Foods to Avoid With Bad Kidneys

Woman with lower back pain
Human kidneys. (Image: LarsZahnerPhotography/iStock/Getty Images)

Your kidneys are one of your body’s major filtration devices. They maintain your electrolyte and fluid balance, and they pull waste products out of the blood. When you have decreased kidney function, they are no longer able to perform as well as they should. A specialized kidney diet helps maintain the right balance of fluids, protein, electrolytes and minerals through what you eat, since the kidneys can no longer do it themselves. If you have kidney disease, work closely with your doctor and a dietitian to determine a meal plan that is right for you.

Decrease the Dairy

milk in the glass
Glass of milk. (Image: denphumi/iStock/Getty Images)

Your kidneys are responsible for maintaining a delicate balance of the minerals phosphorus and calcium by removing excess phosphorus from your blood. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys do not filter phosphorus as they should and, as a result, phosphorus levels in the blood increase. As this happens, your body starts to pull calcium from your bones to maintain that calcium and phosphorus balance. Limiting foods that contain a lot of phosphorus, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, can help keep the phosphorus levels in your blood closer to normal. Other food sources of phosphorus include whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried peas, beans and chocolate.

Be Choosy With Fruits and Vegetables

Broccoli
Limit high potassium vegetables like broccoli. (Image: Lars Kastilan/iStock/Getty Images)

Many fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, which is an essential mineral that keeps your nerves and muscles working properly. Healthy kidneys are able to maintain the level of potassium in your blood with no problem, but damaged kidneys have a difficult time filtering potassium from the blood. High blood levels of potassium can lead to dangerous, abnormal heart rhythms and even a total cessation of heartbeat. If you have bad kidneys, keep your potassium intake low by limiting high-potassium fruits and vegetables such as bananas, broccoli, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms, cantaloupe, collard greens, prunes, raisins, dandelion root and Swiss chard.

Limit Your Protein

sirloin steak
Meat on cutting board. (Image: Jack Puccio/iStock/Getty Images)

Your kidneys are responsible for filtering a waste product called urea out of your bloodstream. As your kidney function declines, the ability to filter urea decreases. Excess urea in the blood exerts more pressure on the kidneys, which can further decrease their function. Since urea is a byproduct of protein breakdown, limiting the amount of protein in your diet can also limit the amount of urea in your blood. High-protein foods include meat, poultry, eggs, milk products, and nuts and seeds.

Watch Your Sodium

close-up of bacon served with scrambled eggs and toast
Bacon with breakfast. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Healthy kidneys remove excess sodium from your bloodstream, preventing fluid retention. As kidney function declines, sodium and extra fluid may build up in your blood. This can lead to high blood pressure as well as swelling in your hands, eyes and ankles. Avoid high-sodium food, condiments and spices such as table salt, bouillon, cheese, cold cuts, canned soup, frozen meals, processed dinner mixes, bacon, potato chips and salted nuts.

Something to Consider

Female doctor in hospital room, portrait
Work with your doctor's recommendations. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

No two cases of kidney disease are the same. Although there are general recommendations about what you should avoid and limit with kidney disease, your exact diet and nutrition plan depends upon your individual health and on your level of kidney function. Work closely with your medical team to determine how much of each nutrient you should consume each day and which foods you should avoid or limit. Always follow your doctor's recommendations.

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