Dialysis removes toxins and other waste products from your blood when your kidneys no longer function well. Dialysis treatments are usually done several times a week and take 3 to 4 hours at the time. Most centers have rules about when you should eat before dialysis. Eating at the wrong time could harm you or complicate treatment.

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Eating before Dialysis

In the United States, most centers forbid food and fluids during dialysis. In Europe, however, most centers allow eating during the process. Most American centers suggest eating and drinking at least two hours before your treatment begins. If you drink closer to that time, the fluid you drink will need to be figured into the amount of fluid to be dialyzed, nephrologist Dean A. Kujubu, M.D. of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center states on Kidney Times.

Concerns about Not Eating

One concern about not allowing patients to have food right before or even during dialysis is that many people undergoing dialysis are diabetics who need to eat regularly to maintain their blood glucose levels and to avoid hypoglycemia, a drop in blood sugar. Hypoglycemia can cause weakness, shakiness, sweating, difficulty concentrating and thinking and headache. If you don’t eat during a hypoglycemic episode, you could pass out and go into a coma. UCLA kidney specialist Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, M.D 1. suggests that feeding patients during dialysis might improve patient nutrition as well as compliance for treatments.

Problems When Eating Too Close to Dialysis

When you eat, blood is drawn to the intestinal tract to aid with digestion. During dialysis, the increased blood flow to the intestine could cause a drop in blood pressure known as hypotension. Hypotension during dialysis can cause nausea, headache and cramping. Since hemodialysis itself causes a drop of in blood pressure 15 to 20 percent of the time, according to Dr. Kujubu, eating at the same time or just before dialysis could cause a sudden and potentially dangerous drop. Because you lie down during dialysis, you could also choke while eating.

Choosing the Right Foods

Before dialysis, choose foods that digest easily and quickly, so that your stomach won’t still be working on digestion during treatment. Limit food high in fat, protein or fiber, all of which digest slowly, Northwest Kidney Center suggests. Foods high in carbohydrates digest quickly. Talk with your medical providers about an eating plan that keeps your well-nourished but comfortable during dialysis.