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Kidney Disease and a Low Protein Diet

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects millions of people worldwide. If you are have been diagnosed with CKD you are not alone.

Dr. Mackenzie Walser is the author of Coping with Kidney Disease: A 12-Step Treatment Program to Help You Avoid Dialysis (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2004). Dr. Mackenzie Walser writes that it is important for anyone with kidney disease to begin a low protein diet. Calling it a "life saving" approach, based on his 30 years of work with kidney patients at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Walser recommends a very low protein diet, supplemented with essential amino acids to provide adequate nutrition. Based on many years of experience, Dr. Walser believes this diet will help people delay the need for dialysis and reduce many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with chronic kidney disease.

Please see his book for details of his overall plan for treating kidney disease, which includes the special diet as well as other measures. For information on where to purchase the book, see Resources.

The cornerstone of Dr. Walser's treatment plan is a very low protein diet supplemented with essential amino acids, that should be planned in accordance with recommendations from a nutritionist or another qualified health professional. You should not start such a diet or attempt any significant modification of your protein intake without consulting with your kidney disease specialist.

The National Kidney Foundation, in its Adult Guidelines for Advanced Chronic Renal Failure without Dialysis, recommends that individuals with a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) less than 25 mL/min who are not undergoing dialysis consider going on a moderately low protein diet. The Kidney Foundation says this about low protein diets: "When properly implemented and monitored, low-protein, high-energy diets maintain nutritional status while limiting the generation of potentially toxic nitrogenous metabolites, the development of uremic symptoms, and the occurrence of other metabolic complications.

Evidence suggests that low protein diets may retard the progression of renal failure or delay the need for dialysis therapy." Again, even the moderately low protein diet recommended by the National Kidney Foundation needs to be designed by a kidney disease specialist.

There also are other nutrients that you may need to limit such as sodium, potassium, or phosphorous. A kidney disease specialist will need to advise you about specific goals in order for your low protein diet to be most effective.