A person living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) may need to take steps to reduce their sodium intake. This typically involves reducing the amount of salty foods they consume, as sodium is an element in salt.

Consuming too much sodium can have a negative effect on anyone, but people living with CKD can face additional challenges to their health and need to take precautions to limit their sodium intake.

This article reviews how much sodium is safe for a person with CKD, the risks associated with consuming too much sodium, the symptoms that can occur, and more.

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According to a 2018 study, the current recommended daily intake of sodium for people with CKD is 2,000 milligrams (mg) per day.

The National Kidney Foundation recommends around 1,500 mg of sodium per day for a person with kidney disease or high blood pressure. This compares with around 2,300 mg per day for an individual without CKD.

A person’s doctor or dietitian can provide them with more information about how much sodium they should consume based on their individual circumstances.

Learn more about what foods may be bad for kidney health.

A person living with CKD can develop complications related to consuming too much sodium in their diet.

One study points out that too much sodium can lead to:

  • increased proteinuria, or elevated protein in the urine
  • increased kidney blood flow
  • prevention of antihypertensive agents from working properly, leading to high blood pressure

However, a 2022 meta-analysis challenges many of these potential issues. According to researchers, low sodium will likely not affect:

  • proteinuria levels
  • the rate of decline in kidney function
  • incidence of mortality related to kidney or cardiac issues

Other potential complications include a buildup of fluid around the lungs or heart, as well as discomfort during dialysis.

With this in mind, it is best for a person to follow their doctor’s advice regarding how much sodium they consume.

Consuming too much sodium can cause the following:

  • swollen ankles
  • rise in blood pressure
  • puffiness
  • shortness of breath
  • pain during dialysis
  • fluid around the lungs or heart

As there are numerous possible causes for symptoms of too much sodium, a doctor may order tests to determine the underlying cause and advise on any necessary dietary changes.

A person can take several steps to manage their sodium intake each day.

Some suggestions for reducing salt and sodium consumption include:

  • reading labels carefully and looking for foods that contain labels such as “sodium free” or “very low sodium” when picking foods
  • discussing diet changes with a dietitian
  • eating fresh vegetables and fruits
  • using herbs and spices to season food rather than salt
  • requesting that chefs prepare foods without salt when eating at restaurants
  • avoiding processed foods, such as premade snacks, chips, and fast food
  • watching for hidden areas salt gets added, such as canned goods, poultry brines, and broths

Certain drinks, such as sports drinks, may also contain sodium. A person can read labels carefully to track how much sodium they actually consume.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, terms a person may see on food labels include:

  • “light in sodium,” which means the product has 50% of the sodium compared with the regular product
  • “reduced sodium,” which means the product contains 25% less sodium compared with the regular product
  • “very low sodium,” which means the product contains no more than 35 mg per serving
  • “sodium free,” which means the product contains only a slight amount of sodium

When reading labels, it is also best to consider the size of a serving. Many products contain multiple servings in one package, so it is possible to eat more than one serving at once.

Learn about foods high in sodium.

A person can help control their sodium levels by cooking their own meals at home and monitoring how much salt they use. There are a number of different herbs and spices they can use to flavor food instead of salt.

Some suggestions for spices and herbs for cooking include:

  • sage
  • thyme
  • basil
  • allspice
  • dill
  • rosemary
  • cardamom
  • curry
  • bay leaves
  • cilantro
  • tarragon
  • cumin
  • chili powder

A person can use the spices to add flavor to a variety of dishes. When following a recipe, a person can often omit adding salt and substitute low or no sodium ingredients as needed.

Learn more about herbs and spices.

The National Kidney Foundation suggests avoiding salt substitutes such as potassium chloride due to their potassium content. People on a low potassium diet should not eat foods made with salt substitutes for this reason.

Learn about the link between potassium and kidney disease.

If a person has CKD, a doctor may recommend that they consume no more than 1,500–2,000 mg of sodium per day.

A person can take steps to limit their sodium intake. This can include preparing meals at home, avoiding processed and salty foods, and taking time to read labels.

Avoiding too much salt may help prevent symptoms such as swelling, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine.

It is best for a person to contact their doctor for advice before making any significant changes to their diet.