What to Know About Rapid Weight Loss and CKD

September 28,2023 |
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Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While losing weight can reduce symptoms, rapid weight loss can be dangerous with CKD. To help you better understand this condition—including everything you need to know about weight loss and chronic kidney disease‑we’ve put together the following guide.


What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs on either side of your spine, just below the rib cage. They’re only about the size of a fist, but they’re responsible for filtering all the blood within your body. In fact, a healthy kidney can filter about a half cup of blood every single minute. They remove waste products and extra water to help your body maintain homeostasis and function properly. This, in turn, helps fuel your red blood cells and controls blood pressure.

Chronic kidney disease happens when an underlying condition gradually damages the kidneys over time. This leads to a decreasing ability for your kidneys to filter waste from the blood, which can result in serious complications such as anemia, nerve damage, high blood pressure, and more. Unfortunately, CKD often doesn’t present any symptoms until it’s advanced to later stages, which makes it an increasingly dangerous condition. The primary causes of chronic kidney disease include family history, high blood pressure, and diabetes.


Benefits of Losing Weight with Kidney Disease

Many causes of chronic kidney disease are correlated to obesity and being overweight. Therefore, losing weight can have several positive impacts on kidney disease. Some of the most notable include the following:


Improved Blood Pressure Control

Being obese or overweight can put a lot of strain on your kidneys, directly increasing overall blood pressure. Over time, elevated blood pressure will strain the arteries around the kidneys, causing them to weaken, narrow, or completely harden. This means there are fewer arteries delivering blood to the kidneys, which leads to filtration problems and extremely high levels of strain. Losing weight can help decrease blood pressure, thus decreasing overall kidney strain.


Stronger Blood Glucose Controls

Another benefit of weight loss with kidney disease is the ability to control blood glucose levels more naturally. As you lose weight, your body’s insulin resistance may improve. While this is especially important for individuals living with diabetes, it can also reduce the strain on your kidneys and decrease your risk of developing prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.


Reduced Proteinuria

Since losing weight can improve overall kidney function, it can also reduce levels of proteinuria. Proteinuria occurs when there are high levels of protein present in your urine. This is an indication that they’re not filtering waste products efficiently, which can cause several complications over time. Losing weight and getting plenty of exercise can help decrease rates of proteinuria and improve overall kidney function.


Is Rapid Weight Loss with Chronic Kidney Disease Harmful?

While losing weight can help reduce your risk of chronic kidney disease and decrease its progression, rapid weight loss can be dangerous. According to a recent study, individuals who lose weight quickly with chronic kidney disease tend to have a disproportionately higher loss of lean body mass than loss of fat mass. Unfortunately, fat loss is the best way to decrease blood pressure, so rapid weight loss tends to have adverse effects. In fact, there are several risks associated with rapid weight loss and chronic kidney disease. These include:


  • Muscle Loss — rapid weight loss can result in lean muscle mass loss rather than fat loss. This, in turn, can put further strain on your body without improving blood glucose control, blood pressure, or kidney health.
  • Electrolyte Imbalances — losing weight too quickly can also cause an electrolyte imbalance throughout the body. This can contribute to arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats.
  • Nutrient Deficiencies — reducing caloric intake by too much can result in nutrient deficiencies. This can reduce your body’s ability to naturally repair and maintain vital functions over time.
  • Kidney Failure — when you combine all of these factors, you can end up experiencing kidney failure. This risk increases in individuals who are in later stages of CKD.


How to Lose Weight Safely with CKD

While losing weight is still crucial with CKD, there are important safety measures to take. To help you lose weight safely with chronic kidney disease, consider some of the following tips:


Eat Whole, Nutritious Foods

Choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods is crucial when you have chronic kidney disease, and it can help with safe, gradual weight loss. Focus on incorporating fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains into your diet. These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber while minimizing the intake of processed ingredients, additives, and excessive sodium. You can find more great tips to help you eat for kidney health here.

Avoid high-potassium and high-phosphorus foods like bananas, oranges, and dairy products if your doctor or dietitian recommends it. Meal planning can help you control portion sizes and meet nutritional needs while avoiding harmful components.


Monitor Your Protein Take

Protein is essential for your overall health and can help you maintain muscle mass during your weight loss journey. However, excessive protein consumption can put a lot of strain on your kidneys and result in proteinuria. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietician to better understand how much protein you should consume daily. If you’re living with CKD, a low-protein diet focusing on high-quality protein sources may be the best option to avoid overloading your kidneys.


Try to Reduce Caloric Intake Gradually

Weight loss happens when you’re in a caloric deficit, but that doesn’t mean you should starve yourself. Therefore, gradual calorie reduction is the best way to lose weight safely with CKD. Try to create a deficit of about 500 to 1,000 calories daily, which typically equates to losing about one to two pounds per week. However, talk to your doctor or a registered dietician first to ensure this is a safe deficit goal for your needs. Whatever you do, avoid crash diets or extreme restrictions to keep your kidneys functioning at their best.


Read Nutrition Labels Thoroughly

Different ingredients have different effects on your body. For example, highly processed foods can be difficult to digest and have little nutritional value. This makes them empty calories. To make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to function, always take the time to read nutrition labels thoroughly. Additionally, limit your sodium, potassium, and phosphorus intake during your weight loss journey, as these minerals can put more stress on your kidneys. These ingredients are commonly found in processed foods, so it's best to avoid them with chronic kidney disease.


Exercise Regularly

Getting plenty of exercise is one of the best things you can do to safely lose weight with chronic kidney disease. Exercise also has tremendous benefits on your cardiovascular health, which can support the healthy functioning of the kidneys. Try to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. You should also incorporate a few days of strength training to help you maintain muscle mass while losing weight.


Talk to Your Doctor

Finally, talk to your doctor. You should never start a new diet or exercise regimen without consulting with your doctor—especially if you have chronic kidney disease or any other underlying condition. Your doctor will be able to assess your health status, stage of chronic kidney disease, and individual dietary needs to help support healthy kidney functioning. They’ll also be able to help with CKD management and treatment to reduce the risk of serious complications.


Chronic kidney disease can harm the urinary tract system. As the condition progresses, it can increase urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, and nocturia. To help you manage any side effects, Byram Healthcare is here. We carry a wide selection of high-quality urologic products that can help you take back control of your life. To learn more, or to speak with a professional regarding questions or ongoing management, contact Byram Healthcare today.