Nephrotic syndrome is a disorder of the kidneys. Small pores known as podocytes are formed in the kidney, which allow the leakage of proteins (proteinuria), especially albumin (albuminuria), in the urine. Kidneys become inefficient in filtering the excess water and wastes from the blood. This syndrome is seen in both children (mostly between 1 and 5 years of age) and adults. Generalized edema, i.e. swelling throughout the body, is the characteristic symptom of this syndrome.
Serum hypoalbuminemia (low albumin level in the blood) causes a drop in the serum osmotic pressure, which is the pressure exerted by the molecules when they pass across a semi-permeable membrane. This leads to fluid accumulation in the free spaces between tissues. Sodium and water retention worsen this condition. Breathlessness, anemia, high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders like systemic lupus erythematosus, and nerve problems are the associated risk factors.
The main goal of dietary modification in this syndrome is to replenish the protein loss. However, a very high protein diet can further lead to tubular damage. Hence, a moderate protein diet consisting of mainly good quality proteins will serve the purpose. Foods such as eggs, milk and milk products, yogurt, sprouts, legumes, lean meat, dry fish, and pulses can meet the protein requirements of a patient suffering from this syndrome.
Cholesterol levels tend to be very high in these patients; so, a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol will be best for their recovery. Margarine, cheese, and oily foods should be eliminated from the diet. Fluid restriction is very important for a patient suffering from this syndrome as excess fluids can overwork the kidneys and worsen the swelling. Soups, milk, water, soda, juice, ice cubes, and other beverages should be restricted according to the fluid intake recommended by the physician.
Watery fruits like watermelon, figs, and grapes may help to reduce the patients thirst. Sodium consumption in the form of salt, salted wafers, nuts, and pickles may increase the fluid retention and also increase the thirst. Wheat, rice, and cereals can be taken as they are low in sodium. Nephrotic syndrome is not a disease by itself but indicates that there is a strong risk of suffering from kidney diseases in the future. At this stage, one should take great care in the management of the syndrome as even a little carelessness can lead to permanent failure of the kidneys.