Kidney Diet Tips


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Eating Gluten-free on a Kidney Diet

By DaVita dietitian guest blogger Kristin MacDonald, MS, RD, LDN

Following a kidney-friendly diet can be a challenge. When a patient already has other diet restrictions it can be even harder to find healthy and tasty foods. One type of diet restriction that some patients may have is the need to eat gluten-free.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other grains, such as barley and rye. Gluten is also found in malt.

What is a gluten-free diet?

Someone following a gluten-free diet excludes and avoids all potential sources of the protein gluten.

Who needs to eat gluten-free?

A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for people with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which eating gluten causes the body to mount an immune system attack on the small intestine. When this happens, the small intestine becomes damaged and cannot absorb nutrients properly. Approximately 1 in 100 people worldwide have Celiac disease.

Some people may experience non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If a person has been tested for Celiac disease and is negative, but still experiences symptoms related to eating gluten, he or she may have gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitive people may feel better, finding relief from various symptoms, when following a gluten-free diet.

It is estimated that 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity, six times the number of people who have Celiac disease. New information about gluten sensitivity is still being discovered, so talk to your health care provider for the most up-to-date information.

Eating gluten-free on the renal diet

For patients and their family members, combining two sets of restrictions, such as the gluten-free and renal diets, may feel overwhelming at first. One piece of advice – focus on what you CAN eat!

Patients on dialysis should focus on eating good sources of protein including all plain, cooked eggs and any fresh, plain and untreated meat, fish, shellfish or poultry. Avoid sauces, gravies, breaded, self-basting, cured or imitation meats, as these may contain gluten. If you are not currently on dialysis, talk to your doctor about how much protein you should eat.

Good starch choices include white rice, rice pasta or noodles, corn and potatoes (double boil potatoes to reduce potassium content). You can also find gluten-free breads – check with your dietitian for phosphorus content and recommendations.

Any plain, fresh or frozen low potassium fruits and vegetables are good options. Once again, avoid gravies and sauces that may contain gluten.

If a food is not labeled “gluten-free” always read the ingredient list and avoid foods that contain wheat, barley, rye, malt or oats (unless specified gluten-free oats).

Another consideration for the  patient with kidney disease and on a gluten-free diet involves medication. Often patients with kidney disease take multiple medications. Some medications may contain gluten. If a medication contains gluten, this may not be clearly marked on the label. Check with your pharmacist to determine if your medications are gluten-free.

If you have to eat gluten-free and follow a kidney friendly diet, talk to your dietitian for meal and snack ideas. With some tweaking, your favorite recipe could be made gluten-free and kidney friendly!


Additional Kidney Diet Resources

Visit and explore these diet and nutrition resources:

DaVita Food Analyzer

DaVita Dining Out Guides

Today’s Kidney Diet Cookbooks

DaVita Kidney-Friendly Recipes

Diet and Nutrition Articles                                                      

Diet and Nutrition Videos

Kidney Smart® Virtual Classes

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.

Sara Colman, RDN, CDCES

Sara Colman, RDN, CDCES

Sara is a renal dietitian with over 30 years experience working with people with diabetes and kidney disease. She is co-author of the popular kidney cookbook "Cooking for David: A Culinary Dialysis Cookbook". Sara is the Manager of Kidney Care Nutrition for DaVita. She analyzes recipes and creates content, resources and tools for the kidney community. In her spare time Sara loves to spend time with her young grandson, including fun times together in her kitchen.