The Hardest Parts of a Renal Diet

I reference my dad a lot when I write these posts, but you’ve never really gotten to hear his story, so today, I wanted to share my dad’s perspective on his life on a renal diet:

What was the hardest thing about changing your diet?

“The hardest thing about changing my diet is salt and potassium restriction and fluid restriction. Since I can only have the equivalent of a teaspoon of salt a day I can’t add salt to anything I eat because the foods we eat all have some salt in them, and those add up to the 2300 milligrams (1 teaspoon) without the addition of other salt. Without being able to add salt to any of your food, preparations including making cakes and cookies and stuff like that have to change and you have to put much less salt on your eggs or meat. Without salt the flavor of food is very bland and unappetizing.”

I can attest to that. Remember my first post when I talked about my dad’s staple food, lettuce with mayonnaise and pepper? Yeah, not so flavorful…I’ve seen quite a few concoctions that have even warranted mild gasps.

Other than foods, however, even drinking (or not drinking) things gets hard:

“Fluid restriction on a patient like myself with end-stage renal disease is very difficult as well. I can only take in 1000 milliliters of fluid a day. That includes water, tea, coffee, milk, everything together. You try drinking just two bottles of water a day and see how thirsty you get.

No matter how much fluid I take in a day, I can only urinate out 400 to 800 milliliters a day, so if I drink more than a thousand milliliters I retain the rest of the fluid in my tissues and I get bad edema*… and I can’t breathe well until I get the fluid off by taking a diuretic med.”

*Edema is the fancy medical term for too much fluid being retained in the body. Sometimes you can poke my dad and the place you poked him will stay there for a few minutes like a little crater.

These are just a few things that he has to worry about in terms of his diet. He went into further detail about the affect of diet on his other medical conditions, his social life, and even his relationships with friends and family:

“Other changes are like I can’t exercise much or do stuff like mow the lawn because of my fluid restriction. Renal disease also causes hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiac changes like my cardiac hypertrophy and valvular disease, so that further restricts my activities. As well, as you have seen in me, renal disease causes weight loss and muscle mass loss that even further causes issues with activities due to weak atrophying muscles.

Also renal disease causes a hemolytic anemia. So I get very tired and fatigued and that restricts my activities. Like you see how I don’t go out and do things ’cause I’m fatigued all the time; it interferes with my relationship with my children greatly. One can’t go out and do normal things they would like to do with their children so it affects you greatly.”


Renal disease affects more than just the kidneys and requires more than just a diet shift. For my dad, it affects every part of his life, from the moment he wakes up to when he eventually manages to go to sleep. I hope hearing his story breaks down any misconception that it is just one problem.



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