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Diet - chronic kidney disease

When you have chronic kidney disease, you need to make changes in your diet, including:

  • Limiting fluids
  • Eating a low-protein diet (this may be recommended)
  • Restricting salt, potassium, phosphorous, and other electrolytes
  • Getting enough calories if you are losing weight

Your recommended diet may change over time if your kidney disease gets worse, or if you need dialysis.

  • Alternative Names

    Renal disease - diet; Kidney disease - diet

  • Function

    The purpose of this diet is to maintain a balance of electrolytes, minerals, and fluid in patients who are on dialysis. The special diet is important because dialysis alone does not effectively remove ALL waste products. These waste products can also build up between dialysis treatments.

    Most dialysis patients urinate very little or not at all. Therefore, fluid restriction between treatments is very important. Without urination, fluid will build up in the body and lead to excess fluid in the heart, lungs, and ankles.

  • Recommendations

    Ask for a referral to a registered dietitian for diet information about kidney disease. Some dietitians specialize in kidney diets. Your dietitian can help you create a diet to fit your specific needs.

    The Kidney Foundation has chapters in most states. It is an excellent resource for programs and educational materials to help people with kidney disease and their families.

    Your daily calorie intake needs to be high enough to keep you healthy and prevent the breakdown of body tissue. Ask your doctor and dietitian what your ideal weight should be, and weigh yourself every morning.

    CARBOHYDRATES

    If you are overweight or have diabetes, you may need to limit the amount of carbohydrates you eat. Talk with your doctor, nurse, or dietitian.

    Otherwise, carbohydrates are a good source of energy for your body. If your health care provider has recommended a low-protein diet, you may replace the calories from protein with:

    • Fruits, breads, grains, and vegetables. These foods provide energy, as well as fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
    • Hard candies, sugar, honey, and jelly. If needed, you can even eat high-calorie desserts such as pies, cakes, or cookies, as long as you limit desserts made with dairy, chocolate, nuts, or bananas.

    FATS

    Fats can be a good source of calories. Make sure to use monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (olive oil, canola oil, safflower oil) to help protect your arteries. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or dietitian about fats and cholesterol that may increase your risk for heart problems.

    PROTEIN

    Low-protein diets may be helpful before dialysis. Your doctor or dietitian may recommend a moderate-protein diet (1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day).

    Once you start dialysis, you will need more protein. In fact, a high-protein diet with fish, poultry, pork, or eggs at every meal may be recommended. This will help you replace muscles and other tissues that you lose.

    People on dialysis should eat 8 - 10 ounces of high-protein foods each day. Your doctor, dietitian, or nurse may suggest adding egg whites, egg white powder, or protein powder.

    CALCIUM AND PHOSPHOROUS

    Calcium and phosphorous, two other important minerals in the body, are also monitored closely. Even in the early stages of chronic kidney disease, phosphorous levels in the blood can become too high. This can cause:

    • Low calcium (this causes the body to pull calcium from your bones, which can make your bones weaker and more likely to break)
    • Itching

    You will need to limit the amount of dairy foods that you eat. This includes milk, yogurt, and cheese. Some dairy foods are lower in phosphorous, including tub margarine, butter, cream cheese, heavy cream, ricotta cheese, brie cheese, sherbet, and nondairy whipped toppings.

    Fruits and vegetables contain only small amounts of phosphorous.

    You may need to take calcium supplements to prevent bone disease, and vitamin D to control the balance of calcium and phosphorous in your body. Ask your doctor, nurse, or dietititan.

    If dietary measures to lower phosphorous are not enough, your doctor may recommend "phosphorous binders."

    FLUIDS

    In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, you do not need to limit how much fluid you drink. As your kidney disease becomes worse or when you are on dialysis, you will need to watch how much you drink. In between dialysis sessions, fluid can build up in the body.

    Your doctor and dialysis nurse will let you know how much you should drink every day. Do not eat too much of foods that contain a lot of water, such as soups, Jell-O, popsicles, ice cream, grapes, melons, lettuce, tomatoes, and celery.

    Use smaller cups or glasses and turn over your cup after you have finished it.

    Tips to keep from becoming thirsty include:

    • Avoid salty foods
    • Freeze some juice in an ice cube tray and eat it like a popsicle (you must count these ice cubes in your daily amount of fluids)
    • Stay cool on hot days

    SALT OR SODIUM

    Reducing sodium in your diet helps you control high blood pressure, keeps you from being thirsty, and prevents your body from holding onto extra fluid. A low-salt diet is usually needed.

    Look for these words on food labels:

    • Low-sodium
    • No salt added
    • Sodium-free
    • Sodium reduced
    • Unsalted

    Check all labels to see how much salt or sodium foods contain per serving. Also, avoid foods that list salt near the beginning of the ingredients. Look for products with less than 100 mg of salt per serving.

    Do not use salt when cooking and take the salt shaker away from the table. Most other herbs are safe, and you can use them to flavor your food instead of salt.

    DO NOT use salt substitutes because they contain potassium. People with chronic kidney disease also need to limit their potassium.

    POTASSIUM

    Normal blood levels of potassium help keep your heart beating steadily. However, too much potassium can build up when the kidneys no longer function well. Dangerous heart rhythms may result.

    Potassium is found in many food groups, including fruits and vegetables. Choosing the right item from each food group can help control your potassium levels.

    When eating fruits:

    • Choose peaches, grapes, pears, cherries, apples, berries, pineapple, plums, tangerines, and watermelon
    • Limit or avoid oranges and orange juice, nectarines, Kiwis, raisins or other dried fruit, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, prunes, and nectarines

    When eating vegetables:

    • Choose broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green and wax beans, lettuce, onion, peppers, watercress, zucchini, and yellow squash
    • Limit or avoid asparagus, avocado, potatoes, tomatoes or tomato sauce, winter squash, pumpkin, avocado, and cooked spinach

    IRON

    Patients with advanced kidney failure usually need extra iron.

    Many foods contain extra iron (liver, beef, pork, chicken, lima and kidney beans, iron-fortified cereals). Because of your kidney disease, talk this over with your doctor, nurse, or dietitian.

  • References

    National Kidney Foundation. Dietary Guidelines for Adults Starting on Hemodialysis. 2009. Accessed September 22, 2009.

    Eat right to feel right on hemodialysis. NIH Publication No. 08-4274. August 2008. Accessed September 23, 2009.

    Mitch WE. Chronic kidney disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 131.

Review Date: 10/5/2009

Reviewed By: Parul Patel, MD, Private Practice specializing in Nephrology and Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, Affiliated with California Pacific Medical Center, Department of Transplantation, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2014 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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