high in oxalate. I’m able to eat milk chocolate, but must be very careful with dark chocolate. I am trying to eat gluten free whenever possible not because I can’t handle gluten, but because many products containing gluten are also high in things that will cause my kidneys to punish me. Every time I eat twelve-grain bread instead of white bread, I’m cheating on my new dietary restrictions.

When people hear I’m cutting down on certain foods, especially if they don’t know about the context, they launch into advice. I cannot tell you how many people have told me that eating almonds is a great way to snack healthily. Well, yes they are. And they are delicious. But I cannot have them because they are high in oxalate and that would make my kidneys attempt to jump ship. Tell me to make my salads with spinach? Can’t. Try peanut butter sandwiches to cut down on the high-sodium and high-protein lunch meats? Peanuts don’t get along with my kidneys. I’m grateful for the gestures because I understand they come from a place of caring, but I am frustrated by the constant explanation of why I shouldn’t eat whole-wheat pasta but I can still have a beer.