What is a Renal Failure Diet?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 January 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
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A renal failure diet is a diet which is used to support a patient in renal failure. It is usually used in conjunction with medication, and may also be used with dialysis. The goal of the diet is to reduce the amount of waste which must be eliminated by the body so that the kidneys do not have to work so hard. The exact makeup of a renal failure diet varies depending on the specifics of the patient's case, and it is common to need to make adjustments to the diet over time to address changing needs.

A doctor usually works with a patient to design a renal failure diet, and may refer the patient to a dietitian or nutritionist. It is important to make sure that the directives given are followed closely, and that regular follow up meetings are attended to monitor progress and make any necessary changes. If a patient is working with a dietitian or nutritionist, she or he should ask the doctor to send updates so that the diet can be adjusted if the patient's situation changes.


Someone in renal failure needs to eat a diet which is low in phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. These necessary nutrients can build up in the bloodstream and cause harm when they cannot be eliminated by the kidneys. In addition, the patient needs more iron than usual, and may require calcium and vitamin D supplements. If the patient is on dialysis, a high protein renal failure diet is used, while patients not on dialysis need to reduce the amount of protein they consume.

The cornerstone of a renal failure diet is usually fresh foods. Preserved foods tend to be high in sodium, and even fresh foods must be limited to avoid dangerous nutrients like potassium. Bananas, for example, are not a good fit with a renal failure diet. The patient may also be advised to eat foods with a low glycemic index to keep blood sugar stable, and to reduce carbohydrate consumption.

Limiting liquids is also important, because a patient in renal failure cannot simply urinate to eliminate fluids. Reducing liquid consumption includes drinking less, but also avoiding foods which are high in water, like grapes and lettuce.

When designing a renal failure diet, a nutritionist or dietitian will develop a list of safe foods which can be eaten regularly, along with foods which can be eaten periodically as a treat, and foods which should be avoided. It is important to try and keep the diet diverse, as diets are harder to stick to when they are dull, and diversity ensures that the patient has access to balanced nutrition.



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