The CKD Non-Dialysis Diet

What is a CKD non-dialysis diet?

A CKD non-dialysis diet is for people diagnosed with an early stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD). There are 5 stages of CKD—stages 1 through 4 are before dialysis is needed, and stage 5 is when dialysis or a kidney transplant is required. Over time, CKD damages the kidneys’ ability to filter waste and excess fluid from the body. Your kidneys will become less effective at doing their jobs, and you will become ill. The CKD non-dialysis diet is designed to help the kidneys keep as much of their remaining function for as long as possible. This diet also helps reduce the buildup of excess fluid and waste products.

What can I eat?

On the CKD non-dialysis diet, your renal dietitian will make sure you’re on an eating plan that’s best suited for your size, symptoms, stage of CKD, age, activity level and other health conditions. This plan will feature a prescribed amount of high-quality protein, carbohydrates and fats.

What can’t I eat?

Your dietitian will adjust the amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat you can eat in a day. On the CKD non-dialysis diet, eating less protein is recommended. Eating more nutritious carbohydrates, such as those found in grains, fruits and vegetables, is encouraged. Healthy fats such as canola and olive oil may be increased for added calories.

At stages 3 and 4 CKD your protein intake may be limited. The amount depends on your body size and kidney function. Although you may be instructed to eat more carbohydrates and fats to meet your calorie needs, those with little nutritive value (e.g., candy, soda, animal fats, processed foods) should be limited. If you have other health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, you may be advised to eat less sugar, saturated fat and salt.

Why do I have to eat this way?

The goal of the CKD non-dialysis diet is to preserve existing kidney function to delay the later stages of CKD, particularly stage 5.

How does this diet help?

Lowering your protein intake will allow your kidneys to work with less waste buildup. When you eat protein, your body creates protein waste products, which are eliminated from the body through urine. Damaged kidneys have a difficult time getting rid of protein waste products.. Cutting back on protein means kidneys process less protein waste and are able to work without additional stress.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can worsen kidney disease and cancel out the benefits of a restricted protein diet. Choosing foods low in sodium can help manage this condition and help keep kidneys healthy. Taking blood pressure medicines prescribed by your doctor will also help.

If you have diabetes, blood glucose control is important to help preserve kidney function. Studies have shown that keeping glucose levels normal helps delay the development and slow progression of kidney disease.

What about fluid intake?

In the early stages of CKD, you can drink your normal amount of fluid. If you notice swelling, this may be a sign of fluid retention from eating high-sodium foods or decreased kidney function. Your doctor and renal dietitian will adjust your diet and medications as needed.

How long do I have to follow the CKD non-dialysis diet?

You will need to follow the CKD non-dialysis diet as long as your doctor and dietitian recommend.

How do I know if the CKD non-dialysis diet is working?

If you have early stage kidney disease, you may not notice any changes to the way you feel on the CKD non-dialysis diet. This is because the earliest stages lack obvious physical symptoms. You may not have even felt ill when you were first diagnosed. If you had symptoms like swelling, you will notice the diet helps improve your symptoms. The best indicator that the diet is working will come from your lab results.

If I follow the CKD non-dialysis diet will my kidneys keep working?

The CKD non-dialysis diet can help slow the progression of kidney disease. The diet, however, is not a cure for kidney disease, nor can it reverse the damage already done. There may come a point in the disease when your kidneys will stop working. Following the CKD non-dialysis diet and your doctor’s advice may help delay that from happening. By not following the CKD non-dialysis diet, however, your kidneys may lose function more quickly and advance to the later stages of kidney disease.

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