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Dietary guidelines for people with kidney disease

When you have chronic kidney disease or acute renal failure:

  • Your kidneys do not do a good job of filtering and removing toxic substances from the body.
  • Your kidneys do not maintain proper fluid and electrolyte balances.

Diuretics and other medications can help your kidneys eliminate excess sodium, potassium, and water, but eating properly can also help regulate this balance. Depending on the extent of your kidney damage, other diseases you may have, and whether you are receiving dialysis, you may need to control your intake of sodium, potassium, phosphate, and fluids.

Discuss the following dietary guidelines with the your doctor and a dietitian or nutritionist. Each person has different needs, based on body weight and size, so the following recommendations will be tailored for your specific condition and your remaining kidney function.

  • Limit your salt intake. Eating too much salt (sodium) can cause water retention and swelling (edema) in your hands and feet and increase your risk of heart failure, pulmonary edema, and high blood pressure.
  • Watch your potassium intake. Potassium is found in salt substitutes, potassium supplements, and some fruits and vegetables. Too much potassium in your bloodstream (hyperkalemia) can cause muscle weakness and irregular heart rhythms.
  • Watch your phosphorus intake. Phosphorus is found in milk, cheese, meat, chicken, and fish. Too much phosphorus in your blood (hyperphosphatemia) can cause calcium to be pulled from your bones, leading to bone problems, such as renal osteodystrophy.

Special diet considerations for people who are on dialysis

People who are receiving dialysis often need specialized dietary advice and counseling. Proper nutrition plays an important role in determining how well a person who has kidney failure will function. It is important to eat the right amount of calories and other nutrients when you are receiving dialysis. A nutritionist or dietitian can help you design an appropriate meal plan.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Mitchell H. Rosner, MD - Nephrology
Last Revised June 3, 2009

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 03, 2009
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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