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Nutrition Therapy for Chronic Kidney Disease

Updated: Feb 13


What is CKD?

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) occurs when the kidneys don’t work properly for more than 3 months.


 The kidneys have many jobs, including(1):


  • Keeping your blood from becoming too acidic or basic

  • Keeping your electrolytes balanced

  • Removing toxins from the blood

  • Maintaining your blood pressure

  • Keeping your fluid balanced

  • Making red blood cells 


So, when the kidneys stop working properly, this can cause some big problems. Someone with kidney disease may have symptoms like fluid retention, high blood pressure, nausea, fatigue; or they may have no symptoms at all.


Why does CKD occur?

There are many things that can damage the kidney cells. Some are within our control - smoking, poor diet, poor blood pressure control, and poor blood sugar control. Some are not - cancer, genetic abnormalities, aging.


What is eGFR?

Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate (eGFR) is a number that your healthcare team will look at to see how well your kidneys are functioning. 


It’s completely normal for this number to go up and down a bit between visits to your doctor. 


There are many things that can affect eGFR like: 

  • How hydrated you are

  • Illness

  • Medications and supplements that you’re taking

  • Your diet


A bowl of strawberries
A plant-based diet has been shown to be beneficial for kidney health.

So, we’re going to focus on nutrition therapy for Chronic Kidney Disease because diet is one of the biggest ways to increase your eGFR.


By the way, higher eGFR is good and lower is…less good.


What is nutrition therapy for Chronic Kidney Disease?

Your Nephrologist or Dietitian may recommend limiting different things when you have kidney disease. They may suggest that you eat less protein, less sodium, and/or less potassium. 


Recommendations can - and should - vary between people and can also change between appointments.


These recommendations are to keep kidney function from getting worse and to help improve it


It’s important for me to point out that chronic kidney disease is not reversible. I don’t care what your cousin says. But, CKD can be improved with diet(2).


If you like to have a specific set of rules to go by, the DASH diet or a whole-food, plant-based diet may work well for your kidney disease - though you may have to make some adjustments to them.


The kidney diet is kind of funny though. Because it is super individualized to you. This is why working with a dietitian is really important. A renal dietitian can go through your labs with you and help you to find ways to make the diet work for your health and your lifestyle.


When should I worry about a diet for my CKD?

It’s good to look into a healthy kidney diet as soon as you find out that you have kidney disease. And don’t worry if you have Diabetes or high blood pressure. Those diets can work with a kidney diet. It doesn’t have to be a “this or that” situation.


What else can I do to control my CKD?

A CKD diagnosis can be overwhelming. So, here’s a quick checklist for you to make sure that you’re controlling your CKD the best that you can.


  • See your Nephrologist regularly

  • Take care of other conditions that you may have, like Diabetes

  • Schedule an appointment with a Renal Dietitian


Also, it’s important to make sure that you’re being open and honest with your healthcare team about what you can and can’t do for your CKD. 


What if you can’t afford your blood pressure or diabetes medication?


Please, please, please let your doctor know. Sometimes they can order more affordable medications or ones that are better covered by your insurance.


You can also download savings cards for some medications from their website. Your pharmacist is a great person to talk to about this as well!


Where can I go to learn more about my CKD?

You can and should talk to your Nephrologist if you have any questions at all about your CKD. 


I always recommend checking out the National Kidney Foundation’s website.


If you're looking for a Renal Dietitian who is licensed in your state - check here.


And you can subscribe to my email chain to get weekly updates with information about how to manage your chronic kidney disease with diet from a renal dietitian.

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Brandy Winfree, RDN smiling at the camera.

I'm Brandy Winfree, RDN.

When I was working in dialysis, I saw so many patients who had no idea that diet plays a HUGE role in kidney health.

I decided then that I needed to pass my knowledge onto people with kidney disease BEFORE they went into kidney failure. Not after.

That's why I became a board Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition and why I started this blog. 

You deserve to take care of the kidneys that you have now and I want to share my knowledge with you to make that happen.

Are they any topics that you'd like to hear my thoughts on?

Shoot me a message here.

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