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 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, you can eat a variety of foods. Depending on your size, symptoms, stage of chronic kidney disease, age, activity level and other health conditions, your renal dietitian will make sure you are on an eating plan that is best suited for you. This nutritious eating plan will feature a prescribed amount of high quality protein, along with carbohydrates and fats to provide adequate calories.

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 (such as candy, soda, animal fats and processed foods) should only be a small part of your diet. If you have other health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol or blood pressure, you may be advised to restrict the amount of sugar, saturated fat and salt you can eat.

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, which is also called end stage renal disease (ESRD). This is the stage when dialysis or transplant becomes necessary in order to live.

How does this diet help?

Lowering the amount of protein you eat 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. As kidneys become overworked, more damage occurs. Cutting back on protein means kidneys process less protein waste and are able to work without additional stress.

High blood pressure can make kidney disease worse. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can also 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 very important to help preserve kidney function. Studies have shown that keeping glucose levels normal helps delay the development and slow progression of kidney disease.

One concern when following a restricted protein diet is preventing protein malnutrition. It is very important to see your dietitian and doctor on a regular basis so they can monitor your protein status.

The CKD non-dialysis diet is formulated with your optimal health in mind. You can get a great balance of vitamins and minerals from all sorts of foods. Your kidneys will benefit, and your overall health will, too.

What about fluid intake?

In the early stages of chronic kidney disease, you will be able to drink your normal amount of fluid. If you notice swelling, this may be a sign of fluid retention. It may result from eating high sodium foods or decreased kidney function. Your doctor and renal dietitian will monitor your condition and recommend adjustments to 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. The diet may be changed over time to meet your health needs and reflect any changes to your condition.

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

If your kidney disease was diagnosed at an early stage, you may not notice any changes to the way you feel on the CKD non-dialysis diet. This is because the earliest stages of kidney disease 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.

Many patients feel the same as they did before they went on the diet. Do not be alarmed because you do not feel different. This does not mean the CKD non-dialysis diet is not working properly. The best indicator that the diet is working will be your lab results.

Your doctor will conduct a creatinine clearance test in order to calculate your glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Your GFR tells you and your doctor how effective your kidneys are at filtering waste and excess fluid from your bloodstream. Carefully following the CKD non-dialysis diet and your dietitian and doctor’s advice will help treat chronic kidney disease.

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

The CKD non-dialysis diet will help your kidneys by slowing the progression of kidney disease. The diet, however, is not a cure for kidney disease, nor can it reverse the damage already done. Chronic kidney disease continues over time. 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. Following the diet will help manage blood pressure and blood glucose control, which can help preserve kidney function.

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