As part of your treatment for chronic kidney disease, your doctor might recommend a special diet to help support your kidneys and limit the work they must do. Ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian who can analyze your diet and suggest ways to make your diet easier on your kidneys.
Depending on your situation, kidney function and overall health, dietary recommendations might include the following:
- Avoid products with added salt. Lower the amount of sodium you eat each day by avoiding products with added salt, including many convenience foods, such as frozen dinners, canned soups and fast foods. Other foods with added salt include salty snack foods, canned vegetables, and processed meats and cheeses.
- Choose lower potassium foods. High-potassium foods include bananas, oranges, potatoes, spinach and tomatoes. Examples of low-potassium foods include apples, cabbage, carrots, green beans, grapes and strawberries. Be aware that many salt substitutes contain potassium, so you generally should avoid them if you have kidney failure.
- Limit the amount of protein you eat. Your registered dietitian will estimate how many grams of protein you need each day and make recommendations based on that amount. High-protein foods include lean meats, eggs, milk, cheese and beans. Low-protein foods include vegetables, fruits, breads and cereals.
Coping and support
Receiving a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease can be worrisome. To help you cope with your feelings, consider:
- Connecting with other people who have kidney disease. They can understand what you’re feeling and offer unique support. Ask your doctor about support groups in your area. Or contact organizations such as the American Association of Kidney Patients, the National Kidney Foundation or the American Kidney Fund for groups in your area.
- Maintaining your normal routine, when possible. Try to keep doing the activities you enjoy and continue working, if your condition allows. This can help you cope with feelings of sadness or loss that you might have.
- Being active most days of the week. With your doctor’s advice, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. This can help you cope with fatigue and stress.
- Talking with someone you trust. You might have a friend or family member who is a good listener. Or you may find it helpful to talk with a faith leader or someone else you trust. Ask your doctor for a referral to a social worker or counselor.
Preparing for your appointment
You’ll likely start by seeing your primary care doctor. If lab tests reveal that you have kidney damage, you might be referred to a doctor who specializes in kidney problems (nephrologist).
What you can do
To get ready for your appointment, ask if there’s anything you need to do ahead of time, such as limit your diet. Then make a list of:
- Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to your kidneys or urinary function, and when they began
- All your medications, vitamins or other supplements you take, including doses
- Other medical conditions you have and relatives with kidney disease
- Questions to ask about your condition
Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you receive. Or use a recorder during your visit.
For chronic kidney disease, some basic questions to ask include:
- What’s the level of damage to my kidneys?
- Is my kidney function worsening?
- Do I need more tests?
- What’s causing my condition?
- Can the damage to my kidneys be reversed?
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the potential side effects of each treatment?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Do I need to eat a special diet?
- Can you refer me to a dietitian who can help me plan my meals?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can have? What websites do you recommend?
- How often do I need to have my kidney function tested?
Don’t hesitate to ask other questions as they occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as:
- How long have you had symptoms?
- Have you been diagnosed or treated for high blood pressure?
- Have you noticed changes in your urinary habits?