The Dialysis Diet: Nutrition Guidelines for Dialysis Patients

When your kidneys stop functioning properly, waste tends to buildup in your blood, making you feel weak, nauseous, itchy and unwell.  Hemodialysis helps clean the waste temporarily from the blood stream, but waste build up occurs between dialysis sessions. Monitoring your food and drink, and making kidney friendly nutritional choices can help in reducing the amount of waste in your blood, and in general – help you feel heathier.

Meals should be planned carefully and you should be monitoring the food and liquids you consume, both quantity and quality wise, in an attempt to keep the levels of fluids, minerals and electrolytes in your body at an appropriate level.

What can dialysis patients eat?

It is highly recommended that you periodically meet with a dietitian or nutritionist who specializes in kidney disease and hemodialysis diets. The dietitian will ensure that all your health needs are taken into consideration when building a diet that includes a balance of healthy and nutritious foods, with high amounts of quality protein providing the body with the essential amino acids needed.

Limit Liquids

Excess fluid in the body causes swelling, weight gain, high blood pressure, puts strain on the heart, makes breathing harder.

Consult with your dietician about the amount of fluid you should be drinking daily, and avoid going over that limit. Foods such as soup, puddings, fruit and vegetables contain a high volume of liquids and should be counted when considering the daily fluid intake, and limited if need be.

Avoid salty or spicy foods that make you thirsty. It is also recommended that you stay cool on hot days as to avoid dehydration.

Reduce Potassium

High levels of potassium may cause fatigue, numbness, nausea, breathing difficulty, chest pains, heart irregularities and even paralysis and serious heart problems.

Fruits and vegetables with low levels of potassium include: apples, berries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears, peppers, pineapple, plums, tangerines, and watermelon.

Potassium rich foods that should be avoided include: Asparagus, apricots, avocado, banana, beans, cantaloupe, dried fruit, kiwi, milk, nuts, oranges (and orange juice), tomatoes, raisins, salmon, pumpkin and sweet potatoes.

Lessen Phosphorus

Excess phosphorus in the blood is toxic and may cause diarrhea, a hardening of organs and soft tissue, weak bones, heart problems, skin ulcers and calcium deposits.

Foods rich in phosphorus that should be limited or avoided include: Milk, yogurt, soy milk, hard cheese and cheese spreads, whole grains, dried beans and lentils, deli meats, nuts, chocolate, soda

Restrict Sodium

Accumulation of sodium causes the body to retain fluids, placing pressure on the vessels and on the heart. Increased sodium levels may lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. Increased sodium intakes also causes thirst, which may lead to excess fluid consumption.

Salt and sodium intake should be limited. Use less salt when cooking, replacing salt with herbs and spices. Avoid processed foods, cans of soup and ready-made seasonings. Look for products labeled “low sodium”, “no added salt”‘ “sodium free” or “unsalted”. The food products you buy should have less than 100 mg of salt per serving.

Go for high quality proteins

High quality proteins produce less waste for removal during hemodialysis. High quality protein comes from lean meats and poultry, fish and egg whites. Avoid processed meat such as deli meats and hot dogs as they tend to contain high amounts of sodium and phosphorus.

Consider the calories

If you find you are struggling with consuming the recommended number of daily calories, as set by your doctor or nutritionist, ask for advice on enriching your diet with foods that are high in calories and low in minerals that may be harmful to your health.

Supplementing vitamins and minerals

You may find that there are certain vitamins and minerals missing from your diet, due to the various nutritional restrictions. Ask your doctor for advice on which supplements are specifically tailored for your needs and are suited for people with end stage renal disease.  Do not take over the counter supplements, probiotics or medication without consulting your nephrologist first!

Visit our blog regularly for more information about hemodialysis and living with end stage renal disease.