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Fluid Weight Gain? Investigate the Cause When You Have Kidney Disease

Provided by DaVita® Dietitians

Are you a dialysis patient who has been struggling with weight gains that are too high? If so, it’s time to investigate the cause.

For dialysis patients, there are two types of weight: dry weight and fluid weight.  Dry weight refers to your weight when your blood pressure is controlled and there is no excess fluid in your body. Fluid weight is the weight you gain between dialysis treatments from the foods and fluids you take in.

Healthy kidneys remove excess fluid from the body when you eat or drink liquids. When kidneys do not work well, they do not make enough urine to remove the extra fluid from the body, causing fluid weight gain.

What are the symptoms of too much fluid?

Between your dialysis treatments, gaining too much fluid can cause:

If you gain too much fluid between treatments, you may experience the following symptoms during dialysis:

  • Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Anything that is liquid at room temperature is considered to be fluid. This includes ice, gelatin, Popsicles® and soup. Be careful that you don’t consume foods high in sodium, or salt, because they will make you thirsty, and you are likely to then consume more fluids.

What causes fluid weight gain?

If you are gaining too much fluid weight, some detective work is needed to uncover the cause. The following clues will help you solve the case.

Are you using salt or eating salty foods? These are examples of salty foods you may be overindulging in:

  • Cured meats, such as ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs or luncheon meats
  • Frozen dinners, canned soups or soup mixes
  • Foods in brine, such as pickles, olives or sauerkraut
  • Bouillon cubes, soy sauce or steak sauce
  • Foods coated with salt, including crackers, popcorn, potato chips or pretzels
  • Foods from fast food restaurants
  • Meat or poultry that has been “enhanced” or “infused” with a sodium phosphate solution
  • Salty seasonings such as garlic salt, onion salt, celery salt, lemon pepper or monosodium glutamate (MSG)-based flavor enhancers

There are other ways that you might be adding too much fluid to your body:

  • Using chewing tobacco or snuff, which causes thirst
  • Drinking more than 32 ounces (1 quart) of fluid each day (or the amount prescribed by your doctor)
  • Not counting “hidden fluids” such as ice, soup, gelatin and Popsicles® as part of your fluid allowance

Solve the problem by limiting your fluid intake so that you do not gain excessive fluid weight between dialysis treatments. Your renal dietitian can help you determine the appropriate amount of fluid to take in. Remember that it is important to come to all scheduled dialysis treatments so that the fluid you have gained can be removed.


Excess fluid can be harmful to the body and difficult to get rid of when you have kidney disease and need dialysis. Now that the clues have been put together you can avoid excess fluid weight gain between dialysis treatments. By avoiding high-sodium food and sources of hidden fluids, you are less likely to gain too much fluid weight between dialysis treatments.

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