Written by Gurpreet Virk, RD CDE
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a complex disease that requires a team of healthcare providers, such as a nephrologist, nurse, dietitian, and social worker, to work collectively to provide the best treatment plan for patients. Nutrition plays a significant role in the management of CKD; it complements medical treatments to improve patient’s outcome. A registered dietitian (RD) specialized in Nephrology (also known as renal) is an essential member of the interdisciplinary team that works with patients, their caregivers, and other health care providers to improve the quality of life of people living with CKD.
A CKD dietitian helps simplify the science of kidney nutrition and provides individualized nutritional advice that, combined with medical treatment, may help to slow the progression of renal failure in their clients. As part of the renal interdisciplinary team, a CKD dietitian plays a vital role in helping clients modify their diet to optimize diabetes and hypertension control, manage their electrolytes and other nutrition-related lab parameters such as calcium, phosphorus and lipid levels. They can also assist clients with maintaining a healthy weight.
As CKD progresses, clients often experience mild to severe uremic symptoms such as lack of appetite, inability to eat adequately, nausea or vomiting and taste alterations. A CKD dietitian can provide their clients with tips to add taste, aroma and variety to their diet which may help to promote dietary intake and achieve nutritional adequacy in individuals with CKD. Optimum nutrition is the key to prevent unintentional weight loss and malnutrition in kidney disease.
Additionally, CKD dietitians are equipped with the knowledge and skills to modify recipes to make them kidney friendly (for example, by lowering sodium, potassium and phosphorus). They also work with patients and their caregivers to provide education on food-label reading in the context of CKD, meal planning, nutrition supplementation and much more.
In addition to providing kidney disease-related nutritional care, each CKD dietitian plays a unique role in advocating for clients with food insecurity concerns and supporting them with ongoing follow-ups throughout their journey of CKD. Another important role that all registered dietitians play, including CKD dietitians, is offering preceptorship to dietetic students to prepare them to be highly skilled food experts (dietitians).
Furthermore, registered dietitians are the most trusted source for food and nutrition-related information. All dietitians are registered with a regulatory body (College of Dietitians) in their province. To find a CKD dietitian in your area, you can simply ask your nephrologist or family physician for a referral to a CKD dietitian. Alternatively, you can search online through your provincial College of Dietitians’ directory of active members to find a CKD registered dietitian who works in a private practice in your area.