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Dear Grandfather,

There’s so much I wish I could have told you.

I wish I could have told you how much I appreciated your sense of humor, as well as your uncanny ability to narrate and reinvent movie plots in the most absurd ways. I wish I could have told you how much I learned from you about the importance of hard work and dedication to one’s family.

And I will always cherish the memories of you making warm Indian bread in the kitchen, picking ripe papayas from your backyard, and how you allowed me to ride in the back of your fancy pickup truck when I was still a young boy.

But, you will never hear these words. And I won’t get to thank you one last time, or give you one last hug, because just like that, you were gone. Kidney disease took you quicker than any of us could have imagined, and I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

But I believe that life is about learning lessons, Grandfather. And though this is a hard time for me and our family, I guess that even the most saddest of events and circumstances can, and must, be our teachers… perhaps our best teachers.

So in the effort of helping others avoid the same fate, and sparing other families from a loss of this kind, I’d like to share your story.

All my love,

Arnold

The Truth About Kidney Disease

Like millions of others, my grandfather died from kidney disease. However, in his case, he was diagnosed just a few short months ago. Since kidney disease shows no visible signs in most people during the early stages, the diagnosis came all of a sudden, leaving us all blindsided.

Following the diagnosis, he was immediately placed on a series of intense medications, and my grandfather mistakenly thought that the meds would cure him. However, soon after, his condition started rapidly deteriorating, and he was admitted to the hospital. In a matter of days, my granddad passed away.

The prevalence of kidney disease has been sharply increasing worldwide over the past decades, but you only realize just how significant this is when it hits close to home.

What Exactly is Kidney Disease?

Kidneys are incredibly important vascular organs that work tirelessly to filter our blood of waste products that come from what we eat and drink — they filter on average, 200 liters of blood a day. So when the kidneys start failing this means that you’re much more susceptible to die from sepsis or cardiovascular disease, unless you’re placed on dialysis, and have a machine artificially filter your blood. (Oh, and the average life expectancy on dialysis is less than 3 years.)

Meaning, prevention is really the only viable option.

Foods to Avoid

In order to keep our kidneys happy and healthy, there are certainly some foods you should avoid.

  • Animal protein (especially fish, poultry, and processed meats)
  • Heavy metal contaminated foods (i.e. fish & seafood)
  • Refined sugar (candy, ice cream, etc.)
  • High fat meals (meat, dairy, eggs, fried foods, oils, etc.)

The long and the short of it is that all animal protein has been shown to place an extra burden on the kidneys, ramping them up into hyperfiltration. This is mainly due to the acid load and inflammation resulting from the consumption of animal products. (It should be noted, however, that our kidneys have no issues processing plant protein, which is one reason why I always recommend to my family and clients to choose plant-based protein sources.)

In addition to reducing or eliminating animal protein, make sure to stay hydrated by drinking pure water, and load up on fiber and phytates rich foods such beans, whole grains, and nuts.

Taking Ownership of Your Health is Not Easy

One of the most challenging aspects of adopting a healthier lifestyle and diet is often the feeling of powerlessness that comes from not being able to share this lifestyle with our loved ones.

The truth is that for years my mother tried tirelessly to persuade my grandfather to change his diet and adopt a more plant-based lifestyle. She would make him veggie juice that he wouldn’t drink, shopped for healthy, organic food at the store that he wouldn’t eat, and insisted on him cutting down on meat, oils, salt, and pastries, but to no avail. My grandfather may have had a lot of qualities, but he was also stubborn. And like so many people, he was unwilling to change his diet… leading, sadly, to his demise.

Moral of the Story

If you are struggling with reaching out to your family and friends about improving their diet, do not despair, you are not alone. I intimately feel your frustration. But let us continue to try to reach those around us, because, in the end, it matters so much. (And no one’s a lost cause, as obstinate as they may seem.)

Remember:

  • Always bring a healthy dish to dinner parties or holiday meals.
  • Be an example of health — people will eventually ask what you’re doing.
  • Be courageous and speak up about diet and health to your family and friends and don’t give up.

At the end of the day, life’s too short to stay quiet. And you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to help someone.

May my grandfather rest in peace. He will certainly be missed.

To your health, and that of your family,