If your kidneys no longer work, or function at a lowered capacity, you might need home hemodialysis, often simply called dialysis. This treatment helps your body remove waste and fluid from your blood. Without dialysis, your kidneys will continue to fail, toxins in your blood won’t be removed, and your health will deteriorate.
When you start dialysis treatment, a special diet should be followed for the best health outcomes. Doing so can remove unnecessary stress from your kidneys, make dialysis more effective, and improve your comfort and quality of life.
How Diet Impacts the Results of Hemodialysis
Dialysis can remove most of the toxins your kidneys would remove from your body’s blood, but it’s not a completely perfect system. Therefore, by altering your diet to control how much of particular nutrients and minerals you consume, you can ensure your dialysis treatment is as effective as it can be.
However, if a dialysis-focused diet isn’t followed, your health can deteriorate, as the treatment may be unable to remove the necessary toxins from your blood. Additionally, a poor diet while on dialysis can lead to heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for people on dialysis.
The Role Nutrients Play in a Hemodialysis Diet
One of the main jobs your kidneys perform is delivering nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to organs throughout your body through your bloodstream. But when you are undergoing hemodialysis, your kidneys aren’t capable of filtering out the excess, so following a careful diet is more important.
Because of the way various minerals and nutrients interact within your body, following a hemodialysis diet can help counteract some of the potential side effects that each nutrient can produce.
Most dialysis patients will need to increase their protein intake. This is because dialysis often removes proteins along with blood during the treatment process. As a result, your body may not have enough protein, and when the body doesn’t have enough protein, it will begin consuming protein from your muscles at the expense of your body. A lack of protein can be highly destructive and lead to more health problems if you’re undergoing dialysis, so it’s important to maintain an appropriate protein intake
When undergoing dialysis, your phosphorus intake needs to be closely monitored. Phosphorus binds with calcium, which is crucial to bone development and health; because of this binding, excess phosphorus can simultaneously have a weakening effect on your bones and a hardening effect on soft tissues like muscles and blood vessels.
Foods that are high in protein are often also high in phosphorus, so finding a diet that works for you is a balancing act, but is more than achievable with the help of a dialysis dietician.
Dialysis patients typically need to consume more calcium. Calcium’s impact on bone development is crucial for offsetting the impacts of phosphorus, which can have deleterious effects on your bones.
Dialysis is incredibly effective at removing waste from your body, but even so, it has its limits. Dialysis can only remove so much potassium, and therefore your potassium intake must be limited. Dialysis patients who may have been following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to lower their blood pressure may need to alter their diet, because despite DASH being low in sodium, it typically contains a significant amount of potassium.
Reducing sodium consumption is one of the first dietary changes we recommend to patients who are at risk of Chronic Kidney Disease. When you’re undergoing hemodialysis, you similarly need to limit how many salty foods you eat. Dialysis can only remove so much sodium, and without your kidney’s natural regulation, high sodium levels can lead to high blood pressure and more medical complications.
Carbs are particularly important for hemodialysis patients because many are rich in fiber. Fiber is important for the heart, the circulatory system, and preventing constipation. It also helps lower cholesterol, which can prevent the need for additional medications. Lowered cholesterol can also reduce the risk of heart disease, which is a common illness among dialysis patients.
While healthy kidneys thrive on receiving plenty of fluids in order to keep your blood and body in ship shape, it’s a different story for individuals who rely on dialysis. Now, dialysis does remove your body’s extra fluids, but it still isn’t the same as healthy kidneys, which work day and night to process waste, whereas dialysis is a process that you undergo far less frequently.
Therefore, it’s important that you limit your fluid intake each day. Your dietician will help you determine an amount you can drink without risking a rise in blood pressure, damage to your heart, or edema (swelling in your face, ankles, feet, and wrists).
The Benefits of Following a Hemodialysis Diet
There’s no denying that hemodialysis is an intense treatment method, but by following a hemodialysis diet, your treatment can be as effective as possible and lead to huge benefits, including factors such as:
At Milwaukee Nephrologists, that’s our goal: to improve your quality of life. For four decades, we’ve been providing state-of-the-art care and pursuing innovative programs in home hemodialysis.
To get in touch with a team of highly-skilled nephrologists in Southeastern Wisconsin, contact us today.