Doctor’s Orders: Limit Protein and Sodium to Fight Kidney Disease

Chronic kidney disease is a condition that gradually leads to a loss of kidney function over time.

Patients with kidney disease should regulate their protein intake.
Patients with kidney disease should regulate their protein intake.

Chronic kidney disease gradually leads to a loss of kidney function over time. The condition can damage the kidneys, decreasing their ability to prevent waste buildup in the blood and can lead to complications of high blood pressure, anemia, weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage. If chronic kidney disease continues to progress, it can lead to kidney failure which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life.

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One aspect that can greatly influence the progression of this disease is food choices. A doctor will often prescribe a diet with specific daily amounts of certain nutrients that can help to prevent kidney disease from getting worse.

Everyone with kidney disease needs to have an assessment of their dietary needs as not everyone will need to follow the exact same diet. Depending on a person’s other health conditions, lifestyle and any other special needs, will determine what nutrients they may need to limit in order to keep their kidneys functioning as best they can.

A doctor and a registered dietitian will determine the amount of the following nutrients that each individual person with chronic kidney disease needs:


Protein is a macro-nutrient necessary to build, repair, and maintain every cell in the body and can be used to supply energy when needed. In chronic kidney disease, because the kidneys are not working normally, they are unable to handle as much protein as they normally could. Therefore, a person may need to limit the amount of protein they consume and instead rely a little more on consuming enough healthy carbohydrates and fat to supply their body with the energy they need.

The main sources of protein a person may need to limit include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, beans, and nuts. Other foods sources of protein often not considered include breads, cereals, seeds and vegetables.


The mineral sodium has important jobs within the body such as maintaining an appropriate fluid and electrolyte balance. But in chronic kidney disease, too much sodium and fluid can build up in the body affecting the heart and lungs along with increasing blood pressure and retention of fluids.

Limiting sodium in the diet is important to prevent making the kidneys have to work extra hard. Sodium is found in salt and most processed foods. Check the nutrition facts label for how many milligrams of sodium a serving contains including salt substitutes as they often contain the mineral potassium which also may need to be limited.


Potassium is another mineral that needs to be kept in balance in the body. In chronic kidney disease, potassium levels in the blood can rise affecting heart rhythm making it necessary to limit foods containing potassium.

Potassium is found in many fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and dairy foods.


When kidneys are working normally they can remove extra phosphorus in the blood. In chronic kidney disease, phosphorus levels rise causing body changes that pull calcium out of the bones making them weak. High phosphorus levels can also lead to dangerous calcium deposits in blood vessels, lungs, eyes, and heart.

Therefore, a person may need to limit their intake of foods high in phosphorus.


Chronic kidney disease causes imbalances in bone metabolism and can calcium to be deposited in the blood vessels contributing to heart disease. To determine calcium status, the doctor may evaluate calcium levels and if it is low, may prescribe calcium supplements. If it is found to be high then high calcium foods, calcium supplements and calcium-bases phosphorus-binders may be limited to control calcium levels.

Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team Learn more at Visit Dr. Samadi’s blog at Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook.

Doctor’s Orders: Limit Protein and Sodium to Fight Kidney Disease