Calcium and CKD

Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in many bodily functions, like bone health, nerve function, and muscle contraction. However, for individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD), calcium management is an important piece of the nutrition puzzle. Let’s chat about calcium and CKD.

What About Calcium and CKD?

CKD is a condition where the kidneys gradually lose their function over time, leading to a buildup of waste and toxins in the body. Want to learn more about CKD? Check out this post. But the kidneys also play a vital role in regulating calcium levels, and when they are damaged or not functioning well, calcium balance can be disrupted. This is why calcium and CKD are important to chat about.

High levels of calcium in the blood, also known as hypercalcemia, can be a significant concern for individuals with CKD, as it can lead to calcification (or the hardening) in blood vessels, joints, and other tissues. This can cause complications such as heart disease, bone disease, and skin problems.

On the other hand, low levels of calcium in the blood, or hypocalcemia, can also occur in individuals with CKD. This is because the kidneys are unable to activate vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption in the gut. Hypocalcemia can lead to muscle cramps, seizures, weakened bones and other complications.

The kidneys play a crucial role in regulating bone health by producing a hormone called calcitriol, which is the active form of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones. 

In CKD, the kidneys are unable to produce enough calcitriol, leading to a condition called renal osteodystrophy. Renal osteodystrophy is a group of bone disorders that can range from mild bone pain to severe bone fractures. The most common types of renal osteodystrophy include osteitis fibrosa cystica, osteomalacia, and adynamic bone disease.

To prevent or manage renal osteodystrophy, and manage calcium levels in CKD, healthcare providers may prescribe medications such as phosphate binders or vitamin D supplements. Phosphate binders work by reducing the absorption of phosphate in the gut, which can help lower calcium levels; these are typically used at later stages of CKD. Vitamin D supplements, on the other hand, can help increase calcium absorption in the gut and improve bone health. It is important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting a vitamin D supplement. 

In addition to supplements, healthcare providers may also recommend lifestyle modifications to improve bone health. This includes regular exercise, such as weight-bearing activities like walking or jogging, as well as avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. But also getting enough of the right nutrients like calcium and phosphorus is important. 

It is essential to monitor calcium levels regularly in individuals with CKD and adjust treatment plans accordingly. Additionally, individuals with CKD should follow a balanced diet that includes the right amount of calcium and avoid calcium supplements unless prescribed by their healthcare provider.

Food Sources of Calcium and CKD

Individuals with CKD need to be mindful of their calcium intake as the kidneys play a vital role in regulating calcium levels in the body. It is essential to get enough calcium to maintain bone health, but excessive calcium intake can lead to complications such as calcification in blood vessels.

Here are some calcium sources that are safe for individuals with CKD:

  1. Dairy products: Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of calcium. However, it is important to choose low-phosphorus options, as high phosphorus levels in the blood can also be a concern for individuals with CKD.
  2. Leafy green vegetables: Leafy green vegetables such as kale, collard greens, and spinach are excellent sources of calcium. They are also low in phosphorus, making them a good option for individuals with CKD.
  3. Canned fish: Canned fish such as salmon and sardines are high in calcium and vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption. However, it is important to choose low-sodium options and rinse them before consuming to reduce sodium levels.
  4. Tofu: Tofu is a good source of calcium and can be used as a substitute for meat in many recipes. It is also low in phosphorus and sodium, making it a good option for individuals with CKD.
  5. Fortified foods: Fortified foods such as orange juice, cereal, and bread can provide a significant amount of calcium. However, it is important to check the labels for phosphorus and sodium levels and choose low-phosphorus and low-sodium options.

For people with CKD, it may be necessary to limit or avoid dairy products, which are typically a rich source of calcium. However, there are many non-dairy sources of calcium that can be included in the diet. Here are some examples:

  1. Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens.
  2. Fortified non-dairy milk, such as almond milk, soy milk, and rice milk.
  3. Tofu made with calcium sulfate.
  4. Canned fish with bones, such as sardines and salmon.
  5. Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, chia seeds, and sesame seeds.
  6. Certain fruits, such as figs and oranges.
  7. Legumes, such as kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils.

It is important to note that the bioavailability of calcium from plant-based sources may be lower than that from dairy products, so it is important to consume a variety of calcium-rich foods and speak with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to ensure adequate calcium intake. 

So What About Calcium and CKD?

Individuals with CKD are at an increased risk of developing bone disease, making bone health management an important aspect of their treatment plan. A combination of supplements, lifestyle modifications, and regular monitoring can help prevent or manage renal osteodystrophy and promote strong and healthy bones.

Are You Looking For Nutrition Support?

If you’re looking to make changes to your nutrition or learn about what you should be eating for each stage of CKD my Kidney Nutrition Fast Track course is here to help get you started. Learn about it here.

Want to work together? Connect with Kidney Nutrition here.

Want to learn more about Emily? Learn more here.

2 thoughts on “Calcium and CKD”

  1. Great information. My latest Dex scan showed osteoporosis. My nephrologist sent me to an endocrinologist and he recommended a supplement of calcium and Vit D, plus Vit K. He also suggested a prescription drug(s) but I was hesitant to go that route. I’m stage 3a so I hate taking prescriptions drugs.

    1. Hi Cindy!
      Great that you were able to get a bone scan done. I would definitely recommend speaking about your hesitations to the doctor for the medication, it is always important to make sure we have all the knowledge.
      Hopefully some of these food sources also can he included in your diet.

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