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Polycystic Kidney Disease Diet

By Shelly Morgan ; Updated August 14, 2017

Polycystic kidney disease is far from the death sentence that you might fear. Only 24,828 of the 527,283 Americans treated for end-stage kidney disease in 2007 had polycystic disease, according to the 2009 Annual Report of the U.S. Renal Data System. The Merck Manual explains that the most patients do not need dialysis or transplant during childhood. If the patient's kidney function declines, diet may help prevent some of the symptoms of renal failure.


The National Institutes of Health explains that patients with polycystic kidney disease, PKD, have clusters of cysts on their kidneys. There are two types of PKD: autosomal recessive PKD, ARPKD, and autosomal dominant PKD, ADPKD. Regardless of the type, the cysts eventually get so bad that the kidneys are less able to function. The NIH reports that polycystic kidney disease usually leads to renal failure, but certain dietary changes can ease symptoms.


The National Kidney Foundation explains that "no specific diet is known to prevent cysts from developing." Moreover, the usual low-protein diet that helps slow the progression of chronic disease in other kidney patients has no proven benefit to people with PKD. While diet may have little preventative value, it does minimize the symptoms of renal failure once kidney function begins to decline.

Potassium and Phosphorus

Healthy kidneys regulate levels of potassium and phosphorus in the blood. As kidney function declines, the kidneys are less able to regulate these levels and serum potassium and serum phosphorus levels often become elevated. Nephrologists recommend low-potassium and low-phosphorus diets to offset the high serum levels of these minerals. If you have PKD, your nephrologist can recommend if potassium and phosphorus restriction is needed and how much of these minerals you can safely eat.

Food Choices

High-potassium foods such as acorn squash, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, orange juice, lentils and other legumes must be eaten very sparingly. Healthier choices include mushrooms, onions and green peppers because these are low-potassium foods.

High phosphorus foods such as milk, organ meats, beer, chocolate and cola drinks should be avoided if your phosphorus levels are high. Doctors may prescribe phosphorus binders -- a type of drug that binds to the phosphorus and causes its excretion.

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