Dietitians Dish: Diet can affect kidney disease

March 29, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 29, 2010 at 10:30 p.m.

By Christie Mayer Bain, MS, RD, LDChronic Kidney Disease occurs when the kidneys are unable to remove toxins and wastes from the blood.

This can happen all of a sudden or over a period of time.

Kidneys have many functions in the body. They remove extra water and wastes, produce red blood cells, control blood pressure, aid in bone health and keep body chemicals balanced.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of kidney disease. Other causes include glomerulonephritis, genetic diseases, autoimmune diseases, birth defects and other problems.

Symptoms of kidney disease include changes in urination, swelling to the face, hands, feet or ankles, weakness and fatigue, shortness of breath, metallic taste, poor appetite, nausea and vomiting, itching and back pain.

Diet is an important part of treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease.

There are five stages of Chronic Kidney Disease and the diet varies for each stage.

A Chronic Kidney Disease non-dialysis diet is typically prescribed during stages 1-4. A low-protein diet is common for stages 1-4, which limits meats, poultry, fish, eggs and other sources of protein. Nutritious carbohydrates are encouraged, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

As kidney disease progresses, protein intake may be restricted further. This is to prevent or slow the progression of kidney disease. Decreasing your protein intake allows the kidneys to work with less waste.

Fluid restrictions are also common in Chronic Kidney Disease. It's usually not prescribed until later stages of Chronic Kidney Disease, but is necessary if swelling persists. Fluids include anything that is liquid at room temperature such as water, coffee, tea, ice, soup, popsicles, ice cream and sherbet.

A low-sodium diet is also common with Chronic Kidney Disease. Sodium is one of the three major electrolytes in the body. It regulates blood pressure and blood volume, helps transmit impulses for nerve function and muscle contraction, and regulates acid-base balance of blood and body fluids.

For healthy adults, 2,400 milligrams or less is recommended per day. This is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt. Although sodium is essential, it can negatively affect people with kidney disease. With Chronic Kidney Disease, the kidneys cannot eliminate excess sodium and fluid from the body. As sodium and fluid build up in your tissues and bloodstream, it can cause blood pressure increases and can cause discomfort.

Other causes of high sodium intake may be edema (swelling to the extremities), heart failure and shortness of breath.

Examples of high sodium foods are processed meats and cheeses, pre-packaged foods, fast food, canned or frozen meals, and of course, salt.

It is important to be aware of symptoms of kidney disease, especially if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. Be sure to get your annual check-ups and follow a healthy diet. For more information you can go to

Christie Mayer Bain is a registered and licensed dietitian and has a master's of science degree in nutrition. Send questions or comments to



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