How to Follow Dialysis Fluid Restrictions

Dialysis is a treatment for people with kidney failure. About 2 in every 1,000 Americans are living with kidney failure that is treated with dialysis or a kidney transplant.1,2

Healthy kidneys clean toxins and waste from your blood. They then use this waste and extra fluid to make urine. When kidneys are failing, they do not filter blood properly. Dialysis cleans the blood when the kidneys can no longer do their job.1,2

Fluid restriction and dialysis

People who are on dialysis must follow a special diet. This includes limiting how much fluid and salt they have between dialysis treatments. This helps their bodies hold on to the right amount of fluid. It also makes it easier for the treatment to remove extra water.3

Drinking less can help prevent fluid overload. Fluid overload happens when too much water builds up in the body. Fluid overload can cause:3,4

  • Swelling
  • Cramping
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart problems

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Tips to help you follow your fluid prescription

Here are 5 tips that will help you get the proper amount of fluids when you are on dialysis.

1. Set fluid goals

Your doctor will let you know how much fluid you can have. It may be helpful to divide your daily allowance into smaller chunks. For example, you could drink 8 ounces at 4 different points in the day if you are allowed 32 ounces daily. Your care team can help you create a schedule and stick to it.3,4

2. Track your fluid intake

It is important to keep track of how much fluid you take in each day. Record how much you drink with meals, snacks, and medicines. But your fluids are not composed of only what you drink. They also include soup, ice cream, and other liquid foods.4,5

Writing down your fluid intake in a notebook is one way to keep track. You also can download a tracking app on your phone.4,5

3. Manage your thirst

A low-fluid diet may make you feel thirsty. You can manage cravings by having replacements on hand. A few good options include:3-5

  • Hard candies and gum
  • Ice cubes
  • Frozen fruits
  • Popsicles

These alternatives can help you satisfy your thirst without drinking too much while you are on dialysis.3-5

4. Limit salt

If you are on dialysis, you should not eat too much salt. Salt makes the body hold on to water, which increases your risk of fluid overload. It also makes it harder for dialysis to remove fluid from your body.2,3

To avoid these problems, replace salt with ingredients such as:4

  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh onion
  • Onion or garlic powder
  • Vinegar

You also should choose low-sodium foods. Check food labels. High-sodium items list salt as one of the first 5 ingredients.4

5. Stay flexible

Following the tips above can help you stick to your fluid restriction plan. However, every person is different. You may need to adjust your dialysis plan. Talk to your care team about any concerns or challenges you have with restricting your fluids. Your doctor may suggest more frequent or longer treatments.2

Limiting fluids is essential for people on dialysis. It can be hard to drink less, but it is key to preventing fluid overload. Lean on loved ones and your doctors for support. A registered dietician can also help you create a plan that works for you. Finding solutions that meet your needs will ensure the best possible outcome of your dialysis treatment.5

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