A healthy diet consists of protein, carbohydrates and fat. With widespread obesity, diabetes and new research showing harmful effects of sugar (carbohydrate), many fad-diets are now focusing on a high protein load. This type of diet usually has varied effects on people with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Protein is an important part of any diet, since our body relies on protein to maintain healthy tissue and keep up the body’s defense and vital functions. Eating the proper amount of protein is critical to keep yourself strong and healthy. Although protein needs are based on overall health and body size, in general, a person needs between 40 and 65 grams of protein daily.

Protein balance in various kidney diseases is tricky. For example, some kidney patients actually spill excess protein in the urine. These people may need higher amounts of protein in their diet. That being said, protein puts extra pressure on the kidney that is already diseased. Too much protein can cause a build-up of unfiltered toxins to develop faster. A high protein diet has a tendency to draw more water, which can lead to dehydration.  Some studies have shown that reducing protein in the diet may delay progression of CKD.

The challenge for the person with kidney disease is to have the right balance of protein in the diet. Too much protein can overtax diseased kidneys; not enough protein can lead to malnutrition. In order to determine how your body is processing protein, your health care team will use laboratory tests to monitor the amount of protein and protein waste byproducts in your blood and urine. Your health care team will consider several factors when recommending how much protein you should have, including your body weight, the stage of your disease and your nutrition status.

The first step in creating a healthy diet plan is to talk to your renal dietitian to assess your specific needs and determine what foods will work best for you. Your dietitian may also recommend that you include dietary supplements in your plan. Turn to your dietitian for suggestions on kidney-friendly menus, shopping lists, and restaurant meals. As time goes by and your needs change, your dietitian can help you adjust your diet to continue to support your health.