Low Protein Diet for Kidney Disease

Published on: 02/21/2023

You may have heard about a low protein diet for kidney disease but maybe you have questions about if it is right for you. Look no further! The common questions about a low protein diet as it relates to CKD are answered here!

Why is protein important

Proteins serve many functions in the body beyond our muscles, but that is important too. The protein we eat is broken down into amino acids in our stomach and small intestine. The amino acids are then used by the body to make the specific proteins needed. Some protein functions in the body include immunity, transportation of oxygen in the body, hormone signaling, and digestion.

Protein in kidney disease

Extra protein is broken down by the body, mostly in the liver, and eliminated by the kidneys. For those with CKD, the extra protein can affect gut health and creates extra urea that may or may not be properly cleared by the kidneys. Consuming too much protein can lead to increased blood urea nitrogen levels (or BUN), when the kidneys cannot clear the extra urea and it accumulates. If the urea levels get too high, it can even cause trouble focusing and can be dangerous to the brain if extremely high.

Graphic showing a one day example of a low protein diet for CKD with plant based protein options.

Low protein diet and kidney disease

By limiting extra dietary protein, it takes stress off the kidneys. How much protein is needed? Several factors influence how much protein the body needs. The simplest way to look at it is by stage of CKD. Earlier stages of CKD, protein is not as restricted, while later stages of CKD a low protein diet can be helpful. Dialysis causes protein losses, so those on dialysis will need more protein. Individuals may need more protein based on other health conditions. Diabetes, chronic heart failure and cancer cause higher protein needs.

For example, a person with stage 3 CKD is recommended to have 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. An individual weighing 220 pounds or 100 kilograms would be recommended to have 60-80 grams for protein per day. 

Image depicting plant based protein sources for those with diabetes and CKD.

Not all protein is equal

Plant protein has a different impact on the body than animal protein when it comes to kidney disease. Plant proteins have a lower impact on BUN and are better for digestion than those from animal sources. PRAL or potential renal acid load is a measure of how much acid can be produced by a given food.

Vegetable protein sources

Concerns about not getting enough protein

Limiting animal protein leaves individuals questioning how to get enough protein to meet their needs. Protein is found in SO MANY foods that we often overlook, like vegetables. Yes, vegetables have protein, not a lot, but it is still present.

If you have questions about protein in your diet and want to work to learn more about your individual protein needs, book a complimentary call today to see if we are a good fit.


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