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Diet & Dialysis


Diet Guidelines for Patients on Dialysis

While dialysis does the work of your kidneys, it cannot do everything that healthy kidneys do. Some fluids and toxins may still build up, and, over time, cause additional health problems such as heart disease, as well as decrease the effectiveness of your dialysis treatments.

Your HKSC physician will work with you to determine a dietary plan that considers your health and lifestyle needs.  In general, however, most dialysis patients must manage their intake of:

  • Fluids:  Excess fluid in your body can make your dialysis treatment more difficult as well as cause swelling, trouble breathing and heart failure. Keep in mind that fluids come not only from water or beverages, but foods that melt such as ice cream as well as food high in water content such as soup, celery or watermelon. Chewing gum or gargling with cold mouthwash are ways to trick your body into thinking your thirst is quenched.
  • Phosphorus: In collaboration with calcium and vitamin D, phosphorous helps keep your bones healthy.  Having too much phosphorous can make your bones weak and lead to bone disease so dialysis patients need to limit their intake.  Phosphorous is found in protein-rich foods, both animal (i.e. red meat, chicken, cheese, fish) and plant-based (i.e. sunflower, chia and pumpkin seeds).
  • Potassium: While your body needs potassium to make your muscles work, too much potassium can cause a heart attack, while too little can result in muscle cramps or weakness and an irregular heartbeat. While potassium is found in most foods, potassium-rich foods include acorn squash, avocados, bananas, coconut water, dried apricots, pomegranates, salmon, spinach, sweet potatoes and white beans.
  • Sodium (salt): Sodium helps keep the right amount of fluid in your blood, but when your kidneys are not working properly, too much fluid can build.  Maintaining low sodium levels, therefore, is critical to your dialysis treatment.  To decrease your salt intake, avoid adding salt when eating or cooking; eliminate processed meats such as ham, bacon and packaged lunch meat from your diet; eat fresh vegetables, instead of frozen or canned; avoid pickled foods like olives and condiments such as ketchup and soy sauce.

Patients on hemodialysis need to strictly limit their diets because treatment is only three times per week.  As peritoneal dialysis (PD) patients have daily treatments, their limitations will not generally be as severe.  Your HKSC care team will work with you to discuss your specific dietary restrictions based on the type of treatment you are receiving, other health concerns and your lifestyle.

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