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Living with Chronic Kidney Disease

Managing kidney health through your diet

A Veteran couple sitting together at a park on a sunny dayChronic kidney disease impacts 1 in 7 people in the United States. About a third of people with diabetes are also at risk of developing it. With chronic kidney disease, your kidneys slowly lose their ability to keep your body functions balanced well enough. There’s no cure and the damage that occurs is not reversible, but it’s possible to live a long life with a treatment plan.

Learn about why protecting your kidneys is essential, how your diet can help, and how to monitor your kidney health.

Why kidneys are so important

Healthy kidneys clean your blood, helping you stay healthy and alive. Kidneys filter wastes and extra fluid from your blood every day. When they’re healthy, kidneys also control blood pressure, maintain healthy bones, and tell bone marrow to make red blood cells.

When both kidneys are slowly damaged, it’s called chronic kidney disease. Waste builds up and threatens your health over time. It's crucial to pay close attention to what you eat if you have chronic kidney disease.

Eating for kidney health

Because kidneys remove waste from our bodies, eating the wrong foods can be extra harmful. For example, if you have diabetes, your kidneys can be damaged by too much sugar. As part of your treatment, you’ll want to develop an eating plan with a registered dietician. There are a few guidelines you’ll want to follow:

  • Reduce your sodium intake to control blood pressure

  • Eat the right amount and types of protein

  • Eat foods that are heart-healthy to prevent build-ups of fat

  • As kidney function goes down, you’ll need less phosphorous to protect your bones and blood vessels

  • Lower kidney function also requires the right amount of potassium to help your nerves and muscles work the right way

Monitoring kidney disease

Follow your health care team’s guidance about how often you’ll need tests to monitor your kidneys. You’ll need to get urine, blood, and imaging tests to check your kidney function. In addition to changing your diet, other changes can help, like quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight.

For people with chronic kidney disease, it’s important to stay in touch with your health care team, especially a dietician and nephrologist. If you have a My HealtheVet Premium account, you can use Secure Messaging to ask non-urgent, non-emergency questions.

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Read More

Healthy Kidneys (Veterans Health Library)

Monitoring Kidney Health (Veterans Health Library)

Finding Support for Kidney Disease (Veterans Health Library)

Diabetes and Kidney Disease (Veterans Health Library)

Updated December 27, 2021