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Key Components of a Dialysis Diet

Kidney dialysis diet

Kidney dialysis diet is an important factor in optimizing the health of dialysis patients and improving the effectiveness of dialysis treatment.  A balanced diet should provide the most essential nutrients required, while minimizing harmful waste products.

There is no standard "one-size-fits-all" when it comes to a kidney dialysis diet. The requirements of each patient may be different.

Some foods and nutrients that may be needed by one person may not be helpful or suitable for someone else.

Factors such as the age, stage of kidney failure, medical history and existing underlying medical conditions must be considered.

General Guidelines for a Kidney Dialysis Diet

It is very important for patients who are on dialysis to eat the right foods.  A balanced dialysis diet can help to not only improve the patient's health but can also improve the effectiveness of dialysis treatment.  The following are some general guidelines, which are likely to form part of the considerations when planning a diet for dialysis patients.

Protein requirements


During the early stages of kidney failure, when dialysis is not required, patients are usually advised by their health care providers to follow a low protein diet. This is to help reduce the workload on the kidneys and help to preserve and prolong kidney function.

However, when someone begins dialysis treatment, the focus shifts from maintaining kidney function to preserving muscles and tissues. Protein plays an important role in maintaining muscles and repairing tissues.  Foods such as fish, eggs and other poultry products are good sources of protein.


Potassium from bananas

This mineral is essential for nerve function and is an important component of cell and tissue fluid. Potassium plays an important part in helping to regulate blood pressure. It is important to have the right amount of potassium in a kidney dialysis diet, since too little of it can cause neurological problems and muscle weakness while too much of it can affect the heart.

Dialysis patients must work with their dietitian to determine how much potassium should be in their diet. Potassium is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, tomatoes and potatoes.


Phosphorus from nuts

Usually, this mineral is present in the body in significant amounts. It is normally concentrated in bones and teeth. Dialysis patients need to control the amount of phosphorus they consume, in order to avoid complications that can lead to bone disease and skin irritation. Foods such as nuts, peas, milk and cheese are high in phosphorus and may have to be avoided or be consumed moderately.

A dietitian will determine the correct quantity of phosphorus that is right for each patient, and will recommend the appropriate quantities and foods that should form part of a balanced dialysis diet.

Sodium Chloride (salt)


The dangers of excessive sodium are well known. While it is an essential mineral, the body only needs minute amounts of it. Too much salt can affect the heart and contribute to high blood pressure. An effective kidney dialysis diet must strictly limit the amount of sodium consumed.

Many canned, processed foods and frozen meals contain high amounts of sodium. Read food labels and try to use fresh, unprocessed foods instead of processed, canned foods. For example, it is better to use fresh fish rather than canned ones (such as canned sardine and tuna).



Some patients on dialysis may need to add calories to their diet. Calories provide energy, which is sometimes depleted by dialysis treatment.

Good sources of calories include vegetable oils (such as olive, canola and safflower oils). Not only are these oils good sources of calories but they also help to control cholesterol.

In addition to the above, a kidney dialysis diet should focus on regulating the amount of fluids consumed.  Too much fluid can contribute to high blood pressure, which affects the heart and makes dialysis treatment more stressful.

Also, a dietitian may recommend certain supplements of mineral and vitamins for dialysis patients. Some patients may have a deficiency of some essential vitamins and minerals, because of their restricted diet.  Additionally, dialysis treatments tend to remove some essential vitamins and minerals from the body.

These are just a few general guidelines that may be considered when planning a kidney dialysis diet.  The important thing is to work with a registered dietitian, who can help determine a suitable balanced dialysis diet.  

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