Vitamins and Minerals in Kidney Disease

Vitamins and minerals are important for everyone's good health. If you have CKD and/or if you are receiving dialysis, you may need to know which vitamins and minerals you can take in the form of supplements.

What are vitamins and minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are substances needed by your body to help carry out special functions. Examples of vitamins are A, B, C, D and E. Examples of minerals are zinc, iron and copper. They help your body use the foods you eat. They are needed to make energy for cells and promote growth and repair body tissues. Chronic kidney disease changes your body's need for certain vitamins and minerals.

Will I need to take vitamin and mineral supplements?

Almost all vitamins and minerals come from the foods you eat. Your body does not make these substances. People with healthy kidneys who eat a variety of foods from all the food groups (meats, grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy products) can get lots of vitamins and minerals. Your kidney diet limits some food groups; therefore, you may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need each day. It may be important for you to take certain amounts of some vitamins and minerals in the form of supplements.

Why do I need different amounts of vitamins and minerals?

Having chronic kidney disease changes your need for some nutrients. Some of the reasons are listed below:

  • The waste products that build up in your body each day can change the way your body uses vitamins and minerals.
  • Some of the medicines you take can change the way your body uses certain vitamins and minerals.
  • Some vitamins are lost during dialysis treatment.
  • Following a CKD diet can mean you miss certain vitamins and minerals from some food groups.
  • On days when you may not feel well enough to eat regular meals, you may not get enough daily vitamins and minerals.
  • CKD changes your body’s ability to make some vitamins. An example is Vitamin D.

What supplements will I need to take?

Your doctor will probably want you to take a group of vitamins called B complex as well as some vitamin C. A prescription for these may be necessary.

If you are taking medication to treat anemia, you may also need to take an iron pill or have injectable iron. You should only take iron if your doctor prescribes it for you.

If your blood phosphorus level is too high, you may need to take a medicine used to bind the phosphorus from your food. Some phosphorus binder medications contain calcium. They can give you extra calcium if you need it.

You may also need to take some vitamin D. It can be given as a pill and can also be given during your dialysis treatment if you are receiving dialysis. You should only take vitamin D if your doctor prescribes it for you.

How does my body use these vitamins and minerals?

B complex vitamins are grouped together, but each has a different job to do. One of the important functions of vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid is to work together with iron to prevent anemia.

Additional B vitamins, called thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin, can also be given as a supplement. These vitamins help to change the foods you eat into energy your body can use.

Vitamin C is used to keep many different types of tissue healthy. It also helps wounds and bruises heal faster and may help prevent infections.

Calcium along with vitamin D helps to keep your bones healthy. It is important to take only the amount of calcium prescribed by your doctor or dietitian. Too much calcium can clump together with phosphorus and deposit in places such as your heart, blood vessels, lungs and other body tissues.

In addition to maintaining healthy bones, newer research shows that vitamin D may also protect against heart disease. There are different types of vitamin D. Your doctor will be very specific about the type and amount you should be taking.

Talk with your doctor or dietitian before taking any vitamins that are not ordered for you.

Is it safe to use herbal remedies?

Very little is actually known about these remedies when used by people with kidney disease and people on dialysis therapy. There may be unwanted interactions with prescribed medicines or other side effects. Always speak to your doctor or pharmacist before using any herbal remedies, over-the-counter-medicines, or supplements.

What if I have more questions?

If you have more questions, be sure to speak to your kidney doctor or dietitian. They can help you learn about vitamins and mineral supplements that could be necessary if you have CKD. Your social worker may be able to answer questions about how to pay for your supplements. Sometimes, your insurance or medical assistance will pay for them.
See also in this A-Z Guide:

KLS Review: June 2009

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© 2014 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.