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Can a Dietitian Help with Kidney Disease?

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Can a Dietitian Help with Kidney Disease?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Kidney disease impacts your requirement for several nutrients, including calories, protein, fat, sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and fluids.
  • Nutritional needs change as kidney disease advances, so it’s important to work with a registered dietitian at every stage of your kidney disease journey.
  • There are several benefits to working with a registered dietitian if you have kidney disease, including delaying the progression of the disease, preventing or managing complications, and improving quality of life. 

Kidney disease affects close to 15 percent of the US population, and it’s thought that this rate will continue to rise. While nutrition can’t cure kidney disease, it can be an important part of managing your symptoms and delaying the progression of the disease.

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Can a Dietitian Help with Kidney Disease?

When you have kidney disease, the kidneys are not able to properly filter blood. This can lead to problems with the balance of salts, minerals, and fluid in the body.. Your diet can have a big impact on this balance.

How a Dietitian Can Help

Nutritional needs for kidney disease change as the disease advances, so it’s important to follow up with a kidney disease dietitian (also known as a renal dietitian) regularly. 

If you’re in the early stages of kidney disease, your renal dietitian will provide recommendations for how to eat to slow down the progression of kidney disease.

If you’re on dialysis, your renal dietitian will provide recommendations for how much fluid to drink to minimize fluid buildup and weight gain between your dialysis treatments, as well as specific micronutrients like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium. 

If you’ve had a kidney transplant, your renal dietitian will provide nutrition recommendations to help you keep your new kidney healthy.

Regardless of what stage your kidney disease is at, a renal dietitian is an important part of your care team.

How Kidney Disease Affects Your Diet

Kidney disease can affect your diet in many ways:

Energy (Calories)

Some people with kidney disease may not feel hungry or may experience taste changes. This can lead to not eating enough. If you don’t eat enough to support your body, you may become malnourished, which can severely impact your energy levels and quality of life. If you’re struggling to eat enough, a renal dietitian can help you find healthy ways to eat enough calories to maintain your strength.

Protein

Your body breaks down protein into waste that your kidneys remove from the blood. With kidney disease, it’s important to strike the right balance of protein. Too little protein could lead to malnutrition, while too much protein can put excessive stress on your kidneys. 

Your protein needs will differ depending on whether you have early-stage kidney disease, are on dialysis, or have had a kidney transplant. A renal dietitian can help you determine how much protein is appropriate for your needs. 

Fat

While it’s important to include fat as part of a balanced diet, too much fat or the wrong kinds of fat (like trans fats, which are found in fried foods and hard margarine) can have a negative impact on your blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. 

Since people with kidney disease are at a higher risk of developing heart disease, it’s important to include the right amounts and types of fat in your diet. A renal dietitian can help you determine ways to include healthier fats in your diet.

Sodium

Sodium is a mineral found in salt. Too much sodium causes your blood to retain fluids. This can cause high blood pressure and put excessive stress on your heart and kidneys.

A renal dietitian can provide sodium recommendations and teach you ways to reduce the amount of sodium you eat.

Potassium

Too much or too little potassium in the blood can lead to heart and muscle problems. Kidney disease can make it difficult for the kidneys to remove potassium from the blood, leading to high blood levels of potassium.

Your renal dietitian will look at your potassium blood work to provide a recommendation for how much potassium to include in your diet. They will also teach you which foods are high in potassium so you know which foods to include and reduce.

Phosphorus

When you have kidney disease, your kidneys have trouble removing phosphorus from your blood. Too much phosphorus in the blood can weaken your bones. 

Phosphorus is naturally found in many foods that are rich in protein. A renal dietitian can help you eat enough protein without getting too much phosphorus.

Fluids

Your body needs enough fluids to function properly. However, when your kidneys are damaged, they may have trouble removing excess fluid. This can lead to swelling, high blood pressure and can place excess stress on your heart. A renal dietitian can help you determine your fluid needs, as well as provide tips for how to manage thirst while reducing fluid intake.

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Benefits of Working with a Dietitian for Kidney Health

There are several benefits of working with a dietitian for kidney health.

Delay Kidney Disease Progression

Studies show that medical nutrition therapy provided by a registered dietitian can slow kidney disease progression and delay the need for dialysis. It’s important to note that medical nutrition therapy should include frequent monitoring and reassessment of nutritional recommendations.

Prevent or Treat Complications

A renal dietitian can help manage many of the complications of kidney disease, including muscle loss, electrolyte imbalances (such as high or low levels of potassium in the blood), and bone and mineral abnormalities (such as phosphorus or calcium abnormalities). A renal dietitian can also provide recommendations for how to manage blood pressure and include healthy fats in your diet.

Improve Quality of Life

Studies show that health literacy (the ability to find, understand, and use health-related information) is associated with improved quality of life in people with kidney disease. Since dietitians are trained to explain complex nutrition information in a way that makes sense and is applicable to your individual needs, working with a renal dietitian could help improve your health literacy and quality of life.

Managing Comorbidities

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease. To delay the progression of kidney disease, these conditions need to be managed.

A dietitian can provide education about managing your blood sugars and blood pressure to help you maintain your kidney function.

How Renal Dietitians Approach Kidney Care

When you meet with a renal dietitian, they will provide you with information regarding specific nutrients to consume.

They may provide recommendations on how much potassium, phosphorus, or sodium to include in your diet. They will provide you with resources on which foods contain high amounts of these nutrients and guidance on how to include these foods your diet.

What to Expect at Your First Appointment

Your first visit with a renal dietitian will typically include an in-depth assessment of your food and nutrition habits, a review of your kidney blood work, and a review of your current medications and medical history.

The information collected by your dietitian during your visit will help shape your individualized nutrition care.

Follow-Up Appointments

Renal dietitians monitor your diet, kidney blood work, medications, blood pressure, and weight.

They will also listen to any concerns you have about the goals you set at the previous visit and will help you identify new goals based on this information..

How Do I Find a Dietitian for Kidney Disease?

If you’re looking for a dietitian for kidney disease, consider virtual options that allow you to meet with a dietitian from the comfort of your own home. 

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Takeaway

Your nutrition needs can change drastically when you’re living with kidney disease. From delaying the progression to managing or preventing complications, nutrition can be a powerful tool in your kidney disease care toolbox.

Managing Kidney Disease with a Dietitian

Working with a registered dietitian trained in kidney disease management can make it easier for you to understand your unique nutritional needs, and provide you with ongoing support and guidance.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of a dietitian in kidney disease?

A renal dietitian will conduct regular nutritional assessments and monitor your blood work, medications, and weight so they can provide individualized recommendations at each visit. They may provide recommendations about how many calories you should eat, how much protein you need, how much fluid you should drink, and how much of certain nutrients (such as potassium, phosphorus, and sodium) you should include in your diet. Your renal dietitian will provide education about which foods to include and which foods to reduce on your kidney diet.

When should I see a renal dietitian?

There are many reasons to see a renal dietitian, including managing your electrolyte balance, managing your calcium, phosphorus and lipid (fats in your blood) levels, managing fluid retention, and maintaining a healthy weight.

A renal dietitian can also help you adjust your diet to manage the symptoms of uremia (waste product buildup in the blood) such as lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and taste alterations. Finally, a renal dietitian can help answer questions you have about your kidney diet and modify recipes to make them kidney-friendly.

Can kidney disease be improved by diet?

Studies show that when medical nutrition therapy (an evidence-based, individualized type of nutrition care that is used to treat certain medical conditions) is provided by a registered dietitian, kidney disease progression can be slowed and the need for dialysis is delayed. However, it takes more than a single appointment to improve kidney disease. Medical nutrition therapy for kidney disease should include frequent monitoring and reassessment of nutritional needs so that an individualized care plan can be created.

References

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