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Dietitian playing a crucial role for your kidneys


Healthy kidneys filter about 118 milliliters of blood every minute, removing wastes and extra water to make urine. The urine flows from the kidneys to your bladder. Your kidneys are also producing hormones that helps with:


  • controlling your blood pressure

  • making red blood cells 

  • keeping your bones healthy


The kidneys also remove acid produced by cells in your body and maintain a balance of water, salts, and minerals, such as sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, in your blood.


If this filtration is not working properly you have kidney disease. This could be temporary or chronic. If your kidney function is really poor and the kidneys are unable to filter your blood properly, the acid, the minerals and water build up in your body and become toxic. If you do not receive dialysis (think of it as a washing machine for your blood that you get connected to) at this point you will get very sick and in the end die. The proper word for this is hemodialysis.

Hemo = blood

Dialysis = the separation of particles in a liquid on the basis of differences in their ability to pass through a membrane.


I am not going to go through every function of the kidneys and types of dialysis but we will focus on the dietitian’s very important role in this. 

If you know some basic nutrition you realize that the water and the minerals are all something that we consume, that exists in our food and drinks. If you have ever had a lab test done you may have seen things like potassium, phosphorus, sodium and GFR on there. GFR is a measure of how well your kidneys work. If your kidneys work poorly, you will see too high levels of potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and your body holding on to fluids among other things. You may see a decrease in urine.


The things you eat and drink contain these minerals and increase the levels in your blood if your kidneys are not able to manage it normally. Even if you are doing dialysis this is something that typically happens 3 days per week. Normally our kidneys are doing this 24/7 so you will have to start adapting what you eat and drink to help your body with the balance.


Your dietitian will assess your lab values and provide you with a lot of education. You will have to learn what foods have a lot of potassium, phosphorus and sodium and which ones have less. The dietitian will help you determine how much of these foods you are able to eat. She will also help assess the need for vitamin D supplementation, iron, and calcium. These are all things that are affected by kidney status.


When doing dialysis the machine also filters out some protein. This means that the protein amount and the quality of the protein you eat becomes very important so you do not become

malnourished. Dietitians typically call all this a “renal diet” but it is something that needs to be customized for the individual person and continually monitored. It is common for people to feel nauseous both between dialysis sessions and sometimes during. This makes it difficult to eat and increases the risk of malnutrition. 


The better you follow the diet instructions, the better you are going to feel and it can also lessen the length of dialysis that you have to do. This is why the dietitian is your best friend. The restrictions on this type of diet are many and this makes it difficult for patients to adhere to the diet. These minerals exist in a lot of different foods. 


This is by no means everything about kidney disease and nutrition but it has given you a picture of how important the dietitian is in kidney disease care.

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