Chronic Kidney Disease and a Kidney Friendly Diet

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If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), it’s important to watch what you eat and drink. That’s because your kidneys can’t remove waste products from your body the way they should. A kidney-friendly diet can help you stay healthier longer.

What’s a Kidney-Friendly Diet? A major function of the kidneys is to get rid of waste and extra fluid from your body through your pee. They also:

  • Balance your body’s minerals, like salt and potassium
  • Balance your body’s fluids
  • Make hormones that affect the way other organs work

A kidney-friendly diet is a way of eating that helps protect your kidneys from further damage. You’ll have to limit some foods and fluids so other fluids and minerals like electrolytes don’t build up in your body. At the same time, you’ll have to make sure you get the right balance of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals.

If you’re in the early stages of CKD, there may be few, if any, limits on what you can eat. But as your disease gets worse, you’ll have to be more careful about what you put into your body.

The doctor may suggest you work with a dietitian to choose foods that are easy on your kidneys. They might recommend:

Cut the Sodium. This mineral is found naturally in many foods. It’s most common in table salt.

Sodium affects your blood pressure. It also helps to maintain the water balance in your body. Healthy kidneys keep sodium levels in check. But if you have CKD, extra sodium and fluids build up in your body. This can cause a number of problems, like swollen ankles, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and fluid buildup around your heart and lungs. You should aim for less than 2 grams of sodium in your daily diet.

Take these simple steps to cut the sodium in your diet:

  • Avoid table salt and high-sodium seasonings (soy sauce, sea salt, garlic salt, etc.).
  • Cook at home — most fast foods are high in sodium.
  • Try new spices and herbs in place of salt.
  • Stay away from packaged foods, if possible. They tend to be high in sodium.
  • Read the labels when shopping, and choose low-sodium foods.
  • Rinse canned foods (veggies, beans, meats, and fish) with water before serving.

Limit Phosphorus and Calcium. You need these minerals to keep your bones healthy and strong. When your kidneys are healthy, they remove the phosphorus you don’t need. But if you have CKD, your phosphorus levels can get too high. This puts you at risk for heart disease. What’s more, your calcium levels begin to drop. To make up for it, your body pulls it from your bones. This can make them weak and easier to break.

If you have late-stage CKD, your doctor may advise you to get no more than 1,000 milligrams (mg) of phosphorus mineral each day. You can do this by:

  • Choosing foods with low levels of phosphorous (look for “PHOS” on the label)
  • Eating more fresh fruits and veggies
  • Choosing corn and rice cereals
  • Drinking light-colored sodas
  • Cutting back on meat, poultry, and fish
  • Limiting dairy foods

Foods that are high in calcium also tend to be high in phosphorus. The doctor might suggest you cut back on calcium-rich foods. Dairy foods that are lower in phosphorus include:

  • Brie or Swiss cheese
  • Regular or low-fat cream cheese or sour cream
  • Sherbet

The doctor might also tell you to stop taking over-the-counter calcium supplements and suggest a phosphorus binder, a medicine that controls your phosphorus levels.

Learn more about reducing your potassium intake, the DASH diet and fluid consumption.