There’s no specific diet for people with ADPKD. There aren’t enough studies to know if changing what you eat slows the growth of cysts.
But eating well can help you manage health problems that can make kidney disease worse, like diabetes and high blood pressure. And making certain choices, like cutting back on salt and protein, can help protect your kidneys.
Your doctor can suggest a diet plan that’s right for you. You can also talk to a registered dietitian who’s worked with other people who have kidney disease.
How to Get Started
Try these diet choices to help you stay healthy.
Cut back on salt. Eating less salt helps you control your blood pressure. High blood pressure is common with ADPKD and can damage your kidneys.
Try these tips to lower how much salt you eat:
- Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. (It's the main ingredient in salt.)
- Buy fresh foods.
- Cook meals from scratch.
- Don’t add salt when you prepare meals.
- Use herbs and spices to flavor food.
- Limit how much prepared, packaged, and canned food you eat.
- Avoid foods with hidden salt, like bacon, bread, breakfast cereal, ham, sausage, and ready-to-eat foods.
- Check Nutrition Facts on food labels. Avoid foods with a Daily Value of sodium of 20% or higher.
- Rinse canned vegetables, beans, fish, and meat before you eat or cook them.
- Eat less restaurant food and takeout food. Restaurants tend to use a lot of salt.
Eat the right proteins. When you eat protein, your body creates waste. Your kidneys work hard to remove the waste. Cutting back on protein makes it easier on them.
But you need protein for energy, growth, and repair. And everyone’s different. Talk to your doctor about how much you should eat.
In general, vegetable protein may be healthier for your kidneys than animal protein. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about which ones are best for you. They may include:
Use proper portions. Follow these guidelines:
- Cooked chicken, fish, or meat: 2-3 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards
- Dairy: A half cup of milk or yogurt, or a slice of cheese
- Beans: A half cup
- Bread: One slice
- Cooked rice or pasta: A half cup
- Nuts: One quarter cup
Choose heart-healthy foods. Your blood vessels, heart, and kidneys work better without fat buildup. You can lower it by choosing heart-healthy foods and limiting trans fats and saturated fats.
Heart-healthy foods include:
- Eggs, egg whites, and egg substitute
- Lean cuts of meat
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy like milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Skinless poultry like chicken and turkey
Eat more fruits and vegetables. Aim for five portions a day.
Try fruits like apples, apricots, blueberries, cherries, grapes, lemons, limes, Mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon.
Switch to vegetables like arugula, bean sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, green beans, jalapenos, peas, peppers, raw spinach, summer squash, and zucchini.
Follow these heart-healthy cooking tips:
- Grill, bake, broil, roast, or stir-fry your food.
- Don't deep fry.
- Use nonstick cooking spray or olive oil instead of butter.
- Trim fat from meat.
- Remove skin from poultry.
What to Drink
Water. Doctors aren’t sure how drinking fluids affects kidney cysts. Some think getting more liquids is good for ADPKD, but there aren’t studies to back it up. Experts suggest a simple rule of thumb: Drink about 2.5 to 3 quarts of water a day if you can. Add more when you sweat a lot or have diarrhea.
Caffeine. You may have heard less caffeine is good for ADPKD, but it isn’t clear if it impacts cyst growth. Try moderation: Up to two cups of coffee or four cups of tea a day.
Alcohol. Moderate amounts seem to be OK. Try to keep it under two drinks a day if you’re a man or one drink if you’re a woman.
Special Advice for Lower Kidney Function
If your kidney function goes down, your doctor may suggest foods with less phosphorus and potassium to help protect your bones and your blood vessels.
They’ll tell you what to do based on your test results and medications. A dietitian can create an eating for you plan to lower how much phosphorus and potassium you get.
Tips for Success
You may have to change what you eat over time as your kidney function gets worse or if you go on dialysis. Keep an open mind.
If you have trouble eating enough, talk to your doctor. You need calories for energy and to stay healthy. The doctor or dietitian can help you find ways to add calories to your diet.
PKD Foundation: “What Can I Eat?”
Clinical Nutrition: “Diet and polycystic kidney disease: A pilot intervention study.”
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Eating Right for Chronic Kidney Disease.”
Wüthrich, R. Polycystic Kidney Disease, Codon Publications, 2015.
PKD Charity: “Diet and Lifestyle.”
PKD Foundation of Canada: “ADPKD Nutrition Questions.”
National Organization for Rare Diseases: “Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease.”