How to get the best benefit from dialysis

When you suffer from a severe loss of renal function, it is a vital matter to find a way to filter the blood by removing the excess liquid, minerals and wastes that your body doesn’t need. For some people, a kidney transplant is the best option, but sometimes it’s not a possible procedure. Organs may not be available or they simply are not compatible with the patient’s body. In those cases, dialysis is a life support process that replaces this filtering kidney function and helps to maintain the balance. Any doctor will warn you: dialysis is not a cure, and from the moment you start the treatment, you will depend on it until an eventual transplant. Nevertheless, you can get the best benefit from dialysis and live a normal quality life by adopting a positive and healthy lifestyle.

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As it was mentioned in previous posts, diet plays a definitive role when it comes to limit waste buildup in the blood. It is particularly important to be careful about what you drink and what you eat when you are on this treatment. Keep in mind that the process may become useless by not following the medical instructions. Every organism is different. At any Dialysis Centre, a specialist can evaluate your needs and dietary restrictions. Dialysis bring a big change in your life, and yes: it includes the amount of proteins, fluids and sodium you can consume in your diet routines.


According to a study by Oxford University, exercising increases the efficiency of dialysis. After studying eleven patients (aged 32-78 years old) on hemodialysis, they discovered that the plasma concentrations of urea, creatinine and potassium decreased when the patients pedaled on a cycle for 5-20 min. The percentages of the concentrations of the patients that sat on the chair as an average control made them conclude that the exercise in dialysis sessions is equivalent to extending the session time by 15-20 min. Why? Because of the rebound of solutes: it reduces considerably when the blood flow increases on the skeletal muscles.

It has become a common practice in United States, Sweden, Germany and Greece. Exercise during dialysis sessions improves the functional capacity of patients, and the symptoms of fatigue and cramps diminish much more compared to the bodies of sedentary patients. The results show that exercise has even a positive impact on the mental health: the ability of care for themselves, the decreased pain and other discomforts associated with kidney failure increased the quality of life of patients.

However, exercise is not an exclusive activity for In-Centre dialysis sessions. It can be practiced anywhere, anytime, and still you will get the benefits. There are Kidney Walks and Runs all over the globe, for example, which raise awareness and funds lifesaving programs for educating people on kidney failure and cancer. These events support patients, their families and those at risk, and are the perfect excuse for lacing up your walking shoes and know people who care about your problem.

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Alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs

The consumption of alcohol, any kind of tobacco and illegal drugs, such as ketamine, genetically modified marihuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, affects the function of glomerular filtration rate in a very negative way, sometimes irreversible. The 10% of kidney failures is related to nephrotoxins contained in those substances. This consumption may lead healthy patients to this condition and it worsens the circumstances of those who are already in treatment. Any drug you put into your organism passes through your kidneys, and every one of them causes a different effect. Alcohol, when it’s taken in high doses, makes the kidneys less able to filter the blood and to keep the right amount of water in your body. Most street drugs change the blood pressure and increase the amount of harmful elements that your kidneys remove in normal conditions.

Prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines and herbs

Your doctor should not only be aware of your medical history when you are on dialysis. He / she must know what medicines you are taking, in case that some of them seriously harm your kidneys (painkillers and some drugs to treat heart diseases, for instance). It is very important to consult him / her before taking any medication, no matter if it’s a natural pill or herb.

Stay positive

A healthy lifestyle requires constant positive choices: eating well, sleeping well, starting an exercise routine, listening to your doctor and leaving behind those bad habits that bring a lot of people here. Positive thoughts help to reduce stress. Keep your morale up by finding and embracing the right motivations: family, passion for what you do, the pursuit of your own goals… Remember that surviving is 50% attitude!


Eat amazing food, and be healthy and happy with your dialysis

Sure, you are on dialysis, and sure, you have to experience some not really pleasant things during this time. Sometimes it is painful, sometimes it is simply uncomfortable. And to all these unpleasant things that you have to experience, you must add another one. Bad food. Or that is what you think. Because probably you tend to think that being on dialysis means that you have to care for your diet a lot, and indeed that is completely true. No one would deny that part of the success of your treatment has to do with the sort of food that you eat. But this does not necessarily entail that you cannot enjoy the food that you eat, and more importantly, that you cannot have meals that you truly enjoy. Meals that may give you the feeling of having had a great dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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Being on dialysis can be seen as an opportunity to find other ways to eat, ways that not only are healthier for you, but also show aspects related to how to enjoy new types of food that you never considered before. Dialysis does not imply that you cannot have a better and even more fulfilling life in this respect. After all, there is a wide variety of kidney-friendly foods and recipes specially thought for your renal diet. The important point is that you take the time, the interest, and particularly the motivation to look for them and try them. You will not be disappointed.

Of course, you must pay attention to your nutrition requirements in order to decide which diet option and what kind of recipes are more appropriate for you. After all, the type of dialysis treatment that you chose will have a direct impact on those nutrition requirements. It is not the same if you choose traditional hemodialysis, which you will have three times a week, frequent hemodialysis, which you will have five to six times a week, or peritoneal dialysis. In each case, your nutrition requirements will be different, and for that reason, it is crucial for your treatment and your health in general that you know them well. In this sense, it is very important for you that you receive proper advice from a dialysis dietitian. During dialysis, your body will change the ways in which it removes waste, and for that reason, you cannot continue having the same kind of diet that you had before. You must change it, and your dietitian may help you to find the best options for you, which need to take into account factors such as your type of dialysis and other related health issues, but also your own preferences regarding food.

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As a consequence, when you create your diet, and particularly, when you decide which kinds of food and recipes you would like to try, it is important that you keep in mind some general aspects regarding the nutrition requirements that you must fulfill. First of all, do not forget your protein ever. Protein is fundamental for you when you start dialysis, even if you have been told in the past that it is good for you to limit it. Once you start dialysis, you will need to eat more protein than what you used to eat before. Every meal should be very rich in protein for dialysis patients. So, consider including both animal and vegetable protein in your diet. Some of the best sources of animal protein are meat, milk and milk products, egg, poultry, and fish, whereas nuts and legumes (for example, soybean and soybean products, peas, beans, among others) are extraordinary sources of vegetable protein. Of course, each type of protein will have different effects on your body and your treatment, so you should ask your doctor and your dietitian which one may work better for you.

Another tip that you should take into account when considering the type of food and recipes that you would like to try is to eat less salty foods. It is indeed better to forget about salty processed foods, even if you are not on dialysis. Now that you are on it, think about fresh, home-cooked foods, instead of restaurant meals. The latter are usually high in salt, whereas for the former you can decide which low-salt recipes would be better to cook at home. In the same sense, go for foods low in potassium and phosphorus, since it can be difficult for your kidneys to process them. Try vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and zucchini, which are low in potassium. And keep a close eye on dairy foods, since they tend to be quite high in phosphorus. Probably you will still be able to take them, but with moderation.

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Finally, be careful with liquids. Your body can build up fluid if you drink too much, and as a consequence, you may have shortness of breath. So, keep an eye on them.