Safety and Efficacy of Using Nuts to Improve Bowel Health in Hemodialysis Patients

J Ren Nutr. 2020 Sep;30(5):462-469. doi: 10.1053/j.jrn.2019.10.002. Epub 2020 Jan 27.


Objective: Constipation is common in patients with end-stage kidney disease. Nondrug strategies to manage constipation are challenging because of dietary potassium, phosphate, and fluid restrictions. Nuts are a high-fiber food but are excluded from the diet because of the high potassium and phosphate content. The aim of this study was to examine the safety and efficacy of using nuts to improve constipation in adults undertaking hemodialysis (HD).

Design and methods: Adult patients undertaking HD were recruited to this nonrandomized, 10-week repeated measures, within-subject, pragmatic clinical trial, conducted in two HD units. The intervention consisted of consumption of 40g of raw almonds daily for four weeks, followed by a two-week washout and four-week control period. The primary safety outcome measures were change in predialysis serum potassium and phosphate levels. The primary efficacy outcome was reduction in constipation, measured using the Bristol Stool Form Scale and Palliative Care Outcome Scale (POS-S) renal symptom score. Secondary outcomes included quality of life, selected uremic toxins, cognition, gut microbiota profile, and symptom burden.

Results: Twenty patients completed the trial (median age: 67 [interquartile range: 57.5-77.8] years, 51% male). After controlling for dialysis adequacy, anuria, dietary intake, bicarbonate, and parathyroid hormone, there were no statistically significant changes in serum potassium (P = 0.21) or phosphate (P = 0.16) associated with daily consumption of almonds. However, statistically significant improvements in constipation were seen at weeks 2, 3, 4, and 10. There were statistically significant improvements in quality of life (P = 0.030), overall symptom burden (P = 0.002), vomiting (P = 0.020), itching (P = 0.006), and skin changes (P = 0.002).

Conclusion: Daily consumption of almonds for four weeks was safe, effective, and well tolerated. Improvements in quality of life and symptom burden warrant further research to elucidate potential mechanisms. The findings support the potential reinclusion of foods such as nuts into the diet of patients who underwent HD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Constipation / diet therapy*
  • Constipation / etiology*
  • Constipation / physiopathology
  • Diet / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestines / physiopathology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuts*
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Young Adult