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Diets for Kidney Failure Patients
In all cases, do listen to your doctor's advice as the doctor knows your individual case details and when the following advice may not apply. Your renal dietitian knows best. There is no one renal diet that is best for all patients at all stages of their illness. It is important that you have a healthy diet in general terms, as kidney patients are also at risk of developing heart disease, so avoiding fatty foods is recommended.
The main section of our bookstore features books on diets and recipies, as well as general books on dialysis and renal failure. There are also some books about kidney stones.
Salt (sodium chloride)
Many people have too much salt in their diet and for renal patients, it is generally considered important to have a diet that is low in salt, especially not adding salt after the food has been cooked. But be aware that salt substitutes such as Lo-Salt, are NOT recommended, as these products contain high amounts of potassium. Pre-cooked meat tends to be high in salt content as do some canned or preserved food. The vast majority of our salt intake is added to food when cooking or eating it. Renal patients should aim to consume about half as much salt as other people.
Potassium levels in food don't normally have to be restricted, apart from
the warning about Lo-Salt substitutes. But for haemodialysis patients, your
potassium levels vary a lot, so listen carefully to what your doctor advises
you to do to control potassium levels. Foods which have a high potassium
level include apricot, artichoke, bananas, beans, carrot juice, baked potatoes,
prunes and prune juice, raisins, lentils, spinach, tomatoes, tomato juice
and tomato sauce. In particular, beans, lentils, baked potatoes, raisins,
tomato sauce and prunes have high levels.
There are more details about this topic on our potassium and dialysis page.
At one time, a low protein diet was recommended for patients with kidney failure, but this is no longer advised. Modern treatment suggests a normal protein intake - not high, not low. A high protein intake may eventually lead to kidney damage, due to increased phosphate intake. Therefore the Aitkens diet is NOT suitable for those with any kidney disease. Substances which bind with phosphate, such as calcium carbonate or calcium acetate, are used to remove excess dietary phosphate in some patients. But in turn, these salts can increase the likelihood of constipation.
It is common to find that when kidney patients' illness progresses, they may not eat enough due to lack of appetite and generally feeling listless. Lack of energy may lead to the breakdown of muscle to provide energy. Malnutrition is actually possible do to lack of appetite. So do continue to eat proper meals. Indeed some people even recommend having snacks between meals to increase your food intake.
This should be continued at a normal level - if you feel thirsty, have a drink of water. Some patients with fluid retention have to watch their fluid intake carefully however. And if you are not producing urine, you have to reduce your fluid intake, This is especially true for hemodialysis patients who have to monitor their intake carefully. But excess salt in your diet encourages you to drink too often. You should find on hemodialysis that your weight increases by around 0.5 kg per day between treatments - if it increases by more than this then you are suffering from fluid retention.
The regular daily nature of Peritoneal Dialysis makes control of potassium levels and most other dietary problems a bit easier, but a slightly higher protein intake is often recommended. Fluid intake is not quite as restricted as it can be for haemodialysis patients, but you should still watch for fluid retention problems. Sugar present in the PD fluid means that peritoneal patients should restrict their calorie intake a bit more than haemodialysis patients.
Watch that you consume enough fibre to avoid constipation - a side effect of PD.
Finally, and it is worth repeating this, listen to what your doctor tells you about your diet!