Doctor's Note

This is the second video of a two-part series about the latest discoveries on kidney function and food. See also Preventing Kidney Failure Through Diet. This is another reason why Plant Protein is Preferable and food is, after all, a package deal. In addition, plant based diets can help prevent and treat diabetes, prevent and treat COPD, prevent and treat arthritis, prevent and treat cancer, prevent and treat heart disease, and prevent and treat obesity. Why don't more providers in the medical community embrace plant-based diets? See my video The Tomato Effect and the hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

For more context, check out my associated blog post, Preventing and Treating Kidney Failure With Diet.

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  • Michael Greger M.D.

    This is the second video of a two-part series about the latest discoveries on kidney function and food. See also Preventing Kidney Failure Through Diet. This is another reason why Plant Protein is Preferable and food is, after all, a package deal. In addition, plant based diets can help prevent and treat diabetes, prevent and treat COPD, prevent and treat arthritis, prevent and treat cancer, prevent and treat heart disease, and prevent and treat obesity. Why don’t more providers in the medical community embrace plant-based diets? See my video The Tomato Effect and the hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.

    • SJ M.D.

      This is really interesting – same amount of phosphor and protein, but two different sources – animal vs plants, and the patients do better on the plant based protein and phosphor. The winner is…….plants!

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      How many times have we seen this in our office. Pt comes in with BUN 25, Cr 1.1, 2 weeks on a strict plant based diet and viola! BUN 7, Cr 0.7.

      Works everytime!   It almost looks like magic, until, of course, we understand the physiology. 

      • Wickedchicken

        Wow. I am
        Just wondering are you using plant based diets in a medical practice or hospital setting? It is so hard to go against guidelines or do anything outside the box.

        • HemoDynamic, M.D.

          I’m Private Practice and you’re correct traditional medicine doesn’t like it because you have to take a bit more time with the patients (which means less money) and they have never been taught nutrition and it’s benefits and don’t want to take the time to educate themselves, but the patients love it! 

          And isn’t that what all docs wanted to do when they went into medicine (Altruistic statement and I’m sure not important to some physicians) help people get better? And do no harm!

          Hospitals should use it too and patients would get much better faster, but Hospitals are afraid of teaching people to get better because, think about it, they only make money when you are sick! Not when you are well or dead.

          It’s a tough call at first, but once one starts learning about the overwhelming evidence in medicine supporting a plant based diet first, and then medicines second for treatment of chronic disease it becomes a no-brainer!

          I am a physician and have the benefit of seeing my patients get better daily in my practice using a plant based diet.  Few have this luxury but when they start seeing benefits they eventually start making better choices (usually).  I even have one practice partner that has seen so many of my patients get better on a plant based diet that he has now become Vegan!  He wasn’t always that way and at first made fun of me and my teachings.  Proof was in the plants!

          Break the chain, learn as much as you can about plant based lifestyles and start to teach it in your practice.  Then sit back and watch the transformations in your patients.

          Give them (your patients) the Vegetarian Starter Pack. 

          Have them visit everyday and learn about the research–anybody can spend 2-3 minutes a day watching something about Nutrition from Dr. Greger.

          Have them watch Forks over Knives Documentary (The history of the book The China Study). 

          Give them John McDougalls, MD’s website  Educate, educate, educate.

          Plants work 100% of the time.  Some faster than others but it is truly amazing.

      • KLV RN/CDE

        Plant-based diets ARE powerful for improving renal function! But what kind of recommendations do you give to pts who come in with labs indicating impaired renal function AND  hyperkalemia (or a hx of hyperkalemia)? 

        • HemoDynamic, M.D.

          That would have to be evaluated on a patient by patient basis because many things can cause hyperkalemia. 

          But here is a link to the most famous of Kidney Disease reversal Doctors and that is Walter Kempner, MD who coined the term Rice Diet–this is what put Duke University on the map for great Universities.

          If it is a more severe case they could go to True North.  This is where Dr. T. Colin Campbell went when he was toxified with Dioxin and was able to rid himself of this carcinogen and restore his health.

          But for most changing to a vegan diet suffices for Kidney disease stage 2 or 3.

    • LynnCS

      I recently started going to a local acupuncturist. She is a wonderful youngish woman, well versed in chinese medicine and is always trying to get me to tell her how much protein I get. I have told her that I am raw vegan and rely on veg sources and try to shoot for abt 35 g a day. She is noticeably upset when I tell her that. I am so surprised that she is snacking on meat and cheese at her desk when she prescribes herbs for so many body issues. I saw her as an alternative medical provider until she had this conversation with me a couple times. I do feel good after a treatment, but am not so sure that it is for me in the long run. I need to be among like minded people, especially care givers.

  • Randy

    Another exciting research article/concept to reinforce why presently and anthropologically our bodies are physiologically better able to function from plant vs animal sustenance. 

    Public opinion and medical knowledge/support of this topic and many similar research results would be much more accepted…………….. if it were not for the immensely large and powerful meat and dairy industry.

    • SJ M.D.

      The problem is that the knowledge has been around for many years, but still people die prematurely simply from eating the wrong food. 

      Mikkel Hindhede M.D. (danish doctor) conducted experiments with food in 1896-1904 (SIC!) showing that you only need 25-50% of the protein recommended. 100 years ago !

      He conducted experiments with people living 9-18 months on only potatoes and a little fat. They thrived, maintained healthy, worked without problems and no problems with physical activity (running).

      He wrote: Even if you eat a simple diet of bread, potatoes, kale etc you will get enough protein. 100 years ago !

      He wrote: The quality of protein from bread equals protein from meat. 100 years ago !

      • Thea

         SJ M.D.:  wow!  That is just so fascinating.  I really appreciate you taking the time to post this information.  I’ve seen some of your other posts and also liked those. 

        Just wanted to let you know that your posts are definitely appreciated. 


        • SJ M.D.

          Thea – thanks. I think “the plant strong/vegan message” is important to save us from many diseases and ultimately to save the planet.

      • HemoDynamic, M.D.

        Dr. J,
        You may already know this but the grand master of reversing Kidney disease is Walter Kempner, M.D. and his rice diet.  It is what brought Duke university critical acclaim. Below are two links to read his story and to read his work.

        Plants, plants, plants, plants!  I wish I could patent plants!  Then I would truly be rollin’ in the Green ;-}

        • SJ M.D.

          Dr D,
          Thanks for the links.

          BTW: This time you didnt answer my reply! ;-)

          Video: Treating G. W. with green tea, reply 23

        • Jola

          I know you are speaking in jest,but not everything that is good for us needs to be  tainted with monetary covetousness. While I love the idea of plants and plant based eating and all the good that it does the human body and the planet, I think patenting plants is a bad idea (think Mansanto/GMOs and the like).  Just my “unjesty” thoughts.  

  • Veguyan

    Interesting. I don’t know how it fits in but to dissolve kidney stones I was given a protocol that includes not only apple juice and other herbs but liquid phosphorus as well.

  • Connie

    Thanks so much for sharing this! My mom began dialysis in April. My husband and I are vegan, so it has been a challenge cooking for her. I’ve been pushing the meat because that’s what the dialysis nutritionist told me had to be done. I will be giving this info to her!

  • Claudia

    I have a friend in kidney failure. She says that she can’t do my diet (I’m a McDougaller) because she has exceptionally high potassium levels.  Is she right?

    • M.Harris, RD, LD

       Many fruits, veggies, legumes and dairy products are high in potassium, which makes a potassium restricted diet difficult for anyone, herbivores and omnivores alike!  I would ask your friend to check with her nephrologist (kidney doctor) on how much potassium he or she can have per day (in milligrams), and if it were me, I would get a second opinion.  Also, if your friend is on kidney dialysis, often times adjustments can be made in the dialysis regimen to allow for a bit higher daily allowance of potassium.   If your friend still has some remaining kidney function, he or she has to weigh the taxing effects of animal proteins on the remaining kidney function versus far more benign plant proteins.  Though there is no question that severely potassium-restricted diets are challenging for anyone, a vegan lifestyle can still be followed, and the health benefits of this lifestyle are no less important for those with kidney disease.  Lastly, have your friend work with a registered dietitian to get help with planning the diet.

    • Angela Elaine Norman

      Your friend might find this book helpful:
      The National Kidney Foundation has a list ( of high and low potassium foods to help your friend determine which foods are suitable for her condition. It may be possible for her to follow a modified version of the diet just using the lower potassium fruits, vegetables and grains. There is also a method for lowering the potassium content of foods by soaking them in water and draining them and boiling them again. The instructions are provided here: She might also be interested in what Dr. McDougall has to say on kidney failure:

  • Mp Bailey

    After teaching a class on nutriton at my church my Pastor went vegan for 6 months in an attempt to reverse his polycystic kidney disease.  After the six months he had lost weight and his cholesterol went down by 50 points but his blood test showed that his kidney’s had actually gotten worse.  Is there any research on polycystic kidney disease and diet?

    • Toxins

      Dr. Mcdougall disscusses this form of kidney disease here.

      If you do not know who Dr. McDougall is, he is a very well known plant based doctor who like Dr. Greger is leading the way in plant based nutrition.

    • Mp Bailey

      Thank you so much for your help.  I will print it out and give it to him.   Of course I know of Dr. McDougall.  He is my hero.   I don’t know why I didn’t look there.  I guess I was just seeing if there was any new research on the subject.  Thank you again for your help! 

  • Rckamen2

    Another wonderful offering! How much suffering and how many amputations have I seen in my many years of hospital nursing…and now we have real eye opening help!
    Thanks again, more power to you and all the heroes that are practicing this medicine! The daily videos are my daily inspiration and I share them with everyone I can!

  • Chris

    Hi Dr. Greger. My husband is a nephrologist. We eat a mostly plant strong diet. For years, he has encouraged his patients to lose weight, thinking that lower BMI is a very big determiner in health and progression of diseases. The mainstream medical community recommends white bread, eggs and beef as good choices for people with kidney disease. They are supposed to avoid whole grains, beans and most veggies……

    I am interested in putting together a resource guide for his patients and am wondering if there is more info about being plant strong while on dialysis. The general info and recommended recipes on the internet are appalling.

    Thoughts? Suggestions?

    Thanks! :)

  • shannon

    Hi, I have a question for all of you out there – where do you find CKD vegan/vegetarian recipes? My husband was recently diagnosed with CKD, and I am struggling to find CKD recipes that are good for our whole family. The ‘traditional’ CKD diet looks like a bunch of crap to me, and we don’t eat meat. There is a lot of talk about the value of vegetarian diets to someone with CKD, and yet there really aren’t many recipes. Please help.

  • ShoshanaG

    I have recently been Dx with CKD stage 3. My doctor told me this is normal. (!) And so I have been left on my own to figure out what kind of diet is good for kidneys. I pulled a grocery list suggestion off a kidney disease website and i am apalled at what is “OK” to eat. They actually have Corn Puffs, Sugar Smacks, and other unhealthy options; sodas, white bread. So, it’s difficult for me as a vegetarian to weed through nutritional information that is geared towards a meat eating population. I use soy meat and soy milk and don’t know if I’ll be able to give those 2 things up. Thank you for a common sense website.

    • tuhumom

      Very interesting discussion. As a former kidney
      disease sufferer, I know how frustrating it can be to find
      answers. Just wanted to share a link that helped me out a lot when I
      was struggling to get better:

      Best of luck to everyone!

  • debbie

    thanks for the video, do you have a video showing excalty what you should eat, how much? little and often? Should you avoid all protein still? I am confuse!!:(

    • Thea

      debbie: I understand how easy it is to get confused. Let me try to help.

      re: “do you have a video showing excalty what you should eat, how much? little and often? ”
      Here are Dr. Greger’s nutrition recommendations:
      Note how Dr. Greger just isn’t that concerned with pinning down an exact amount of this or that. But if you would like some more guidance, I think the PCRM Power Plate is *very* helpful. Just try, on average throughout the day, to eat foods that come in volume to be about these percentages:
      And then throw in an ounce of nuts and seeds a day for good measure. Including a couple tablespoons of ground flaxseed a days, as recommended by Dr. Greger, is a great idea too.

      re: “Should you avoid all protein still?”
      No. You do not want to avoid all protein. That’s not even possible without an extreme diet. The idea is to avoid animal protein (no meat, dairy or eggs). Plants have all the protein that you need. Here’s some resources that will really help educate you on the topic protein:

      And Dr. McDougall’s article from December 2003.
      You might also check out the January 2004 newsletter article, Protein Overload.

      I hope that helps! I have some other ideas for you on how to eat healthy if you want some more resources. Just let me know.

      • debbie

        Hi Thea, thank you so much for taking the time to typ such a
        lovely response, it really means alot :D

        Sadly I do still have questions… I have lead a vegan lifestyle for over 20
        years and in the past 5 I have been more on the juicing/raw side of vegan, as,
        I believe I had kidney trouble over 5 years ago and my Doctor didn’t diagnose
        it properly. Long, long story, so I will

        keep it brief. To heal myself I went over to the fruit/80/10/10/30bad
        lifestyle, this made me incredible ill and 3 to 4 stone over weight. Since the
        beginning of this year I have slowly cut down on the fruit, replaced it with a
        green juice and start to lose the weight and feel better. I have massive reactions
        when I eat rice, grains, beans, pasta, and bread. I can look heavily pregnant
        so to help I am not eating these foods. I am now down to eating a ‘Cliff’ bar
        or naked? bars for breakfast, fresh juices throughout the day and greens and
        veg at night, with very low oil/fat. I
        do exercise 4/5 a week always have done. I am trying to keep this short but it
        is an ongoing thing and my doctor wont see me any earlier than Jan 2015 after I
        had an endoscopy back in march 2014 and I have to wait till 2015 just to speak
        with him about it. I am also waiting on a scan (cat?). I feel upset a lot of
        the time for the past 3 years I have stayed away from junk vegan foods and on
        occasions ate some tofu or fake meat,, however this leaves me feeling sick to
        so now I am not eating them, oh and I am not able to eat potatoes to. I do still
        try and eat them, but become very bloated after and full asleep. I am finding I
        am a sleep for about 9/10, if I don’t get my sleep I am not able to cope. My
        family do not understand, I am not able to see my Dr till 2015, I am living of
        juices, naked bars and some veggies in the evening. I do drink water as soon as
        I wake and quit tea and coffee 5 years ago, so no caffeine, plus I stopped
        eating vegan chocolate 3 years ago. How can I help myself further Thea? I am
        alive, but not living and feel like time is passing (Im 41) and I will not have
        lived midlife as fully as I wish.

        • Thea

          debbie: Well dang, that really does suck. My first advice for a situation like that would be to work with a doctor, but you are obviously trying to do that. And not getting much help so far. So, other than finding another doctor, which I know can be very hard, it’s not much of a suggestion. (*Can* you look around for a nutrition knowledgeable MD?)

          That aside, It seems to me that your biggest problem is being “reactive” (I don’t know what that means) to beans and intact grains (Non-intact/processed grains like bread and white rice aren’t all that healthful anyway – so no biggie if they bother you. But unprocessed whole rice, quinoa, hulled barley, oats etc – those are important). So, basically you are having problems with 2 out of the 4 main food groups. And it can very hard to get all the nutrition and calories and satisfaction you need from focusing on just non-starchy vegetables and fruit. I fully understand and sympathize when you say that this problem is affecting your quality of life. I agree that it would be something worth fixing if at all possible.

          Please note that I’m not a doctor. So, whatever ideas I have may be completely the wrong thing for you. But it doesn’t hurt to discuss ideas that you could try, right? Not if you have tried everything else and your doctors do not help. So, here are some lay person’s ideas.

          Suppose your gut has become sensitized (negatively) to certain foods like pastas and breads and rice, etc. Suppose after all that raw eating, you have lost important gut bacteria that you need to process real food and the problem just cascaded? And/or suppose that some of that sensitivity started out because what you are really “alergic”? to is pesticides or some mold or other additive in the processing. So, try this?: Get some *organic* hulled/hulless (not pearl) barley and wash/rinse it very well before cooking it. Then *with* a regular meal where you are eating some solid food, also eat a *very* small amount of the barley. I mean like literally a half teaspoon or even a quarter teaspoon. And amount that you know your own mind will consider trivial so that you don’t have to worry so much about mental effects along with the physical. My point is: for a very clean grain, see if there is a tiny amount that you can tolerate. And then slowly work to building up your tolerance.

          If your gut bacteria is the problem, you might do some research on what you can to do build up good gut bacteria. This site has some good videos and articles on the topic. But also I was recently pointed to an article where the scientist felt that leeks (I *think* it was leeks) was super-healthful in promoting good gut bacteria. Since leeks are a veggie and you are OK with veggies, you might focus on special veggies like those (see if you can find that article) to build up your gut along with the desensitizing process I listed above.

          Another thought is that quinoa is technically a seed, though it cooks/works so well as a grain. Even if your gut is not so good with real grains, your body may be OK with seeds. So, you might try a small amount of quinoa if you haven’t tried that yet. It would be very satisfying to include quinoa in your diet. And it is nutritious. And yummy! So, see if you can build a tolerance to the quinoa.

          Also, consider trying millet.

          Another thought: I looked at the ingredient list of Clif bars. It includes rolled oats. So, you are probably OK with oats (yeah!) and that is a grain. You can start to play with other types of oats, including steel cut, which is one of my favorites! Oats could be used in a lot of various foods and meals, not just breakfast.

          Another interesting thing I noticed about Clif bars is that they contain rice flour and isolated soy protein. So, you may not be as reactive to rice and soy as you think. It may be a matter of finding proportions and types as I was hinting at above. Maybe a hunk of tofu right off the bat won’t work for you, but what about eating a tablespoon of (thawed) frozen edamame? That’s yummy and a bean that you can work into your diet for great results emotionally (satisfying) as well as nutritionally.

          Also, while nuts and seeds can be a problem for some people trying to loose weight, those foods in limited amounts seem to *help* other people loose weight. So you might want to play around with deliberately having those foods in your diet – including the 2 T ground flaxseed (maybe thrown into your green smoothies). And if that works for you, nuts are very nutritious and have a huge number of applications – to make your life more fun.

          Those are my ideas. I sure do hope something helps. Please report back and let us know how it goes for you.

        • missy

          I have stage 3 ckd. This sounds Like what I have been going through after eating a lot of fruit. Strach (.ostly rice)would always make better. Not this time though. I now get swollen gland in neck if I dont eat my greens and if I dont eat e ough fat. I now try to eat small Amounts of protein throughout day with my starch (.ostly potato)and greens. Plus snacked on nuts a d little fruit. I actually went though a period of felling like I had no life left in me serverly depressed no energy. I am trying add small amounts of rice a d peas back now az a side dish and little corn. I do eat a little animal protein. Try to keep it mi imal.

          • missy

            Also doctors have been no help also.

          • Charmaine Taylor

            ALL US doctors must follow the FDA/USDA Healthy Plate nonsense of 65% carbs when that is the worst for diabetic kidney patient, and others. Also they still push a low fat diet, with FEAR of butter/saturated fats, when it was transfats and processed carbs causing Cardio the poor dietary advice from RDs continues..all they can teach you is lists of low phis/potassium foods..which is already on every site.

            I follow Dr. Walser’s* very low vegetarian protein diet, adapted to ow carb, and have been doing well in raising function from Stage 4 back to Stage 3b…all with diet.(see book Coping with Kidney Disease)

          • missy

            Forgot to add kefir seems to help too. They make coconut ones.

        • Mary-Ann Shearer

          You need to get to a fasting clinic and allow your body to repair itself – is where Dr Alan Goldhammer works with people – supervising the fast very professionally.