Polycystic Kidney Disease and Diet

Sep 07, 2021

Food is important! Both for enjoyment but also for health. Too often with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), these two aspects of eating don’t seem to connect at all.  Why?  Because there is so much confusion about diet and PKD, foods that “help” or “hurt” or even where to start supporting PKD health with nutrition.  Let’s look at the foundations of healthy eating for PKD and protective nutrition factors you may not know about! 


What is Polycystic Kidney Disease?


Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is an inherited disease that manifests with slow-growing cysts in the kidneys.  The cysts grow in numbers and size, often causing permanent kidney damage that can lead to kidney disease (CKD). The most prevalent form of PKD is ADPKD, known as Autosomal Dominant PKD.  “Autosomal” meaning a parent with PKD has a 50/50% chance of passing the gene to any of their children.  “Dominant” means that a child only needs to inherit the PKD gene from one parent. Just going to say it out loud – we must find a way to change those odds!  There is currently no known cure for PKD. In America, over 600,000 people are affected by ADPKD and over 12 million worldwide.  The disease affects all nationalities, racial groups, and sexes equally.  If you do not have PKD, chances are you have met, or know someone who does. 


Is Nutrition Important for PKD?



Google “diet for PKD” and you will come up with lots of recommendations.  Dr. Google isn’t right.  But Dr. Google isn’t 100% wrong either. 

When it comes to PKD, there are aspects of the disease that are both modifiable and those that aren’t.  A good nutrition strategy is to focus on the modifiable aspects, those you can impact.  Knowing what these areas are is key to each of your paths.  


What Drives Cyst Growth?


This is important to know an overview of.

What drives Cyst Growth? This is important to know an overview of.  There are two main drivers.

  1. Genetic Mutation
  2. Kidney Injury & Stressors

The modifiable aspects of PKD and its progressions are kidney injury and stressors! If you know the WHAT of kidney stressors, then you understand the WHY of interventions.  That leads to the HOW.  Diet is the HOW!


Foundations of a Healthy PKD Diet


The following are widely accepted as beneficial to PKD. They are general, healthy living and eating recommendations and always good to have has a foundation.

  • Tight blood pressure (BP) control
  • Healthy weight & exercise
  • Low-salt diet
  • High-volume water intake

Learn more about these foundations HERE. I plan to dig deeper into each for you with future blog posts, specific to their impact on the progression of PKD.  Make sure to connect with me, The PKDietitian, to get all the updates!  Just know this, nutrition for PKD isn’t 100% the same as for CKD.


Proactive PKD Nutrition


With any medical or dietary intervention, the primary goal should be to address what is causing kidney damage.  With PKD that is cyst formation, growth, and inflammation.  With Proactive PKD Nutrition, these are the 3 main areas to target! 

  1. Slow cyst & PKD progression
  2. Proactively reduce kidney stressors
  3. Put kidney protective measures in place

Check out some of the ways to do this below…. No worries if some of these terms and topics are foreign to you.  It is my mission to bring more education, information, and resources to the PKD community about them. 

  1. Slow cyst & disease progression
    • Reduce phosphorus, and uric acid load
    • Oxalate management
    • Ketogenic therapy, BHB supplementation
    • Type and amount of protein


  1. Proactively reduce kidney stressors
    • Reduce phosphorus and uric acid load
    • Oxalate Management
    • Type and amount of protein
    • More alkaline diet (AKA – more plants!)
    • Prevent kidney stones


  1. Put kidney protective measures in place
    • Type and amount of protein. Can you this 100% matters?
    • Anti-inflammatory measures, this can include supplements
    • Reduce protein in the urine
    • Increase citrate levels
    • Improve urinary pH
    • Improve HDL cholesterol levels


Key Take Always


Nutrition for Polycystic Kidney Disease is powerful.  It is a modifiable factor in the progression of PKD.  There are options and interventions for you.  It isn’t an all-or-nothing situation either.  Every single one stands on its own as beneficial.  It is never too early to start.  You will be amazed at how one change leads to another and before you know it you have a full nutrition strategy in action! 

Click here to ---> Get started today!  Dive in and learn more about the What, Why, and How of your proactive PKD nutrition path?  You need the PKD Nutrition Academy in your life!

Sign up for The PKD Nutrition Academy’s waitlist.  Get on the list if you are even a little curious, there is 100% no obligation.  You will get updates, a discount for early enrollment, and some bonus opportunities.