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Special Vitamin Requirements for Kidney Patients

Vitamins are very important to all metabolic functions of the body.  Vitamins play a part in controlling the body’s ability to burn fat and sugar for energy.  They build proteins for growth if vitamins are deficient. If these reactions are not properly coordinated, they may cause skin lesions, muscle weakness, fatigue and nerve pain.  These can be signs that vitamin supplementation may be necessary.

Vitamins are not produced by the human body.  They must be taken in as food, or as vitamin supplements.  Kidney patients need supplementation of certain vitamins, but not of certain others.  In fact, supplementation with certain vitamins with Kidney patients may have harmful effects.

Why Kidney Patients’ Vitamin Requirements are Different

There are four reasons why kidney patients have different vitamin requirements than healthy individuals.

First - kidney patients must eat a restricted diet.  Their diet is restricted in dairy products, fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables are high in B vitamins, but also high in potassium, so amounts eaten must be limited.  A typical diet for kidney patients is low in B complex vitamins.  Also, many patients eat poorly due to loss of appetite or lack of motivation in preparing a proper diet.

Second - kidney disease may produce “uremic toxins” which interfere with absorption or activity of some vitamins.  Normally, uremic toxins are filtered by the kidneys, but when the kidneys are deficient, they are present in higher than normal amounts.

Third - drugs taken for other illnesses may interfere with absorption or activity of some vitamins.

Fourth - dialysis itself.  Dialysis is a very important process in removing uremic toxins that accumulate in the blood when the kidney fails.  Still, the process of circulating blood through a pore system means that some substances that the body needs flow out and are lost or not needed, while other substances that the body does not need, remain.  The normal kidney regulates this process more efficiently.

Kidney Patient Vitamins Which Vitamins are important for the kidney patient, and which vitamins are harmful?

Vitamin A and Beta Carotene are important for good vision.  For kidney patients, vitamin A is not dialyzed off, and tends to be present in the body in higher than normal amounts.  Too much vitamin A can lead to hypervitaminosis or toxicity.  These conditions are often observed as high serum calcium, high triglycerides, or anemia in kidney patients.  Kidney patients should not use supplements with vitamin A.  Vitamin E is important in the immune response and possibly infection rate.  It is also involved in blood clotting.  Vitamin E is another vitamin which is retained by the dialysis patient and not dialyzed off.  Since vitamin E levels remain high for dialysis patients, supplements are not necessary.

B Vitamins
The B vitamins are B1, B2, B6, B12, biotin, Pantothenic acid, niacin and folic acid.  Vitamins B1, B2, niacin, pantothenic acid and biotin should be taken in recommended daily amounts.

Folic Acid , B6 and B12
Folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 are very important vitamins that act together to promote red blood cell development.  Dialysis patients have increased requirements for folic acid and vitamin B6, needing at least 800mcg to 1mg of folic acid and 10mg more of B6 each day.  Vitamin B12 should be taken in recommended daily amounts.

Vitamin C
Many people believe that taking large amounts of vitamin C will help them, but large amounts of vitamin C are NOT fine for kidney patients.  Kidney patients should take the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.  Only vitamins formulated specifically for kidney patients contain the correct amount of vitamin C, as well as vitamin B vitamins.

Vitamin D
The sunshine vitamin plays an important role in the health of people with chronic kidney disease.  Vitamin D needs to activated in the kidney; however people with kidney failure are no longer able to convert vitamin D to its active form.  Vitamin D regulates calcium and phosphorus in the blood and without enough vitamin D , the parathyroid hormone will signal the body to take calcium out of the bones, which can be harmful to people on dialysis.


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Disclaimer: The information contained above is intended for general reference purposes only.  It is not a substitute for professional medical advice or a medical exam.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professionals before starting any new treatment.

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