Kidney disease can affect how much water your body holds on to, causing weight gain. Weight loss may lower your risk of developing kidney disease. Lifestyle and food changes and medications may improve your kidney health.

Your kidneys are the filtration system for your body. These two bean-shaped organs work together to remove waste, return important nutrients and electrolytes back to your tissues, and control the balance of fluids in your body.

Kidney diseases can cause you to lose too much fluid and also hold on to too much fluid. This is just one of the ways kidney diseases can affect your weight.

This article will explain more about the connection between your kidney health and weight gain, and what you can do to help both if you’re experiencing kidney issues and weight gain.

Kidney disease can cause weight gain, but it’s not usually the type of weight gain you think of.

Weight gained by people with kidney disease isn’t the same as weight that’s gained by people who have obesity. Weight gain in people with kidney, or renal, diseases is usually the result of fluid retention.

When your kidneys aren’t working correctly, they don’t remove enough fluid from your blood and tissues. Damaged kidneys can’t turn excess fluid into urine, so these fluids build up in your body with nowhere to go. One liter of water weighs about 2.2 pounds, so a few extra liters of fluid in your body can add up quickly when it comes to the numbers you see on your scale.

The big difference between weight gained from kidney disease and obesity is that changing your eating habits will do little to change your weight.

Until your kidney function is improved or the extra fluid is removed by treatments such as dialysis, you won’t be able to drop the pounds you gained in fluid weight.

What is kidney disease and what causes it?

Kidney diseases develop when your kidneys aren’t working as they should. Acute kidney injuries can happen suddenly after intoxication of a toxic substance and with certain illnesses or infections. Chronic kidney disease is the long-term form of kidney disease that usually develops and worsens over time.

Kidney disease can be caused by genetics, certain medical conditions, or even traumatic injury. But there are also several lifestyle factors that can contribute to kidney disease, such as uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes.

Chronic kidney disease that isn’t managed well will progress over time to kidney failure or end stage renal disease. In the later stages of the disease, you can experience all kinds of complications, and you may require regular, intensive treatments such as hemodialysis.

Addressing your risk factors for kidney disease and making changes to your diet and lifestyle can help prevent or slow the progression of renal problems.

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Obesity doesn’t really cause kidney disease directly. Instead, it contributes to other problems that can increase your risk of developing kidney disease.

The top causes of kidney disease include things such as:

While obesity isn’t a direct cause of kidney disease, it’s a contributing factor to many of the problems that lead to kidney disease such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Inactivity, an unbalanced diet, and other lifestyle choices can increase your chances of developing both high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, both of which could put you at risk of developing kidney disease.

It’s worth noting that the effects of weight discrimination can also contribute to negative health effects.

Losing weight alone won’t do much to improve your kidney functioning.

Being able to manage your condition of diabetes or high blood pressure can help protect your kidneys, and, in time, your kidneys will recover at least some of their original function.

Weight loss alone isn’t likely to have a direct effect on your kidney function — but weight loss that improves your metabolism and overall health may, based on research from 2014.

As your kidneys lose their filtration power, different substances that are good for you in normal ranges can build up and become toxic. This includes substances that are in many of the foods you eat like potassium, sodium, and phosphorus.

Too much or too little of these minerals and electrolytes can cause changes in your blood pressure, heart rhythm, and other vital processes. Fluid shifts can happen with changes in these electrolyte levels, too, and out-of-range electrolytes can contribute to excess fluid retention or loss.

As kidney damage progresses, your body eventually loses its ability to remove extra fluids through urine, and these fluids build up in your body and lead to water weight gain. Fluid gains are most common in later stages of kidney disease or end stage renal disease.

Can kidney disease make you lose weight?

Although fluid weight gain is common in later stages of kidney disease, weight loss can also be a serious problem. Many people with renal disease are advised to maintain specific diets, limiting foods that contain high amounts of things like potassium.

These renal diets can make it difficult to consume enough calories, and you may also be advised to restrict the amount you drink.

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If you have unmanaged diabetes, hypertension, or other issues that increase your risk of developing kidney disease, your healthcare team may recommend diet and lifestyle changes that can help prevent further damage.

Once you’ve received a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease or end stage renal disease, your treatment will depend on how much kidney function you have left and how it’s affecting your overall health.

In the early stages of kidney disease, you may be prescribed medications to help you manage your blood sugar, blood pressure, fluid retention, or some combination of these. In later stages of the disease, you’ll likely need some form of dialysis.

Dialysis can be done a few ways, but the end goal of any form of dialysis is to filter toxins from your blood and remove excess fluid. A kidney transplant is often the best option, but you could require dialysis for a long time before you qualify for a transplant or a kidney that’s suitable for you becomes available.

Weight shifts are common in people with advanced kidney disease. Weight gain can happen as a result of excess fluid retention when your kidneys can no longer turn toxins and waste into urine. Weight loss is also possible, especially when you need fluid and diet restrictions to manage your condition.

Weight loss may help you lower your risk of developing kidney disease by improving contributing conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, but weight changes in people with renal diseases are linked more to fluid and electrolyte shifts than body mass or fat stores.

Consider talking with a healthcare team about the right diet and lifestyle changes based on your individual health, risk factors, and kidney function.