Kidney Diet Tips

Prebiotics and Dialysis: What You Need to Know

By now most people are familiar with the term “probiotic”, yet many are less familiar with prebiotics. However, both are essential to intestinal health. Probiotics are a type of live bacteria that promotes healthy gut functioning. Prebiotic are what is necessary for a probiotic to be able to work properly. In other words, a prebiotic is the “food” that feeds probiotics. It is defined as a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines.

Why are Prebiotics Important?

As was discussed in this previous blog post about probiotics, the intestinal health of people on dialysis may be poor. Reasons include toxic waste products that get built up in the blood, the use of multiple medications, inflammation, and common bowel disturbances such as constipation and diarrhea. The gut plays an important role in immunity and digestion of carbohydrates and protein. It is essential that dialysis patients take proper steps to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in their gut.

Where are Prebiotics Found?

Most foods that contain fiber are sources of prebiotics. However, not all foods that are high in fiber are good for dialysis patients. This is because of high phosphorus or potassium content. Some kidney-friendly sources of prebiotics for dialysis patients include garlic, onions, leeks, apples, flaxseeds and asparagus. Other prebiotic foods with higher potassium or phosphorus content include unripe bananas, barley, oats, cocoa, wheat bran, chicory root and seaweed.

Prebiotic Supplements

Prebiotics can also be taken in supplement form. These can be purchased online or in most health food stores, and are generally safe to consume. They are most commonly sold in capsule or powder form. Prices vary from about $15 to $30 or more for a one to two month supply. The best prebiotic supplements are those that are made from all-natural ingredients based on food sources of prebiotics. Yet, other common ingredients that may be found in a prebiotic supplement include inulin and fructo-oligosacchardides. These are types of carbohydrate molecules. Some probiotics supplements also include prebiotics, yet usually only in small amounts. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before adding new supplements into your diet. If you have specific questions about probiotics and prebiotics talk to your doctor or dietitian.

Although supplementing can be a good option if the diet is lacking in prebiotic foods, consuming whole foods is always the preferred method. Consequently, it will provide the body with the other nutrients found in those foods.

In conclusion, the next time you think about supplementing with probiotics, be sure your diet also includes adequate amounts of prebiotic foods to help to robiotics work to their full potential.


  • Zirker, Lindsey. “The Relationship Between Gut Microbiota and CKD: Why Use Prebiotics in CKD Patients?” Renal Nutrition Forum, Vol. 33, No. 1, 2014.
Joanna Foley, RD

Joanna Foley, RD

Joanna is a registered dietitian practicing over 3 years, with experience in both the acute care and outpatient environments. She is passionate about promoting behavior change to help individuals achieve higher quality of life by adopting healthier habits. Joanna believes that food truly is the best medicine. In her free time Joanna enjoys experimenting with new recipes, traveling the world with her husband, and running half marathons.