Kidney School™—a program of Medical Education Institute, Inc.

Module 9—Nutrition and Fluids for People on Dialysis

Chicken sandwich

Food! It’s a vital part of our culture and our traditions. Meals are something we look forward to each day. Food is love, comfort, and memories. We all have favorite foods and things we don’t like, foods we learned to like over time, and foods we used to eat but don’t eat any more. We may love to cook or never set foot in a kitchen. But any way we look at it, food is a big part of life.

A chronic illness like kidney failure can change what you can eat and drink. These changes can be hard to understand—and hard to make! As one patient said:

From what I have read, we to are supposed buy something to eat, throw it in the trash, and eat the box that it came in— everything else is bad for us.

Don’t worry—we can help! In this module, we’ll try to make it clearer for you. Stick with us, and we’ll teach you about food and drinks...and give you practical tips to make your life easier. At the end of this module, we’ll give you 2 weeks of sample menus to help you plan.

Our goal is to show you how you can take charge of your food and fluids. If you do, you can feel better, improve your lab results, and have a better quality of life.

Here’s a sneak preview of what we’ll cover:

  • Nutrition basics
  • Getting the right amounts of key nutrients
  • Planning meals and eating out
  • Tips for lifestyle changes

So, let's get started.

Take the Kidney Quiz!

You'll have a better sense of how much you've learned from this module if you take our quick kidney quiz. It's just 11 questions. How about it?

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Can I Use This Module If My Kidneys Still Work?

This module can help you learn how to plan meals for peritoneal dialysis (PD) or standard in-center hemodialysis (HD)—with or without diabetes. Other types of dialysis, like daily or nocturnal HD, may let you have a near-normal diet.

If you have an early stage of chronic kidney disease (CKD), talk to your doctor about what to eat—and what to avoid. He or she may refer you to a dietitian, who can help you with a meal plan. This meal plan might include:

  • Protein control. Focus on plant-based proteins like beans, seeds, nuts, and legumes. Studies show that these choices put less strain on your kidneys. Aim for 2-3 ounces, three times a day if your doctor agrees
  • More fluids. Your doctor may want you to drink plenty of fluids to help flush out wastes. If you have kidney stones, drinking more water is vital
  • Phosphorus limits. You cannot avoid all foods with phosphorus, but it is good to learn about how to eat less
  • Less salt. If your blood pressure is high, your doctor may want you to eat less salt to help your kidneys last longer.
  • Taking phosphate binders. Having too much phosphorus can harm your bones. You may be asked to take phosphate binders. These drugs keep extra phosphorus out of your blood by binding with it and removing it in your stool.
  • More fiber. Fiber can help slow the rate of CKD.

Your doctor and a renal (kidney) dietitian can help you plan. If you don’t have a dietitian, your doctor may be able to refer you to one.

If you want to learn more about what your meal plans might be like when you are on dialysis, keep reading! We’ll help you understand what to eat more of and what to eat less of if you choose PD or standard in-center HD.

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