Preparing for Dialysis

It’s good to go in with a game plan when it’s time for dialysis, whether it’s your first treatment day or your fifth. We’ve come up with eight ways to help you prepare and to maintain your quality of life on dialysis.

1. Be an A+ student

Stay in the know about your condition and learn from your kidney care team.

2. Have conversations

Talk to loved ones and friends about your need for dialysis and how you’re feeling. Getting support early and often can help you feel prepared for dialysis.

3. Decisions, decisions … about dialysis

Discuss your treatment options with your nephrologist so you can work together to find just the right fit.

4. Patients to the rescue

Reach out to people who can relate to what you’re going through. Current dialysis patients can help you navigate the ins and outs of dialysis preparation.

5. From point A to point B

Map out which centers and medical facilities are close to where you live or work, so you can plan comfortable and convenient transportation. Find one using the Find a Dialysis Center tool.

6. All-access pass to dialysis

To receive dialysis, you’ll need to undergo a procedure to place an "access," which allows your blood to travel to and from the dialysis machine. Your nephrologist will discuss how to prepare for the access-placement surgery once you decide on a treatment.

7. Keep your job

Staying on the job when you need dialysis is vital to your well-being, both mentally and financially. Talk to your employer about how your job can be tailored to your needs once you begin treatment.

8. Kidney-friendly eating

Pay attention to what you eat. Create a kidney-friendly diet and stick to it. You’ll be eating foods that are both delicious and kidney-friendly in no time.

Adjusting to Life on Dialysis

Take Your Medicines, Take Control

People on dialysis often take quite a few medications, and the timing of when they’re taken truly matters. For instance, you may be prescribed phosphate binders to take when you eat, and a renal vitamin to take at a different time. Follow this advice to make maintaining a daily medication routine easier:

  • Listen and learn: Make a list of your medications, including over-the-counter vitamins and supplements, and talk to your doctor about why each one was prescribed, when they should be taken and the vital role they play in your kidney care.
  • Stay organized: Try using a plastic medication organizer and take each medication at the same time every day (unless your physician directs otherwise). Another great tip is to associate taking your medicine with other daily events, such as watching your favorite TV program or going to bed.
  • Stick to it: If you experience side effects, speak with your physician before you stop taking any medications. Also, refill necessary prescriptions on time to avoid running out of medication.

Know Your Medicine Cabinet

Medications to avoid include over-the-counter pain pills such as ibuprofen, naproxen and some supplements that have been known to damage kidneys.

Dig into the Dialysis Diet

There are two things to know about the dialysis diet: first, it’s different from the food choices you may already be making, and second, you should try not to make a lot of changes at once. Some people on the dialysis diet start out focusing on what they “can’t” eat. While there are certainly foods and beverages to avoid, remember that following dialysis nutrition guidelines is a way to take control of your health and have a better quality of life. Think of the dialysis diet as an opportunity to try new things. Exploring delicious recipes like those coming to, planning meals and sharing them with your family can be fun and enjoyable.

Prepare Yourself and Your Healthcare Team

One of the most important things you can do to ease your transition to dialysis is to keep everyone on your healthcare team informed. Your primary care doctor, diabetes doctor, cardiologist—they’ll all need to know when you start dialysis, as it may affect your labs, your health goals and the medications they prescribe.

Diet and Nutrition: Food IQ for People with Kidney Disease

As kidney function declines, protein waste and minerals become hard to remove, and diseased kidneys must work harder to get rid of them. Each person’s kidney diet prescription is different, but the main nutrients limited in kidney diets include protein, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Read on to enhance your kidney-friendly food IQ.

Wise Up with Water

Choose tap or plain bottled water, mineral water or flavored sparkling water. Specialty waters may be enhanced with sodium, potassium or phosphate additives.

Choose Your Brew

Home-brewed tea is an ideal alternative to water. Some bottled or canned beverages are loaded with phosphates, so it’s best to limit them.

Pick Your Poultry

Choose fresh poultry and pork. Many enhanced and pre-cooked products (including broth, nuggets and strips) contain substantial amounts of sodium, phosphate and potassium additives.

Go Organic

Make homemade low-sodium soup with organic or homemade stock. Organic foods tend to be lower in phosphorous, a mineral that should be limited for patients on dialysis.

Tap into Your Vegetarian Side

Eat meatless meals or plan entrées that use modest amounts of meat to reduce protein and thus added stress on your kidneys. Meatless meals have fewer saturated fats, to boot, which is good news for your heart.

Enjoy Flavor-Packed Cheese

Select strong-flavored natural cheeses and limit the amount you eat to 1-2 ounces to help decrease your intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and phosphorus.

Earn an “A” for Antioxidants

Eat antioxidant-rich apples, berries, cherries, red grapes, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, onions and red bell peppers to help decrease chronic inflammation associated with kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Power Up with Protein

Choose egg whites and high-omega-3 fish as your protein sources. Regardless of your protein level, plan at least half from high-quality sources such as these to receive all the essential amino acids. Egg whites are very low in phosphorus; fish such as salmon and trout reduce inflammation associated with kidney and heart disease.

Trim the Fat

Replace unhealthy fats such as shortening, animal fats and hydrogenated margarine with healthy fats, such as olive oil and trans fat–free margarine.

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