The Role of Nutrition in Chronic Kidney Disease

If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), you will have many questions about what type of diet is right for you. Early diet changes in patients with kidney disease can prevent or delay progression of the disease, help you feel better, and reduce complications. The diet for kidney patients is called the "Renal Diet." It is not a low-calorie diet or a diet for weight loss. Instead, it is a diet to help preserve your kidney function and lesson the side effects of the body chemical imbalances that occur with kidney disease. The diet recommendations will vary, depending on what stage of kidney disease you have. I have been working with kidney patients for 12 years both in the dialysis units and in the nephrology office. Some of the things I talk to patients about are salt and potassium restrictions, ways to eat less phosphorus and how much protein to eat, as well as ways to control blood sugar. For my patients in the early stages of kidney disease, the focus may simply be on exercise, weight loss and a well-rounded diet as a first step. Each diet is individualized to accommodate preferences and meet your needs. Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina will cover diet sessions with me – if you have not yet seen me, ask your doctor to order an appointment. The right diet will help to preserve your kidney function and help you feel better!

Chronic Kidney Disease Stages 1-2:

Diet and lifestyle recommendations include sodium restriction, exercise and weight loss for cardiovascular health and to achieve a healthy body weight, blood pressure control, strict blood sugar control (for diabetics), smoking cessation, cholesterol screenings.

Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 3:

A low sodium diet along with a modest protein restriction is ideal for patients at this stage. Some patients may need to follow a low potassium or low phosphorus diet. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight, tight blood pressure control and blood sugar control also continue to be very important.

Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 4:

Diet recommendations include continued sodium restriction, moderate protein restriction, dietary phosphorus limits and possible phosphate binder therapy. Blood pressure and blood sugar control continue to be priorities.

Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 5:

As the need for dialysis approaches, patients will need to increase their protein intake, follow a low-phosphorus and low-potassium diet, be diligent in taking their phosphate binders, and limit sodium. Dialysis unit dietitians will be able to assist patients in making necessary diet changes once dialysis is initiated.