Kidney Failure

The kidneys are important regulatory organs that filter and excrete harmful or excessive substances from the body. Kidneys are very sensitive to toxins, poor nutrition, medications, and dehydration. With the rise in chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, the risk of kidney disease has increased. A Nutritarian diet is key to protect against and improve renal function in affected patients.

  • Overview
  • Action Plan
  • Ask The Doctor
  • Success Stories


Kidney failure is divided into acute and chronic failure. Acute renal failure occurs when lab work demonstrates a sudden decline in kidney function. If this persists for greater than three months, a patient is then diagnosed as having chronic renal failure. In the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the prevalence of chronic kidney disease among American adults was 11% or 19.2 million people. Diabetes and hypertension were the main causes of chronic kidney disease.1 It is important to prevent the progression of chronic kidney disease to end stage renal disease where dialysis or kidney transplantation is required.

Symptoms of acute renal failure include excretion of a lower volume of urine, swelling of extremities, fatigue, blood in the urine, weakness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, drowsiness, seizures, and can be fatal. Chronic kidney disease may not be associated with symptoms initially; however, if the disease progresses, patients may experience persistent swelling of extremities, fatigue, anemia, and elevated blood pressure.

The potential causes of kidney failure include:

  • Less blood flow to the kidneys, which may be caused by dehydration, hemorrhage, and heart failure.
  • Damage to the cells or blood vessels of the kidney caused by infections, autoimmune diseases, acute tubular necrosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and medications like antibiotics, NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.), blood pressure medications like diuretics, ACE inhibitors.
  • Obstruction of urine outflow from the body caused by kidney stones, enlarged prostate, and tumors that push on the kidney, ureter, bladder or urethra.
  1. Coresh J, Astor BC, Greene T, et al. Prevalence of chronic kidney disease and decreased kidney function in the adult US population: Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Am J Kidney Dis 2003, 41:1-12.

Action Plan


  • A Nutritarian diet is anti-inflammatory, high in antioxidants, and boosts immunity, which can protect against toxins, infections, and adverse medication effects, as well as the development of chronic diseases, which contribute to kidney disease.
  • A Nutritarian diet can reverse hypertension and type 2 diabetes, which are the major causes of kidney failure. Glucose levels and insulin requirements can be lowered in type 1 diabetics, preventing the progression of renal disease.
  • Avoid animal protein and isolated protein supplements.
  • Volume overload can occur in patients with kidney failure. Monitor fluid intake and consult your physician if you develop shortness of breath, weight gain or increasing swelling of extremities.
  • As chronic kidney disease advances, potassium excretion can be impaired and potassium may rise in the blood. In this stage, dietary modification becomes necessary to avoid foods high in potassium and phosphate. Potassium levels need to be monitored by your physician. Avoiding certain high potassium greens, beans, and nuts are necessary at this point and further dietary guidance is required.


Although patients on dialysis have end organ damage, which cannot be reversed, they can improve quality of life and reduce the burden of diabetes and atherosclerosis with a Nutritarian diet that is specifically designed to be low in potassium and phosphate.

Acute renal failure

Acute renal failure is an urgent diagnosis that requires work up by your physician and cannot be treated by nutrition alone.

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Ask The Doctor

The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)


I have kidney disease and it was recommended that I eat a diet low in potassium. What foods should I specifically avoid? Can I still follow a Nutritarian diet?


Yes, you can still follow a Nutritarian diet. We have a lower potassium Nutritarian diet made for patients with renal disease, plus your potassium can be followed by your physician and you can ingest fibers that bind potassium if needed.

A Low Potassium Diet for kidney disease can be found within the Ask the Doctor community in the discussion: Low potassium diet for kidney disease.