A nephrotic syndrome diet can help people with nephrotic syndrome. Eating some foods and avoiding others may help a person to improve or manage symptoms.

Nephrotic syndrome is a group of symptoms a person has if their kidneys are not working properly. It is a condition where a person’s body leaks too much protein from their blood into their urine, known as proteinuria.

Doctors may recommend steroid medications for nephrotic syndrome, depending on the cause. However, people with nephrotic syndrome may be able to help control some symptoms by making changes to their diet.

This article discusses how diet affects nephrotic syndrome, and what foods it is best for a person to eat or avoid. It also looks at whether a person with nephrotic syndrome should take dietary supplements and addresses some frequently asked questions.

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Scientists do not believe diet and nutrition play a part in causing or preventing nephrotic syndrome. However, a person’s diet can affect their symptoms.

Doctors may recommend people with nephrotic syndrome:

  • reduce the amount of salt in their diet to help control symptoms such as:
    • fluid retention
    • edema, or swelling, resulting from fluid trapped in a person’s body tissues
  • limit fluid intake to also help control swelling
  • reduce their intake of cholesterol and fat to help control blood cholesterol levels

Doctors may recommend dietary changes alongside medical treatments. It is best for a person to contact a doctor for advice before they make any significant changes to their diet.

Learn more about nephrotic syndrome.

According to the charity NephCure, a person with kidney disease may benefit from certain foods. These foods can also be beneficial for a person with nephrotic syndrome.

Appropriate sources of fiber include:

  • whole grains
  • fresh fruits
  • fresh vegetables

Sources of protein include:

  • lean meats
  • poultry without the skin
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • beans
  • nuts
  • up to 2 eggs per week

Choosing foods that are low in fat and cholesterol may also help. These foods include:

  • low-fat dairy products
  • egg substitutes or egg whites only
  • healthy oils, such as:
    • sunflower oil
    • coconut oil
    • canola oil
    • olive oil

It is important to avoid sauces and seasonings high in sodium. According to Stanford Medicine, examples of alternative seasonings that may be suitable for a person with nephrotic syndrome include:

A person’s doctor may refer them to a dietitian or nutritionist to help them create a suitable eating plan. They can ensure that a person is getting enough essential nutrients while consuming foods that help them manage symptoms of nephrotic syndrome.

Doctors generally recommend that people with nephrotic syndrome follow a low-sodium or low-salt diet. This can help to manage blood pressure and fluid retention.

Examples of foods high in sodium include:

  • processed foods
  • cheese
  • most canned foods
  • salted snacks such as:
    • chips
    • nuts
    • pretzels
    • popcorn
  • some dips and sauces

Learn more about foods high in sodium.

While nephrotic syndrome occurs due to the loss of protein in urine, a diet high in protein can actually worsen symptoms. A person’s doctor will advise on how much protein they should aim for without consuming too much.

A person with nephrotic syndrome can also benefit from limiting their intake of seasonings high in sodium. These may include:

  • ketchup
  • mustard
  • barbecue sauce
  • hot sauce
  • steak sauce
  • low-calorie salad dressing
  • cocktail sauce

Supplements may not directly help treat or improve symptoms of nephrotic syndrome. However, doctors recommend that people taking steroid medications for nephrotic syndrome should also take vitamin D or calcium supplements. This is because steroid medications can affect a person’s bone health.

Some supplements, such as herbal supplements, may actually be harmful to the kidneys. It is best for a person to contact their doctor for advice before taking any supplements.

Here are some frequently asked questions about nephrotic syndrome.

Do you restrict protein in nephrotic syndrome?

Doctors typically do not recommend a high-protein diet for people with nephrotic syndrome. A person’s doctor can advise on how much protein they should aim to consume.

What foods should be avoided with proteinuria?

Scientists believe switching from animal protein-based foods to vegetable-based proteins may decrease proteinuria. Reducing sodium intake or avoiding foods high in sodium may also be beneficial. However, it is best for a person to contact their doctor for advice before making any significant changes to their diet.

Nephrotic syndrome is a group of symptoms that indicate a person’s kidneys are not working properly. While diet does not cause or prevent the condition, a person may benefit from consuming certain foods and avoiding others.

A doctor may recommend that a person consumes a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It is generally best for a person to avoid foods high in salt or sodium. Although nephrotic syndrome is due to the loss of protein in urine, doctors do not typically recommend a diet high in protein.

A dietitian or nutritionist can help a person to create a suitable eating plan. This will help them to manage their symptoms while ensuring they get enough essential nutrients.