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Essential Vitamins for Kidney Disease

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Do you know if you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals you need for your kidney health? There are 13 essential vitamins and minerals you need to get from your diet. If you have kidney disease, often it is difficult to get these vitamins. Here’s what you need to know. 

What are Vitamins?

Vitamins and minerals are substances that aren’t made in the body that are required to carry out specific functions. Since the body doesn’t produce these vitamins we need to get them in the food we eat. 

Vitamins are categorized as water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins need to be dissolved in water before the body can absorb and use them. Some water-soluble vitamins are vitamin C, B vitamins, and folate. Any vitamins not used by the body will be excreted in the urine. Fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved in fat before the body and use them and can accumulate in the body. Vitamins A, E, K, and D are fat-soluble vitamins. 

The National Academy of Medicine develops the Dietary Guidelines that recommend the Daily Reference Intakes (DRIs) for the US and Canada. 

How To Know You’re Getting Enough Vitamins

As Dietitians, we encourage our patients to get most of their vitamins in minerals from food. Blood tests can be helpful to determine if you’re deficient in any vitamin or mineral. There’re also physical signs and symptoms that can help determine deficiency. A Renal Dietitian can evaluate your diet and interpret blood tests to see if you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals you need. 

Key Vitamins For Kidney Disease

When you have kidney disease it can be difficult to get the vitamins and minerals you need. There are several factors that affect your vitamin and mineral intake such as medication side effects, poor appetite, and following a restricted diet. If you’re on dialysis; skipping meals due to treatment schedule and vitamin losses through dialysis can affect what’s available for your body to use. 

Vitamin B-Complex

Because of the dietary change required to manage kidney disease, it is recommended that those with Chronic Kidney Disease Stage 1-4 take water-soluble vitamins at DRI levels. Folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 requirements are higher in order to prevent elevated homocysteine in the blood. 

Plant-based diets are often recommended for people in the early stages of CKD. It is recommended to supplement with vitamin B12 if you plan to eliminate animal products in your diet to prevent deficiency. 

For those undergoing dialysis treatments, it is essential to supplement with water-soluble vitamins with a prescribed renal vitamin or vitamin B-complex. The dialysis treatment filters out water-soluble vitamins along with the fluid and the waste and this can lead to vitamin deficiencies. 

Vitamin D

The kidneys are the main place where Vitamin D is activated. When the kidneys aren’t working properly, it can cause low levels of vitamin D. It’s generally recommended that people with CKD supplement with vitamin D. A biannual routine blood test called Vitamin D 25 Hydroxy can be ordered to determine if there is a deficiency and how much to supplement. 


Not a vitamin, but a mineral that is commonly a nutrient of focus for those with kidney disease. When kidney function declines they aren’t able to produce enough of the hormone erythropoietin to make red blood cells. Low levels of red blood cells is called anemia. Iron can help your body make more red blood cells. It’s also important to have adequate vitamin B12 and folate to support the production of red blood cells. 

There’re ways to increase your intake of oral iron such as cooking with an iron skillet, using Luck Iron Fish in cooking, and consuming high iron foods with good sources of vitamin C to help your body absorb iron. Oral iron is commonly supplemented and iron infusions are used if needed. Iron supplements should be taken between meals to help improve absorption. Some Vitamin B-complex vitamins contain iron and vitamin C. 

Vitamins To Avoid With Kidney Disease

Fat-soluble vitamin supplements such as A, E, K should be avoided for those with kidney disease. These vitamins are more likely to build up in your blood overtime if you have too much. Only take these vitamin supplements if a healthcare professional determines you need them and gives you a prescription. 

Vitamin C can be a concern if you take too much. Excessive amounts can build up oxalate in your blood and cause increased risk if you are susceptible to kidney stones. 

Herbal supplements in general should be avoided for those with kidney disease. They can have unintended interactions with medications and side effects. Herbal supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA so you don’t know exactly what you’re getting. 

Fruit and vegetable tablets have become popular recently and I get a lot of questions about these from my clients. They claim to have several servings of fruits and vegetables in them. But I don’t recommend these because you don’t have the benefit of eating the whole fruit and vegetable. You’ll be missing out on fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants the whole food provides. Save your money and eat your produce instead. It’s so much more enjoyable!


Having chronic kidney disease changes the way your body utilizes nutrients. Medications, diet, appetite and lifestyle all affect how much vitamins your body needs and uses. Getting most of the vitamins and minerals your body needs from food is important, but you may have higher vitamin needs and require supplements to meet what is healthy for you. It’s important to discuss with your doctor before you start taking any supplements to avoid any unwanted side effects. 

Looking to work with a Renal Dietitian? Connect with a CKD Dietitian near you.

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