What is the Best Diet for Kidney Disease?

Kidney function is extremely important for your health and survival. So important, in fact, that the body comes with two kidneys so you always have a backup if one organ fails. That’s why following the best diet for kidney disease should be your top priority when these essential organs run into trouble.

There are basically two types of kidney disease.

  1. Acute kidney disease occurs when you’ve had a surgery, infection, or an acute intoxication of the kidney.
  2. Chronic kidney disease refers to bacterial, cystic, or autoimmune issues with the kidney.

Whichever type of kidney disease you’re dealing with, you must observe a diet that delivers all the necessary nutrients for kidney function. You also need to recognize which foods could exacerbate the symptoms of your disease so you can cut them out of your diet. 

It may take some time to adjust to this new nutritional system. But these dietary changes are more than worth it. 

Every nutritional tip that follows supports the efforts of most medical doctors treating kidney disease. However, it is advisable that you and your doctor have a direct conversation about dietary choices.

Here is the best diet for kidney disease in clear and simple terms.

Limit Proteins

To better support your kidneys, you have to limit protein.

It may take a while to adjust your mindset here. With the rising popularity of low-carb diets, we constantly hear how important it is to load up on protein. And it is true that protein plays a necessary role in your physical health.

But proteins also place a lot of stress on your kidneys. When your body metabolizes protein, it creates metabolic waste products such as ammonia and urea. Your kidneys then have to filter that waste. Too much protein overloads an organ that is already struggling.

The best diet for kidney disease protects those organs by including just enough protein to support lean mass.

A Diet for Kidney Disease Should Be Low in Phosphorus

Damaged kidneys do a poor job of removing phosphorus. And when you have an excess of phosphorus in your body, you have a problem. Too much phosphorus impedes your body’s ability to use other minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Eliminate foods that are high in phosphorus such as:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocoa
  • Dairy
  • Cheese
  • Canned iced teas

Get Enough Calcium to Support Kidney Function

The best thing you can do to support healthy kidney function is consume plenty of calcium. Talk to your doctor or nutritional counselor about the amount of calcium you should consume on a daily basis. Generally speaking, the RDI (Reference Daily Intake) for calcium to support normal kidney function in individuals over 50 years old is 1,200 mg.

Now, here’s the challenge. As you may recall, you also need to limit phosphorus intake, which means eliminating dairy. That is to say, you have to get your calcium somewhere other than milk, yogurt, and cheese. 

Non-dairy calcium sources include:

  • Dark, leafy greens like kale and collard greens,
  • Beans and lentils
  • Almonds
  • Seeds
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Figs
  • Oranges

You can also supplement calcium if needed.

Stick to a Low-Carb Meal Plan

A low-carb diet is a good diet for kidney disease. Excess carbohydrates cause inflammation of the nephrons. They can also cause weight gain—especially if you’re consuming a lot of processed carbs and refined sugars. That weight gain can, in turn, put added stress on the kidneys.

That said, remember that “low carb” is not the same thing as “high protein.” You still need to limit your protein intake. Talk to your doctor or nutritional counselor about how many carbohydrates you need each day for healthy function. Then stay within that ideal range.

Choose Sodium Citrate Over Sodium Chloride

Kidney disease sometimes causes hypertension, better known as high blood pressure. If this is the case for you, you’ll need to limit your sodium chloride intake. 

Sodium chloride is table salt. When you have hypertension, you can’t absorb this salt properly. Reduce the amount of sodium chloride you consume and replace it with sodium citrate. You find sodium citrate in hydration mixes like Skratch.

Balance Vitamins and Minerals for the Best Diet for Kidney Disease

You know you need calcium for healthy kidney function. But don’t focus on supplementing calcium alone.

As a nutritional counselor, I see this happen a lot. People with kidney disease piecemeal certain nutrients without realizing that productive function depends on a balance of all essential vitamins and minerals. These elements work together and depend on one another.

For example, you need enough Vitamin D3 to properly absorb the calcium you’ve added to your diet.

You also need iodine to remove waste products from your cells. This is especially a concern when it comes to chronic kidney disease due to cysts.

Bottom line: the best diet for kidney disease is a well-rounded diet. Make sure you get plenty of essential vitamins and minerals, consume carbs and protein in moderation, and go easy on phosphorus.

 Also remember that your body and health history are unique. While these dietary standards are appropriate for just about any kidney disease patient, you can always benefit from a kidney friendly diet tailored to your body and needs. At PH² Nutrition, we’re happy to help. Contact us for a free, 15-minute consultation.