Chronic kidney disease self-care tips can help people manage their symptoms and help protect the kidneys from further damage. These include dietary changes, physical activity, and more.

People with chronic kidney disease (CKD) have damage to their kidneys that builds up slowly over time. This damage affects how their kidneys filter blood. Less effective filtration causes waste products to build up in the body.

While there is no cure for CKD, a doctor may recommend self-care tips or home remedies alongside medical treatments.

Read on to learn more about self-care tips for CKD.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Eating foods low in salt and sodium can help with blood pressure management. (Salt, or sodium chloride, is the crystal ingredient typically added to foods. Sodium is a chemical element found in many foods, including salt.)

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) recommends a person’s diet contains less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day.

Steps that can help a person manage their sodium intake include:

  • avoiding foods high in sodium by checking food labels
  • avoiding preprepared food with added sodium
  • using spices and herbs instead of salt during cooking
  • rinsing canned foods in water before eating

Learn about low sodium diets.

People with CKD may have high levels of phosphorus building up in their blood. This can cause bones to lose calcium, making them thinner and weaker. High levels of phosphorus can also cause itchy skin and pain in the bones and joints.

Avoiding foods high in phosphorus may help a person to manage these symptoms. Foods with added phosphorus may say “PHOS” in the ingredients list.

Foods that are typically higher in phosphorus include:

Some drinks can also contain phosphorus. Examples include:

  • dark-colored sodas
  • fruit punch
  • some ice teas

People with CKD may have high blood potassium levels. Blood potassium levels that are too high or too low may cause problems with a person’s heart, nerves, and muscles.

A doctor can advise on whether a person may benefit from reducing their potassium intake. Examples of foods lower in potassium include:

Learn about high potassium foods to avoid with CKD.

A person with CKD may need to adjust their protein intake depending on the type of treatment they receive. Generally, a person with CKD should consume a diet lower in protein, as the kidneys need to work harder to remove higher levels of protein.

However, if a person has started dialysis treatment, they may need to increase the amount of protein in their diet. This is because dialysis removes protein waste from the blood, so a person may need to eat more protein to maintain a safe blood protein level.

Smoking can worsen a person’s CKD. It can also affect medications that a person may be taking to help with lowering their blood pressure.

Stopping smoking may help to slow down CKD progression. A person can contact their doctor for advice if they are considering quitting smoking.

Excess alcohol consumption can damage a person’s liver and other organs. It can also raise a person’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

The NIDDK recommends people drink no more than one drink per day for females and no more than two drinks per day for males. It is important to note that researchers have not yet developed adequate definitions of sex and gender. This means that there is currently only limited research into alcohol consumption for people who identify differently from the gender assigned to them at birth.

Regular physical activity helps with managing blood pressure and blood sugar levels in people with CKD. It is best to aim for at least 30 minutes of physical exercise or activity per day, most days of the week.

Mild or moderate CKD should not affect how long or how vigorously a person can exercise. However, people with more advanced CKD may have a reduced ability to exercise.

It is best to talk with a doctor before starting a new exercise regime.

A person will typically require medical treatments to help slow the progression of CKD. A doctor may also recommend medications for managing blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.

Over time, a person with CKD may also develop kidney failure. If this happens, they may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Here are some frequently asked questions about CKD.

How can a person treat CKD?

People can take steps to help manage CKD symptoms. The most important way people can treat CKD is to manage their blood pressure, which a person can do by:

  • getting enough quality sleep
  • consuming a heart-healthy diet that is low in sodium
  • getting enough physical activity
  • quitting smoking, if applicable
  • taking any medication their doctor prescribes

What should people with CKD avoid?

People with CKD should avoid some foods, smoking, and over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Motrin and Advil.

Can kidneys repair themselves naturally?

Kidneys cannot repair themselves naturally. However, people may be able to help prevent or stop their CKD getting worse. A doctor can help create a treatment plan to best manage the condition.

People with CKD have kidney damage that builds up over time. Although there is no cure for CKD, various self-care methods can help a person to manage symptoms of CKD and slow down the progression of the condition.

These methods can include dietary changes, physical activity, limiting alcohol intake, and quitting smoking if applicable.

A person may also need medication for CKD. Their doctor can advise on which treatments they recommend and what steps they can take to manage the condition.