Nutrition and Early Kidney Disease (Stages 1 – 4)

Why is good nutrition important for people with kidney disease?

Making healthy food choices is important to us all, but it is even more important if you have kidney disease (CKD). Good nutrition gives you energy to:

  • do your daily tasks
  • prevent infection
  • build muscle
  • help maintain a healthy weight

What are the basics of good nutrition?

A well balanced diet gives you the right amounts of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals each day. Good nutrition helps you stay healthy, active, and fit. Eating a healthy diet, getting exercise, taking all your medicines exactly as instructed, and following your treatment plan may help keep your kidney disease from getting worse.

Will I need to change my diet if I have kidney disease?

Your kidneys help keep the right balance of important nutrients and minerals in your body. But if you have kidney disease, your kidneys may not be able to do this job very well. You may need to make some changes to your diet.

Your healthcare provider can refer you to a dietitian with special training who can teach you how to choose foods that are right for you. If you have Medicare, dietary counseling from a licensed dietitian is a covered service. Don't be afraid to seek help from a dietitian.

What kinds of changes will I need to make to my diet?

There is no one eating plan that is right for everyone with kidney disease. What you can or cannot eat will change over time, depending on how much kidney function you have and other factors. Also, if you are following a special diet for diabetes or heart conditions, you will need to continue to follow it as well.

People with kidney disease may need to limit how much sodium, phosphorus or protein they eat. Eating less sodium, phosphorus or protein may help control the buildup of waste products and fluid in your blood. This means your kidneys do not have to work as hard to remove the extra waste and fluid. Your healthcare provider or dietitian will tell you if you need to limit sodium, phosphorus or protein.

If your kidney disease gets worse, you may need to limit other nutrients as well. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need to do this. He will know this by giving you regular blood tests.

Why might I need to control protein, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, or potassium?

Protein

Protein is an important nutrient. Your body needs protein to help build muscle, repair tissue, and fight infection. But if you have kidney disease, you may need to watch how much protein you eat. Having too much protein can cause waste to build up in your blood. Your kidneys may not be able to remove all the extra waste. Having too little protein is also a problem. Your healthcare provider or dietitian will tell you how much protein you should eat.

Sodium

Healthy kidneys control how much sodium is in your body. But if your kidneys do not work well, control of sodium can help to avoid fluid buildup in your body. Some people may need to limit sodium to help control their blood pressure. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need to limit sodium.

Potassium

Too much or too little potassium in the blood can be dangerous. Some people with kidney disease need more potassium; others need less. How much you need depends on how well your kidneys are working. Your healthcare provider will tell you how much potassium you should eat each day.

Phosphorus

Eating high-phosphorus foods can raise the level of phosphorus in your blood. Your kidneys may not be able to remove all of this extra phosphorus. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need to limit high-phosphorus foods.

Calcium

Foods that are good sources of calcium are often high in phosphorus. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need to limit calcium. Do not take over-the-counter vitamin D or calcium supplements unless recommended by your healthcare provider.

Will I need to limit fluid?

Most people with kidney disease do not need to limit how much fluid they drink if they are in the early stages. If you do not know your stage of kidney disease, ask your healthcare provider.

If your kidney disease gets worse, your healthcare provider will let you know if you need to limit fluids and how much to drink each day.

How many calories do I need?

Every person is different. Calories are like fuel—they provide your body with the energy you need to live. They are important because they:

  • help you stay at a healthy body weight
  • give you the energy you need to do your daily tasks
  • help your body use the protein in food to build muscles and tissues

It is important to plan meals that give you enough calories each day. Otherwise, your body may not have the energy you need to stay healthy. A dietitian can help you do this.

How do I get enough vitamins and minerals?

Most people get enough vitamins and minerals to stay healthy by eating a wide variety of foods each day. However, if you have kidney disease, you may need to limit some foods that would normally give you these important vitamins and minerals. If so, you may need to take special vitamins or minerals instead. You should only take the vitamins and minerals your healthcare provider or dietitian recommend, because some may be harmful to people with kidney disease.

You should also check with your health care provider before taking any medicines you can buy without a prescription. Some may be harmful to people with kidney disease. You should also avoid taking herbal supplements.

Where can I get more information?

Click here for the full PDF of Nutrition and Chronic Kidney Disease (Stages 1-4).

If you would like more information, please contact us.

© 2015 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.