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Nutrition and Peritoneal Dialysis

Learn more about the general guidelines of a peritoneal dialysis diet.


As a patient beginning peritoneal dialysis treatments, you are adjusting to many changes in your daily life. Your doctor has probably told you that some changes in your diet will be necessary.

Why will you have to follow a special diet?

Because your kidneys are not able to get rid of enough waste products and fluids from your body.

It is important that you have the right amounts of protein, calories, vitamins and minerals in your diet. Your dietitian will help you plan your meals to make sure that you get the proper balance. Here are some general guidelines:


Your body needs protein for growth, building muscles and repairing tissue.

After your body uses the protein in the foods you eat, a waste product called urea is left. Since your kidneys are not able to get rid of this urea, you may have too much in your blood. Dialysis and your diet are important to keep the urea level down.

Along with the clearing of urea, your body loses proteins that are normally retained in your blood. You will need to eat more protein to replace what is lost. The type of protein you eat is also very important. High quality protein should be eaten at each meal. It comes from animal sources such as eggs, fish, chicken and meat. Low quality protein needs to be limited in your diet. It comes from plant sources such as vegetables and grains.


Calories give your body energy. One source of calories is the food you eat. Another source is the sugar in dialysate solution that can affect you because:

  • It takes extra fluid out of the body.
  • It is taken in by your body.
  • It can cause unwanted weight gain.


Potassium is a mineral found naturally in foods that is dangerous when you have too much or too little. It is plentiful in dried fruits, dried beans and peas, nuts, meat, milk, fruits and vegetables and also in salt substitutes. Since both high and low levels of potassium in your body are dangerous to your heart, your potassium level will be watched closely.

Fluid and Sodium

Sodium is a mineral that is found naturally in foods and can affect your blood pressure. It is found in large amounts in table salt and in canned foods and processed meats (cold cuts).

With continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD), you may be able to follow your usual diet. Watching your sodium can help to control your thirst and your weight gain. It may also lower your use of high-sugar solutions. Your doctor will choose the right dialysate for you to control your blood pressure and fluid level.


Phosphorus is a mineral present in all foods. It is found in large amounts in milk, cheese, nuts, dried beans and peas.

Eating foods high in phosphorus will raise the phosphorus in your blood and this can cause calcium to be pulled from your bones. This will make your bones weak and cause them to break easily. To help control the phosphorus in your blood, you may need to take medicine called a phosphate binder. It should be taken with your meals and snacks as ordered by your doctor. Your renal dietitian can also tell you about protein foods that are lower in phosphorus.

Vitamins and Minerals

The dialysis treatment washes some water-soluble vitamins out of your body. If you are not getting all the vitamins and minerals you need from the foods you eat, vitamin and mineral supplements may be recommended. It is important to take only what is ordered for you. Certain vitamins and minerals can be harmful to persons on dialysis.

Copyright by the National Kidney Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.