Vitamins for Kidneys: What to look for and what to avoid

Which vitamins are helpful for those with kidney disease? Which can cause further kidney damage? It can be confusing to know which vitamins are the best to take for your kidneys. Let’s break it down.

Best vitamins for kidneys

If you know you have low levels of any of the following, talk with your doctor or dietitian about supplementing.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D works as a hormone in the body and is activated by the kidneys. Many individuals with CKD need to supplement Vitamin D. Vitamin D works to keep the balance and strength of bones by keeping calcium and phosphorus in check. Too little vitamin D can lead to increased blood phosphorus levels and weaker bones, over time. 

Other groups that may benefit from a Vitamin D supplement:

  • Older adults
  • Individuals living in northern climates (less sun exposure further from the Equator)
  • Individuals that do not spend much time outside

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found in many animal products. Those following a plant based diet often need to supplement vitamin B12. Too little B12 can lead to pernicious anemia and nerve problems. Those following a vegetarian or vegan diet should consider getting B12 levels checked and supplementing if low.

Iron

The kidneys are involved in the production of red blood cells, as CKD progresses, iron levels can fall. There are different types of iron supplements, some can cause constipation and others are IV preparations. If taking an iron supplement, do not take it at the same time as a calcium supplement, calcium rich meal or meal with tea, coffee or wine (the tannins decrease the body’s ability to use iron). Taking iron supplements with a food source of vitamin C can make them work at their best. Food sources of vitamin C include: strawberries, citrus and tomatoes.

Worst vitamins for kidneys

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is important for collagen formation and immunity, but for those with CKD, too much is not a good thing either. Excess doses of vitamin C, like supplements, can cause a buildup of oxalate in the body. Kidney stones can result from excess vitamin C. It is best to stick with food sources of vitamin C if you have CKD.

Image depicting vitamin C sources from foods including citrus, strawberries, peppers and kiwi.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that can accumulate in those with CKD. For that reason, it is recommended to not take supplements containing vitamin E in later stages of CKD. 

What’s right for you?

Multivitamin for CKD

A multivitamin that contains B vitamins is what is recommended for those in later stages of CKD or on dialysis. These vitamins have safe levels of various vitamins for those that want a multivitamin option. It is not recommended to take a standard multivitamin, like One-A-Day or Centrum, if you have CKD. 

Please know that not everyone needs all the vitamins listed here. Similarly, just because a vitamin may not be the best for kidneys, does not mean food sources of that food should be avoided. Each person is different and vitamin recommendations should be individualized. If you aren’t sure which vitamins are right for you, please reach out and we can work together to help you know which would be best for you.

Supplements linked can earn a commission if you purchase. Please know that all supplements are not created equally, those included in links are of reputable quality. The FDA does not regulate supplements and cannot guarantee their quality of potency.

Want to learn more about the science of vitamins? The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has great resources to learn more.

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