October 25, 2023

Kidney Nutrition: ‘Taking Care of You’ with PKD

KN_selfcare_high.pngTaking care of more than just your physical health with PKD is important. Whether you are newly diagnosed with PKD, or have been living with it for a while, perhaps you are wondering what steps you can take to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally with PKD. Well, this post has you covered with some tips and tricks.

Making health changes with PKD is an important part of managing kidney disease. These long-term health changes can often be referred to as lifestyle modifications. Lifestyle modifications, simply put, are habit or health changes that can help to slow the progression of PKD and improve health outcomes.  What we are talking about is self-care at its finest. With the new year right around the corner, now is the perfect time to reflect and start thinking about how you can start with self-care, and focus on lifestyle changes to manage your kidney disease or other chronic illnesses.

Let’s dive into the top lifestyle changes for PKD.

KN_selfcare_2.png1. Follow a kidney-friendly diet

Nutrition is an important aspect to preserve kidney function and manage PKD. Working with a registered dietitian who supports those with PKD can help you put together a personalized nutrition plan that meets your nutrition and medical needs, but also your food preferences. The best PKD diet should be sustainable for the long-term, preserve kidney function, prevent cyst growth, and help to manage or prevent other health conditions. Nourishing your body is an important aspect of self-care. The basis of any kidney-friendly diet includes:

  • Low in sodium;
  • Moderate protein with a plant-based protein focus;
  • Includes lots of fibre from vegetables, fruits or whole grains;
  • Meets your fluid needs.

Check out this post for more information on the nutrition management of PKD. And speak with your healthcare team for a referral to a registered dietitian for personalized recommendations.

KN_selfcare_1.png2. Manage stress

Living with PKD or any chronic illness can also have an emotional component, such as stress.  Excessive and long-term stress can increase your blood pressure and blood sugar, make it difficult to sleep, and progress kidney damage. One strategy for self-care and lifestyle supports is to help manage stress.

While it is impossible to get rid of stress altogether, there are some strategies to manage it, such as:

  • Setting aside time to relax with things like reading, yoga, or journaling.
  • Taking to a friend, loved one, spiritual leader or healthcare professional.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Maintaining a positive mindset and outlook.

October includes Mental Illness Awareness Week, and October 10 is World Mental Health Day. It is important to take care of our physical, emotional, and mental health with PKD. Seeking mental health supports from your healthcare team, the PKD Foundation of Canada or Wellness Together (a free Canadian resource) is an important part of your care.

KN_selfcare_4.png3. Get moving

Physical activity is important for overall health, but can also be beneficial for stress management, lowering blood pressure, and helping to improve sleep quality. When thinking about physical activity, finding something you enjoy helps with consistency in performing the activity. A lot of time we think that we need to go to the gym, but even brisk walking for 30 minutes can have health benefits. For some tips and tricks to get moving more, check out the new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines. With PKD or any health condition, it is important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new activity routine.

4. Get a good night’s rest

Three-quarters of Canadian adults meet current sleep recommendations. Living with kidney disease can impact your sleep quality due to sleep-disordered breathing, restless leg syndrome, frequent urination throughout the night, or even stress.


Here are some strategies to help with managing your sleep:

  • Include some activity or movement throughout the day. Exercise helps you feel tired so that you can fall asleep faster at night.
  • Keep to a sleep schedule. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines recommend 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Limit the number of naps, and the amount of time you nap for.
  • Watch your fluids. Try limiting caffeine to the morning only. Avoid alcohol, as it can disrupt sleep quality.
  • Find ways to relax before bed. Avoid technology, and try to read a book or magazine instead.

5. Stop smoking

Smoking may damage blood vessels around the kidney, and can then worsen kidney disease by leading to poor blood-flow to the kidneys. Quitting smoking can help to preserve kidney function and reduce the risk of other health conditions like cancer, high blood pressure, and stroke. Speak with your healthcare team or pharmacist for support with smoking cessation.

6. Reduce your alcohol intake

While the liver is the main organ that breaks down alcohol, the kidneys play a role in filtering it. Alcohol also causes changes in the body like dehydration, or increasing blood pressure. While there is no recommendation for alcohol and PKD, it is important to limit alcohol as much as possible. Always check with your doctor to make sure alcohol is safe for you to consume given your medical health and medications.

KN_selfcare_6.png‘Taking Care of You’ with PKD

Lifestyle modifications and including self-care in your routine can positively impact the progression of PKD, reduce the risk of complications, and improve your quality of life. When thinking about making lifestyle changes, start small and gradually make changes. Regardless of where you start, following a kidney-friendly diet, managing stress, participating in physical activity, quitting smoking, and reducing alcohol are all important steps to manage your PKD. But always remember there are organizations like the PKD Foundation of Canada to support you on your journey.

Written by: Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with a Master’s Degree in Foods and Nutrition. Emily specializes in renal nutrition, helping those with kidney disease to overcome the confusing world of nutrition to promote health. Emily can be found at