Healthy kidneys get rid of the wastes that comes from food once the body
has used all of the nutrition in it. When kidneys no longer work
properly, it is often necessary to change the way a person eats.
The diet needed for kidney failure depends on several things:
- The kind of kidney disease
- The stage of kidney failure-early, middle, or late
- The kind of dialysis chosen
- Whether or not diabetes is also present
- Height and weight
- Activity level
- Amount of urine output
A Dietitian is trained to evaluate all of these components and make the diet specific to each individual.
Nutrients to Know
Although every person needs their own specific diet, there are several
nutrients that all renal diets include. Some nutrients are more or less
important depending on whether you are a hemodialysis patient or PD
patient. In general, there are less dietary restrictions for PD
The common nutrients are:
- Calcium and phosphorus
to read labels and knowing which foods contain the largest amounts of
these nutrients will help you follow the renal diet. Here is a closer
look at these nutrients.
Calcium and phosphorus, in the right
balance, work together in the
body to keep your teeth and bones strong and a change in one can cause a
change in the other. If the kidneys fail, phosphorus may build up in
your blood. Less phosphorus must be eaten for meals and snacks. It is
also usually necessary to take a phosphorus binder with meals and
snacks. This is a medicine used to grab hold of the phosphorus in the
food and keep it from getting into the blood. A high phosphorus level in
the blood can cause many problems including itching, bone pain, brittle
bones, muscle aches and heart damage. A calcium supplement may also be
needed to keep your bones strong.
Sodium is found in the diet, most commonly, as
salt. Limiting salt helps control blood pressure and fluid buildup. In
addition to the salt shaker, there are other sources of high sodium
foods such as processed meats including bacon, sausage and luncheon
meats. Snack foods, canned foods and frozen prepared meals also contain
large amounts of salt.
Fluids in the diet are beverages such as water,
milk and juice as well as foods that melt at room temperature such as
ice cream. Since the kidneys are making much less urine or no urine at
all, fluids need to be limited. Limiting fluids helps control blood
pressure and puts less strain on the heart, which has to pump that fluid
throughout the body.
Potassium is a mineral present in many fruits and
vegetables as well as in meat and dairy products. If your kidneys do not
work well, potassium can build up in the blood. Too much or too little
potassium in the diet can affect the muscles in the body, particularly
Protein is needed daily to build muscles, repair
tissues, fight infection and replace the protein lost from dialysis.
Protein is the nutrient most needed to prevent malnutrition. Protein is
present in many food items, but the highest quality protein comes from
beef, pork, poultry, seafood and eggs. Well-nourished patients do better
on dialysis, get sick less often and live longer.
Calories are needed to supply energy and to maintain
weight. Calories come from all the foods you eat, including proteins,
carbohydrates and fat. Calories are a concern if weight is too low or
too high. Sometimes special liquid supplements are needed to provide
enough calories to maintain weight or regain lost weight. Weight loss
diets, in certain cases, are a consideration when being overweight is
affecting your health.
The renal diet can be challenging. Dietitians, with highly specialized training,
are available to provide a personalized diet and give information on how
to use this diet. For further information on the right diet for your
individual needs, consult a Dietitian.
back to top