Kidney Failure Diet

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Chronic Kidney Failure Diet 101

Chronic kidney failure is a severe form of kidney disease in which there is a gradual loss of kidney function resulting in fluid and waste material accumulation in the body. The condition progresses to could-be-fatal end-stage kidney disease where a kidney transplant or dialysis may be required.

You have to pay a lot of attention to your diet when you have chronic kidney failure.

  • You need to limit the intake of fluids since the kidneys are unable to absorb fluids, so the more fluids you take, the more you will be prone to volume overload.
  • Since the kidneys cannot remove excess salts such as potassium, sodium, phosphorus and other electrolytes, you have to restrict consumption of salt and other minerals.
  • You may have to go easy on the amount of protein you eat. However, limiting protein is not essential for all people with kidney failure. Your doctor will tell you how much protein you should eat each day.

Unfortunately, this serious condition is associated with diabetes and high blood pressure. This means, if you are a diabetic with chronic kidney failure, your chronic kidney failure diet should address both conditions. For example, the experts from National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recommend avoiding a high-protein diet as the disease progresses to stage 5 so as to delay the onset of fatal symptoms. However, scientists are not very sure if protein restrictions in the early stages of the disease are as beneficial to the patient.

Similarly, if you have hypertension and you are suffering from chronic kidney failure, your dietary requirements will have to be modified according to your condition and the stage of the renal failure.

There is no single diet for chronic kidney failure. The diet will depend on your weight, blood tests and even the dialysis choice. Again, the diet will have to be modified as the disease progresses, especially, from stage 3 to stage 5. Your health care provider or the renal dietician will be the best person to suggest a diet plan suitable for you.

Choosing the Right Diet for Chronic Kidney Failure

Here is a general idea on the type of diet and nutrition you may have to opt for when you suffer from chronic kidney failure.


The normal protein intake recommendation is 1 g of protein per kg body weight per day. Before dialysis, the doctors suggest going for low protein diets. Once the dialysis starts high protein foods (approximately 250 g per day) is usually recommended.

The richest sources of protein are meat, poultry, fish, cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, cheese, tofu, milk and yogurt.


If you have diabetes, your doctor may ask you to limit your intake of complex carbohydrates. Substitute the calories from carbohydrates that you missed with calories from good protein foods or from simple carbohydrates like sugar, honey, jam, jelly and syrup.

Other sources of calories are fats or oils that are low in saturated fats and have no cholesterol. Some examples of such type of fats are tub margarine, olive oil, canola oil and safflower oil. However, if you have high blood pressure you may have to limit fats and high cholesterol foods.

Maintaining a healthy weight is also important for the kidney failure patient.

  • If you are losing weight, consult your doctor and work out a feasible diet plan to gain weight.
  • In case you are gaining weight, you need to lose weight slowly and carefully. No crash diets for kidney failure patients!
  • If you are gaining weight rapidly and there is swelling, shortness of breath and a rise in your blood pressure, see your doctor. This could be because of too much fluid in your body.


Normally, a person consumes 1 to 2 liters of fluids per day. You don’t need to reduce this amount until kidney disease is very severe. Dialysis patients do not produce much urine, so a high intake may cause accumulation of fluids. Your doctor will tell you how much fluids you’ll have to consume and when to limit fluids according to the stage of the disease you are in.


Cut back on sodium since high sodium intake leads to fluid retention and high blood pressure. Interestingly, only 10 percent of sodium is found in fresh food, the rest comes from the salt used in cooking.

If you are on dialysis, keep the salt intake down to less than 6 g (equivalent to 2 g of sodium) per day. Avoid salty foods such as soy sauce, chips and crackers. Processed food, canned foods and soups as well as take out foods and restaurant foods are high in salt content – avoid them.

Salt substitutes are a strict no-no for kidney failure patients since they contain large amount of potassium.


Whether or not you need to change potassium requirement in your diet will depend on the stage of the renal failure and whether you are taking medicines that change the level of potassium in the body.

You need to reduce potassium in your diet only when the tests show high potassium levels. Potassium is present in most foods but they are present in high amounts in fruits such as apricots, banana, raisin, prunes and kiwi and vegetables such as baked potato, lima beans, tomato, spinach and Brussel sprout.

Calcium and Phosphorus

Calcium and phosphorus are a major problem for kidney failure patients since they cause bone loss, especially in stages 4 and 5 of renal failure. Aim to keep phosphate levels below 1.8 mmol/l. Phosphorus compounds or phosphates are found abundantly in dairy products, meat and fish. Your doctor can advice you on choices and safe amounts of these foods.


You may need extra iron when you have advanced kidney failure. Foods such as liver, beef, lima beans and kidney beans are rich sources of iron.



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