A to Z Health Guide

Vitamins and Minerals in Kidney Disease

Are you getting enough vitamins and minerals for your health?  If you have kidney disease or kidney failure, here’s what you need to know.

What are vitamins and minerals?

Vitamins and minerals are substances your body needs to help carry out special functions. They help your body use the foods you eat. They provide you with energy, help your body grow and repair tissue, and help maintain life.  Everyone needs them.  But if you have kidney disease or are on dialysis, you may not be getting enough.  

How do I know if I’m not getting enough vitamins and minerals?

 Almost all vitamins and minerals come from the foods you eat. Your body cannot 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. But if you have kidney disease or are on dialysis, your diet may limit some food groups; therefore, you may not be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need each day. You may need to take some in the form of supplements. Your healthcare provider can help you find out which vitamins and minerals you may need by looking at your health history and running some tests.

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:

  • 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 diet for kidney disease 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.
  • Having kidney disease changes your body’s ability to make some vitamins. An example is vitamin D.

Which supplements will I need to take?

Depending on your health and other factors, your healthcare provider may recommend some of the following supplements:

  • B Complex: 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.  If you have anemia, it means you do not have enough red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. 
    • 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.
  • Iron: If you are taking medicine to treat anemia, you may also need to take an iron pill or have injectable iron. You should only take iron if your healthcare provider prescribes it for you.
  • Vitamin C: 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. Your healthcare provider may need to give you a prescription for these vitamins. 
  • Vitamin D: 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. 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. You should only take vitamin D if your healthcare provider prescribes it for you.
  • Calcium: 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. 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.

Which vitamins do I need to avoid if I have kidney disease?

You may need to avoid some vitamins and minerals if you have kidney disease. Some of these include A, E and K. These vitamins are more likely to build up in your body and can cause harm.  Over time, they can cause dizziness, nausea, and even death.  You should only take these vitamins if your healthcare provider gives you a prescription for them. There is also some concern about vitamin C.  Although some people may need to take a low dose of vitamin C, large doses may cause a buildup of oxalate in people with kidney disease.  Oxalate may stay in the bones and soft tissue, which can cause pain and other issues over time.

Is it safe to use herbal remedies?

Herbal remedies should be avoided by people with kidney disease and people on dialysis. There may be unwanted interactions with prescribed medicines or other side effects. Always speak to your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking any herbal remedies, over-the-counter medicines, or supplements.

The information shared on our websites is information developed solely from internal experts on the subject matter, including medical advisory boards, who have developed guidelines for our patient content. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. No one associated with the National Kidney Foundation will answer medical questions via e-mail. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.