Eating right for chronic kidney disease

Dietary changes you can make that might prevent further damage to your kidneys and slow the progression of chronic kidney disease.

If you have complement 3 glomerulopathy (C3G), IgA nephropathy (IgAN) or another type of chronic kidney disease (CKD), you may need to change what you eat. There isn't one correct eating plan that is suitable for everyone with CKD. However, there are dietary changes you can make that might prevent further damage to your kidneys and slow the progression of disease.

It's important to talk with your health care team to determine which diet changes you should make. Depending on your health and the stage or severity of your disease, your care team might recommend that you:

  • Reduce salt. Limiting dietary sodium from salt lowers blood pressure. Damage to your kidneys can raise your blood pressure, and high blood pressure causes further damage to your kidneys. Lowering your intake of salty foods also might help manage swelling in your hands, feet or other parts of your body.
  • Increase omega-3 fatty acids. These fats, available in dietary fish oil supplements, might slow kidney damage by reducing inflammation in the glomeruli — the vessels in the kidneys that filter waste and excess fluid from the kidneys. Additional research has shown that fish oil supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids may slow kidney damage in some people by lowering blood pressure.
  • Eat less protein. Your health care team may recommend that you reduce the amount of protein you consume. Reducing the amount of protein you eat may slow disease progression and protect your kidneys. Once proteins are consumed, they break down into waste products that the kidneys must filter from the blood. Eating more protein than your body needs might burden the kidneys and cause kidney function to decline faster.
  • Consider a plant-based diet. Recent research shows that plant-based diets are beneficial in individuals with chronic kidney disease.
  • Reduce cholesterol. Eating a diet that's high in fatty foods can raise cholesterol and cause plaque to build up in the arteries that lead to the kidneys, causing further kidney damage.
    • Reduce saturated fats. These fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol. Decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol.
    • Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil," are often used in margarines and store-bought cookies, crackers and cakes. Trans fats raise overall cholesterol levels. The Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils by Jan. 1, 2021.
    • Increase soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream. Soluble fiber is found in such foods as oatmeal, kidney beans, Brussels sprouts, apples and pears.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation. Too much alcohol can increase high blood pressure and further strain your kidneys. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

Your health care team also may recommend healthy changes to your lifestyle such as losing excess weight and being physically active to help preserve the health of your kidneys. What you can or cannot eat may change over time, depending on your kidney function and other factors. For example, if your kidney function goes down, you may need to eat foods with less phosphorus and potassium. You may find it helpful to work with a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan that includes foods you enjoy eating while maintaining your kidney health.

May 05, 2023 See more In-depth

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