Most people with kidney problems will benefit from a healthy diet. It is important to try to eat the right balance of foods to stay healthy. It will help to control your blood pressure and blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
These have a role in protecting your kidneys from further damage.
You can find out more about maintaining a health diet with our booklet, A healthy diet and lifestyle for your kidneys.
Another leaflet, How can a renal dietitian help me?, explains how a renal dietitian can help you make the best food, drink and lifestyle choices to support your health.
Kidney Kitchen: recipes developed by chefs and approved by renal dietitians
Kidney Care UK's Kidney Kitchen offers healthy, delicious food you can enjoy eating every day, at every stage of kidney disease.
Each of our Kidney Kitchen recipes have been developed with the support of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) Renal Nutrition Specialist Group. Each recipe comes with a comprehensive set of Food Facts to explain how this recipe fits into your kidney diet; vegetarian, healthier or cheaper options and how to store it so that you can safely eat any leftovers on a day when you don’t feel up to cooking.
Some people with kidney problems are advised by their kidney doctor, nurse or dietitian to control the amount of fluid that they drink.
If you have been advised to reduce the amount of fluid you drink, it is important to also reduce the amount of salt in your diet. Our leaflet below lists some ways to do this which will help manage your fluid intake.
- Read our article by Renal Dietitian Laura Kyte, 'Help - I'm thirsty!'
- Download our Managing your fluid and salt levels (PDF) leaflet
Low potassium diet
We have a leaflet aimed at people who have been advised to follow a low potassium diet. It gives initial advice to help reduce the amount of potassium in your diet.
The Royal Devon and Exeter hospital has a very useful guide to appropriate snacks which can be taken into hospital if you are visiting a friend or relative on a low potassium diet.
NHS Royal Devon and Exeter:-
Find out more about the causes of high potassium (hyperkalaemia), its symptoms and possible treatments.
Exercise helps to keep your body healthy and strong. It can improve well-being and even reduce the symptoms of some health problems. However it can be hard to keep to a regular exercise routine if you have long term kidney conditions and particularly if you have treatments such as dialysis.
It is important to speak to your medical team before starting a new exercise programme to make sure that it is suitable for your individual health situation. They may also be able to put you in touch with a physiotherapist who can help you work out the best exercise programme for your lifestyle.
We have a leaflet, created alongside The Renal Association, that outlines the types of exercise that are recommended for people with kidney problems and gives advice on the best ways in which to exercise:-
We've also produced a series of exercise videos for kidney patients of all different levels and ages. Have a look on our exercise page.
Keeping your cholesterol level low
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is an important type of fat found in the body. It is carried around in the blood and can build up on the walls of blood vessels, making them narrow. Most of the cholesterol found in your blood is produced in your own liver.
A tendency towards high cholesterol can run in families. If you eat a lot of fat (especially saturated fat), this may also cause a high cholesterol level. In addition, people who have CKD with very high levels of protein in their urine may also have high levels of cholesterol in their blood.
The ideal cholesterol level
Scientists have discovered that low cholesterol levels are associated with low levels of heart disease. Advice about the ideal levels for cholesterol is changing as researchers find out more. Recent analysis suggests that high cholesterol levels in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) should be treated in the same was as in people with normal kidney function. There is no 'target level' for cholesterol that is right for everybody, your doctor will be able to advise you according to your level and your individual risks of developing disease related to high cholesterol levels.
The main forms are 'LDL cholesterol' (LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein) and 'HDL cholesterol' (HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein). LDL cholesterol is the one associated with damage to the circulation and is sometimes called 'bad'. High levels of HDL cholesterol offer some protection against damage, and is considered to be 'good'. Sometimes your doctor will measure HDL and total cholesterol and tell you a ratio before making a decision about treatment with drugs.
Eating to reduce your cholesterol level
foods that are high in cholesterol include dairy products, eggs and red meat. Many processed foods contain a lot of cholesterol, so it is a good idea to get into the habit of always checking the information on the labels.
The type of fats that increase blood cholesterol levels are known as 'saturated fats', while 'unsaturated fats' (which include olive oil) may be less harmful. If you are eating for health, you should try to reduce the amount of fat in your diet, and this may cause a small reduction in the cholesterol levels in your blood.
You should try to eat a balance of different types of food, with the right amounts of protein, carbohydrate, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Drugs to reduce cholesterol
If you are eating sensibly and losing wight but your blood cholesterol levels are still too high, the doctor may offer you treatment with tablets called statins. Several statins are available, and your doctor will prescribe one that will be suitable for you.
Statin drugs are generally well tolerated but may have side effects in some people. You can feel generally unwell with nausea or sickness, and may have to stop taking the tablet. It is important not to do this without first discussing with your doctor what would be best. Some people have aches and pains in their muscles. This is a serious side effect; if it happens to you, tell your doctor immediately.
Who should have cholesterol-lowering drugs?
If someone has already had a heart attack or stroke, they will usually be advised to take a statin. If there is no known vascular disease, statins are given according to the risk of events occurring in the future. This risk is calculated using a calculator called QRISK2 that takes account of factors such as age, cholesterol level and family history. People with CKD are considered to be at increased risk of heart attack and stroke, compared with people with normal kidney function.
Keeping your kidneys safe
To find out more about keeping your kidneys safe when at risk of Acute Kidney Injury download our How to keep your kidneys safe leaflet
It features information on:
- Kidney function
- Acute Kidney Injury
- Chronic Kidney Disease