Nutrition and Kidney Failure: Everything You Need to Know

Controlling your nutrition if you suffer from kidney failure is very important to prevent malnutrition and slow the progression of the disease. Read this article to learn more.
Nutrition and Kidney Failure: Everything You Need to Know

Last update: 14 November, 2020

People who suffer from kidney failure, especially in its chronic form, need to make dietary changes to stay healthy and reduce the accumulation of toxic substances that the kidney isn’t able to remove. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about nutrition and kidney failure.

Nutrition and kidney failure

In patients with chronic kidney failure, protein-calorie malnutrition is common. Also, it’s a good predictor of mortality and morbidity. Therefore, meeting the dietary needs of patients with kidney failure is important to prevent malnutrition.

First, you need to know that there are different degrees of disease. There’s acute kidney failure, chronic kidney failure, and renal replacement therapy (hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis). In this article, we’ll share general nutritional guidelines for this disease. Nevertheless, they should be adapted to the patient’s condition.

Diet and kidney failure

The diet for kidney failure is considered strict, as these patients need to limit or eliminate several food groups. However, if the patient is on continuous dialysis, their diet isn’t as restrictive.

Control the amount of protein

Types of protein.

It’s important for the nutritionist to adapt the amount of protein in the diet of patients with kidney failure.

Protein restriction in someone with moderate kidney failure slows the progression of the disease. Although proteins put the kidneys to work, all humans need to consume them. Currently, experts recommend moderate low-protein diets if the patient isn’t on dialysis. In other words, 0.8g/kg/day (60% of high biological value). If the patient is on dialysis, they require more protein.

Reduce potassium and phosphorus intake

If potassium builds up in the blood, it increases the risk of heart abnormalities. Medical professionals should monitor plasma potassium levels.

Meanwhile, continued high blood phosphorus levels significantly affect bones. Protein restriction represents a phosphorus reduction. Therefore, it’s important to limit your consumption of this if you have kidney problems if your doctor advises you to do so.

Ensure proper intake of calcium and vitamin D

Typically, there’ll be a calcium deficit in its intestinal absorption due to a vitamin D reduction. Vitamin D has to be supplemented, as a deficit can cause atherosclerosis, endothelial dysfunction, or ventricular hypertrophy. In a study published in Nephrology, experts suggest that vitamin D supplementation has a vascular benefit, which is why it’s a good idea for those with kidney problems.

Control your salt intake

Other factors that must be taken into account when it comes to nutrition and kidney failure is to control sodium. This is because it promotes the retention of fluids the kidney can’t remove. If the patient doesn’t suffer from hypertension, they can consume only 1000-2000 mg/day.

Limit your fluid intake

Two glasses of water.

Patients with kidney failure must limit their fluid intake, particularly in cases of dialysis treatment.

If the patient is on dialysis, they should monitor their fluid intake because people who undergo this treatment usually don’t urinate often. Thus, if they drink a lot of liquids and don’t excrete them, fluid can accumulate in the ankles and even in the lungs and heart. Also, it’s advisable for patients to always weigh themselves on the same scale, to ensure they don’t gain weight in dialysis sessions.

Nutritional keys in kidney failure

To carry out the guidelines we outlined above, it’s important to keep in mind the following nutritional keys. However, it’s best to consult directly with your doctor or nutritionist so they can advise you according to your individual needs.

  • The consumption of proteins found in meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs should be tailored for each patient.
  • In addition, patients should control their consumption of legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and cocoa. This is because they contain a lot of potassium. They should do this to avoid hyperkalemia.
  • When they’re going to consume vegetables, legumes, or potatoes, people with kidney problems should soak them in water for three hours before cooking them. Then, they should boil them a couple of times, throwing away the cooking water each time. Also, it’s best to sauté them after to reduce their water content.
  • Another method of consuming vegetables is to eat them frozen. You can also consume canned or cooked fruits (up to twice a day).
  • In addition, it’s best to eat toasted bread because it contains less water.
  • However, patients should limit their consumption of whole grain products because they’re rich in phosphorus and potassium.
  • You should avoid soft drinks as well, even if they’re artificially sweetened. This is because they don’t properly eliminate the sensation of thirst. Plus, they’re typically not very healthy!
  • Don’t consume ultra-processed foods, instant soups or purees, sausages, smoked meats and fish, and packaged snacks so you can follow a low-salt diet.
  • Moderately consume whole milk products due to the amount of phosphorus they contain.


As you’ve seen, patients who have kidney failure have to follow a strict diet. If you suffer from kidney problems, don’t hesitate to visit specialists that can tailor your diet and treatment to your needs.

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  • Aggarwal, H. K., et al. “Assessment of Malnutrition Inflammation Score in Different Stages of Chronic Kidney Disease.” prilozi 39.2-3 (2018): 51-61.
  • Assimon, Magdalene M., et al. “Nutritional vitamin D supplementation in haemodialysis: A potential vascular benefit?.” Nephrology 17.3 (2012): 237-242.
  • Serván, P. Riobó, and A. Ortíz Arduán. “Nutrición e insuficiencia renal crónica.” Nutrición Hospitalaria 5.1 (2012): 41-52.
  • Sociedad Andaluza de Nefrología. NEFROSAN.