Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is defined as the gradual loss of kidney function over time. There are five stages of kidney disease characterized by how efficiently your kidneys can filter waste and excess fluid from your blood. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 37 million Americans are currently living with CKD. The top two leading causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. As the stages of CKD progress, your body must work harder to filter out your blood. The final stage of CKD indicates kidney failure requiring dialysis or kidney transplant.
Dialysis is a life-saving treatment that resembles a healthy kidney by removing the excess waste and fluid from a patient’s blood. Dialysis also helps control blood pressure. There are two forms of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. A Nephrologist will work with the patient to determine the best treatment options.
Patients on dialysis require a strict and specific diet to maintain optimal health. The first recommended guideline is to limit sodium, potassium, and phosphorus rich foods. Foods typically high in phosphorus include chocolate, dark sodas, drinks made with milk, cheese, sweets, and ice cream. Phosphorus additives or preservatives are also found in most processed foods. Potassium is naturally found in potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, bananas, beans and other fruits and vegetables. Potassium can also be found in salt substitutes. Patients need to be sure to check the portion sizes when monitoring potassium. Patients must also monitor their sodium intake. Too much sodium in the diet can cause swelling, increase in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and fluid accumulation around the heart and lungs. Attending dialysis regularly can help in removing these built up toxins, but patients should also manage their diet consistently.
Dialysis patients should also prioritize protein at each meal. Adequate protein can help maintain a healthy immune system, heal wounds, build muscle, and enhance overall health. In addition to ample protein, patients also must monitor their fluid intake. As patients progress on dialysis, their urine output tends to decrease. Managing fluid intake is essential for optimal dialysis treatments. Depending on urine output, patients are recommended to consume 32 ounces of fluid per day. Fluid sources range from water/soda/juice, to soup, ice chips, or Jell-O.
The dialysis diet can be challenging and overwhelming to new patients. Working with dietitians is crucial for patients to understand their nutritional needs in order to continue their
living life to the fullest. As a part of a vital dialysis support system, the dietitian reviews labs and creates individualized meal plans for patients to find foods they can enjoy and ultimately keep them feeling their best on dialysis.