PKD Diet – Foods to Consider and Foods to Rethink

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:


  • Canned soups

  • Packaged snack foods (chips, salted nuts, crackers, pretzels)

  • Cold cuts and cured meats

  • Cheese


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. 

CKD Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), determining which foods to eat and avoid can be challenging. Different stages of CKD call for varying amounts of certain nutrients, so recommendations change depending on how damaged the kidneys are. To determine personalized dietary needs based on your lab values, goals, and disease severity, meet with a renal dietitian. Keep reading to learn more about general CKD diet guidelines, including which foods you may need to reconsider.

Eat Less Sodium 

With CKD, your kidneys gradually lose their ability to filter excess sodium out of the blood. This build-up can lead to elevated blood pressure and fluid retention. Eating less sodium helps lower blood pressure and reduce fluid build-up around the heart (1). Aim to eat less than 1500 mg of sodium daily (2). Follow the tips below to reduce your sodium intake. 


  • Ditch the salt shaker (experiment with other herbs and spices)

  • Buy fresh foods when possible 

  • Choose canned goods labeled “low sodium” or “reduced sodium”

  • Rinse canned vegetables and beans with water to remove extra salt

  • Limit your intake of processed and fast foods


Eat the Right Amount of Protein:

With CKD, the kidneys struggle to remove toxic nitrogenous waste from the blood that results from protein metabolism. When too much protein is consumed, the kidneys work overtime to remove this waste, potentially leading to further kidney damage. 


Protein needs vary depending on the stage of CKD. As CKD advances, a gradual reduction of protein intake is necessary. To reduce protein consumption, focus on eating more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Plant protein sources typically have fewer grams of protein per serving than animal sources. 


However, protein needs increase once kidney failure occurs and dialysis begins. Dialysis removes nitrogenous waste from the blood, so a low-protein diet is no longer needed. To increase your protein intake, eat a variety of plant and animal protein sources like poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Reduce your Potassium and Phosphorus Intake:

Depending on the severity of your kidney disease, you might need to limit your intake of foods high in potassium and phosphorus. CKD makes it harder for your kidneys to remove extra potassium and phosphorus from the blood. A build-up of potassium could lead to heart problems, and too much phosphorus may result in weakened bones (3). 


If your kidneys are struggling to remove potassium from your blood, consider eating less high-potassium foods like bananas, avocados, potatoes, oranges, and tomatoes. If your phosphorus levels are high, you might need to reduce your portion sizes of meat, poultry, fish, dairy, beans, and nuts.


Avoid Drinking Too Much Fluid:


If you have CKD, you could notice swelling from fluid retention. Swelling occurs when damaged kidneys can’t remove excess fluid from the blood. A surplus of fluids in the bloodstream may increase blood pressure and put unnecessary stress on the heart. Drinking fewer fluids is sometimes necessary to manage blood volume. A dietitian or healthcare provider can help you determine how much liquid is best for you.


When the kidneys are damaged, they struggle to maintain optimal levels of electrolytes, fluids, and protein waste products in the blood. As the kidneys progressively become more damaged, your intake of sodium, protein, potassium, phosphorus, and fluids may need to be adjusted. Personal recommendations depend heavily on lab values, symptoms, and severity of kidney damage. If you have CKD, consider meeting with a renal dietitian to design an eating plan for your needs.

Chronic Kidney Disease – Symptoms, Dietary Management, and More

What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a syndrome of progressive and irreversible loss of kidney function resulting from kidney damage. It’s estimated that 37,000 people in the United States have CKD and over 800 million worldwide are affected by CKD, although most remain undiagnosed (1). 


Kidney function is evaluated based on the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which measures how efficiently waste products are cleared from the blood by the kidneys to exit through urine (2). As kidney function worsens, electrolytes become unbalanced, and nitrogenous waste rises in the blood. This buildup can lead to serious medical complications if left untreated. 


There are five stages of CKD, advancing in severity from mild kidney damage to kidney failure. However, not all people with kidney disease end up with kidney failure. Keep reading to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of CKD so you can slow the progression of kidney damage and reduce your risk of kidney failure.

Chronic Kidney Disease Causes: 

People with diabetes or hypertension run the highest risk of developing CKD. In fact, 3 out of 4 newly diagnosed CKD patients have at least one of these conditions (1).


Other potential causes and risk factors of CKD include: 


  • Glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidney’s filtering components)

  • Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) or other hereditary kidney diseases

  • A direct and forceful injury to the kidneys

  • Being African American, American Indian, or Hispanic (3)

  • If CKD runs in your family (routine testing is encouraged if someone in your family has CKD)

  • Prolonged consumption of certain medications like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen


Chronic Kidney Disease Symptoms: 

The early stages of CKD are likely to occur without noticeable symptoms. Although impaired, the kidneys still do their job well enough to keep you from feeling ill.


Edema is swelling from fluid retention and can be an early sign of CKD. Edema is commonly seen in the lower extremities. It occurs when the kidneys can no longer efficiently filter out excess fluids and salt from the blood.


Symptoms of more advanced CKD include:


  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased or decreased urine output
  • Cloudy urine
  • High blood pressure
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Fatigue


CKD can have adverse effects on several parts of the body. Some of the most common complications associated with CKD include high blood potassium, heart disease, fluid retention, anemia, and weak bones.



Kidney disease is irreversible, but you can manage medical conditions and complications linked to CKD.


  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure 
  • Stay within your blood sugar target range as much as possible
  • Be physically active and eat a nutrient-dense diet to help manage blood pressure and blood sugar 
  • Take medications as prescribed by your doctor for blood pressure, diabetes, edema, or anemia if needed


The fifth stage of CKD is considered kidney failure. The kidneys are no longer functioning at a level that is adequate to sustain life without treatment. Treatment options for kidney failure include hemodialysis (HD), peritoneal dialysis (PD), or kidney transplant. Dialysis, whether it be HD or PD, is a procedure that removes excess toxic byproducts of metabolism from the blood.


CKD involves a gradual loss of kidney function that can result in kidney failure. Having diabetes or hypertension significantly increases your risk of developing CKD. Signs and symptoms usually don’t occur until the more advanced stages. To help prevent CKD and reduce your risk of kidney failure, manage risk factors, get tested annually, make lifestyle changes, and take medicine as prescribed by your doctor.

Polycystic Kidney Disease – Symptoms, Dietary Management, and More

What is Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)?

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a genetic disorder marked by the slow growth of fluid-filled cysts within the kidneys. The cysts multiply and grow, causing the kidneys to become enlarged. Although the cysts are non-cancerous, they can cause irreversible kidney damage and may even lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD).

About 600,000 people in the United States have PKD (1). The disease affects men and women equally. While there’s no known cure for PKD, there are lifestyle changes that you can make to aid in the dietary management of PKD.

Polycystic Kidney Disease Causes: 

PKD is caused by a genetic mutation passed down through family members. There are two types of PKD: Autosomal Dominant (ADPKD) and Autosomal Recessive (ARPKD). 


  • ADPKD is the most common form of PKD, affecting 1 in every 400 to 1,000 people (2). “Autosomal dominant” means a child can inherit the PKD gene from just one parent. If a parent has ADPKD there is a 50% chance their child will have the disease (3). 

  • ARPKD is much less prevalent, affecting 1 in every 20,000 people (2). “Autosomal recessive” means that both parents must have the disease to pass it on to their child. If both parents have the abnormal gene, there is a 25% chance their child will have it (4).


Polycystic Kidney Disease Symptoms: 

It’s not uncommon for PKD to go years or even decades undetected. If you experience symptoms, they usually show up between 30 and 40 years of age (5). If PKD runs in your family, meet with a doctor to discuss screening for the disease. 


Symptoms can include:

  • Back and side pain 

  • Headaches

  • Blood in your urine 

  • High blood pressure 

  • Kidney Stones

  • Enlarged Kidneys


Polycystic Kidney Disease Diagnosis:

You may be referred to a nephrologist if you are showing signs and symptoms of PKD. A nephrologist uses imaging tests to detect cysts in the kidneys. An ultrasound is the most common test used to diagnose PKD. Sometimes, a CT (computed tomography) scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can reveal smaller cysts that aren’t captured on an ultrasound.


Various complications may result from having PKD. Adults with PKD are at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, kidney failure, kidney stones, liver and pancreatic cysts, brain aneurysms, and chronic pain. 


Complications can also occur in babies born with PKD. They may have breathing problems, high blood pressure, and kidney failure.



While PKD is not reversible, there are several ways to manage symptoms and changes you can make to aid in the dietary management for people with PKD. 


To manage symptoms of PKD:


  • Drink lots of water

  • Reduce your salt intake

  • Engage in regular physical activity

  • Manage your stress levels

  • Take medications as prescribed by your doctor

  • Limit your caffeine intake

  • Quit smoking 


To learn about the top 8 dietary and lifestyle changes for PKD, click here

Kidney Stones – Risk Factors, Symptoms, Tips

Kidney Stones: A Quick Overview


Chances are either you or someone you know has experienced kidney stones. While these pesky stones are usually small enough to be excreted through your urine, larger stones may require more medical attention. Here’s what you need to know about kidney stones and how to prevent them. 

What are Kidney Stones? 

Kidney Stones form when high levels of mineral salts crystallize in the urine. Typically, mineral salts dissolve in the urine and are excreted as waste. However, when the urine becomes too saturated with these salts, they cannot dissolve, leading to crystallization and stone formation. Kidney stones consist of calcium, cystine, uric acid, or struvite.


Kidney stones usually form in the kidneys but can develop anywhere along the urinary tract. Once formed, they either stay in the kidney or move down the ureter tract towards the bladder and urethra.





Risk Factors of Kidney Stones


Kidney stones are more common in men than in women (1). They are likely to peak between the ages of 20-30 years but can develop at any age (2). Kidney stones are significantly more common in people with kidney disease. In fact, an estimated 20-30% of people with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) develop kidney stones compared to only 1% of the general population (3).



Other common risk factors include:


  • Low urine volume

  • Previous stone formation

  • High calcium levels in the urine

  • High uric acid levels in the urine

  • High oxalate levels in the urine


Low urine output caused by dehydration is considered one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of kidney stones (4).


What are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones usually don’t cause any symptoms until they move out of the kidney to the ureter, causing a blockage of urine flow. The discomfort or pain associated with the kidney stone will travel depending on the location of the stone within the urinary tract system.


Other symptoms include:



  • Hematuria (blood in the urine)

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Painful urination

  • Urgency to urinate

How are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?


 If you believe you may have a kidney stone, it’s important to see your doctor. Diagnosis of a kidney stone involves capturing images of the kidneys, bladder, and ureter with x-ray or ultrasound technology. Additionally, urine and blood are usually analyzed to check for factors that may contribute to kidney stones.


Treatment of a kidney stone depends on if the stone can be passed through the urine. Stones expected to pass on their own call for drinking additional fluids and taking pain medication.

A kidney stone that’s too large to pass, is blocking urine flow, or is causing an infection may require a medical procedure to be removed.



  • ESWL (extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy) is a non-invasive treatment that uses shock waves to break stones down, so they can pass in the urine.

  • Percutaneous nephrolithotomy and ureteroscopy are minimally invasive treatments that involve surgically removing the stone.



Prevention of kidney stones generally comes down to hydration and making smart food choices.


  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure your urine doesn’t become too concentrated with mineral salts.

  • Eat enough calcium-rich foods like bok choy and broccoli

  • Limit intakes of food high in sodium

  • Reduce your intake of high oxalate foods like beets, spinach, rhubarb, nuts, chocolate, and dried beans to prevent calcium stones.

  • Reduce your intake of high-purine foods like meat, seafood, and gravy to prevent uric acid stones.



Nobody wants to experience the pain that can be associated with kidney stones. Drinking plenty of water, reducing meat intake, and increasing vegetable consumption may reduce your chances of developing stones. If you experience symptoms associated with kidney stones, see your doctor to discuss the best treatment options.

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