Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited condition characterized by clusters of fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys. PKD cysts multiply over time and cause irreversible kidney damage that can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Vasopressin, a hormone that helps maintain fluid balance, strongly influences the growth of cysts in the kidneys. Higher levels of vasopressin are linked with a more rapid progression of PKD (1). Making specific dietary changes that reduce the secretion of vasopressin is important to consider. In this blog, we unfold how adjusting your intake of sodium, protein, water, carbohydrates, and high-oxalate foods plays a crucial role in managing PKD.
Reduce Sodium Intake:
Whether you have PKD or not, eating excess salt can raise your blood pressure. However, people with PKD need to manage their blood pressure because hypertension (high blood pressure) damages the kidneys. Decreasing your salt intake can help to lower blood pressure and reduce vasopressin levels. Lower salt intake has even been shown to slow the growth of cysts in people with PKD (2). Most people overconsume salt and should aim to reduce their intake to no more than 2300 mg per day (3). As kidney damage worsens, your doctor may advise you to limit your salt intake to 1500 mg daily.
Limit Foods High in Salt:
Packaged snack foods (chips, salted nuts, crackers, pretzels)
Cold cuts and cured meats
Eat Modest Amounts of Protein:
While more research is needed to establish protein recommendations for those with PKD specifically, aiming to eat 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is considered appropriate for kidney disease (4). Consuming too much protein increases the secretion of vasopressin, which accelerates cyst growth (1). Furthermore, damaged kidneys may not be able to remove waste that builds up in the blood from eating too much protein, especially animal protein. Plant-based protein sources are less harmful to the kidneys than animal sources. Focus on getting your protein from plant sources such as beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, quinoa, nuts, and seeds.
Drink Plenty of Water:
Adequate hydration is essential for people with PKD to prevent kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and dehydration. Additionally, drinking enough water reduces the stimulation of vasopressin, which can slow the progression of PKD (5). Specific fluid recommendations vary depending on a person’s activity level, body size, and medications. However, the general recommendation for people with PKD is to consume 3 liters of water per day (1). This is the equivalent of 12.5 cups of water.
Limit Sugar Intake:
Eating too much sugar increases your risk of developing obesity, diabetes, gout, and heart disease, all of which have the potential to exacerbate kidney damage from PKD. Men should eat no more than 36 grams of added sugar daily, and women should consume no more than 24 grams per day (6).
Reduce Foods High in Added sugar:
Sodas, juice, sweet tea
Cookies, cake, pie, candy
Sweetened yogurt, cereal, and granola bars
Decrease Carbohydrate Intake to Help Control Blood Sugar:
High carbohydrate diets may worsen the progression of PKD. To reduce your risk of high blood sugar levels and weight gain, avoid eating a high-carbohydrate diet. Choose fiber-rich carbohydrates instead of refined carbs that have been stripped of their nutrients. Limit your intake of refined carbs including white bread, white rice, pizza dough, pasta, flour tortillas, and pastries.
Consider Oxalate Intake:
Oxalate is a naturally occurring compound in plant foods. Eating high oxalate foods can lead to the formation of kidney stones, which likely worsens PKD. Swap high oxalate foods with low oxalate foods. Check out this table to determine which oxalate-containing foods should be avoided and restricted. https://santabarbaranutrients.com/oxalate/
Reducing sodium intake, eating moderate amounts of protein, and drinking plenty of fluids help manage the symptoms associated with PKD.n. Furthermore, limiting the consumption of added sugar, carbohydrates, and high-oxalate foods may help preserve kidney health. Work with a registered dietitian to determine individualized recommendations based on your level of kidney function.