Blog #91 Kidney Health
Recently, two friends and I had a conversation regarding kidney health. Standard medical assessment has indicated that all three of us are in kidney failure. All three of us have varying contributing factors to the diagnosis. One person has a history of hypertension, which can damage the kidneys. Additionally, several kidney stones have the harmed the kidneys. A third factor is this person’s very sensitive nature, which can result in much stress on the body, including the urinary tract. A second person has similar and different factors involved. Several medications and supplements likely are stressing the kidneys. Aging also is having an effect. This person’s sensitive nature coupled with an unwanted and unexpected career shift is yet a third factor. In my case, I appear to have been born with weak kidneys. Repeated urinalyses since I was six years old indicated the presence of protein and glucose in the urine. This means that since that early age, my kidneys were doing a poor job of handling protein and glucose. The pediatrician’s other diagnostic tests did not reveal any structural abnormalities. He said to my parents: “We can’t find anything wrong at this time, but she might have problems with her kidneys when she gets older.” He did not offer any nutritional advice, such as reducing protein intake, especially animal protein, or reducing sugar intake, especially processed sugars. Both protein and sugar can stress the kidneys, as can high dietary intake of potassium, sodium, phosphorous, and more, depending on the cause of the disease and the stage of kidney failure. So in my case, a combination of either very early urinary tract infections or constitutional kidney weakness, along with aging, stress, and inappropriate nutrition (I had begun eating more protein when I had begun some weight training) were likely the main factors.
Other contributors in kidney malfunction are poor diet – fast, junk and processed foods, foods high in sodium, potassium, phosphorous, sugar and/or protein. Diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, chronic dehydration, excessive fluid intake, and too infrequent urination can also be important causes. A blow or other injury to the low back can also result in organ failure.
The kidneys are located in the low back, on either side of the spine. These endocrine glands constantly work to help with detoxification, proper mineral balance, maintaining strong bones and proper water balance, pH balance, blood pressure regulation, and more. They help support the body’s energy level as well as help in the extraction of certain vitamins and minerals from food. Kidneys help in the extraction of usable Vitamin D from food and sunlight, and at the same time can be harmed by too much supplemental Vitamin D. People in severe kidney failure may live up to several years receiving dialysis, which performs at least some of the kidney’s vital tasks. Other people may receive a donated kidney. If they tolerate the strong anti-rejection medications, they may survive for quite a few years.
Treatment can vary greatly, depending on the severity of the problem, the health of the person involved, and the cause of the kidney damage. Some basic approaches are below:
Limit protein intake, particularly animal protein and protein powders. Make sure the protein you do eat is high quality. Some examples of high quality protein are wild-caught salmon or sardines, eggs from organically raised or biodynamically raised ducks or chickens, a mix of organically or biodynamically raised beans, legumes and/or grains, such as lentils and whole oats, a green salad with several other vegetables such as cabbage and radish, and pumpkin and squash seeds.
Eliminate processed sugars from the diet. Fresh fruit in moderation is acceptable, but sugar (glucose sucrose and fructose) puts stress on the kidneys, as does uric acid, derived from various foods, such as red meat, rich and fried foods, and some sea foods. Additionally, fruit high in fructose, such as dried fruit, juice, pomegranates, melon apple, cherries, pineapple and mango give rise to purines when broken down, which in turn, can result in high uric acid levels, which can stress and harm the kidneys.
Eliminate all added salt from the diet and keep sodium intake otherwise low. High sodium stresses the kidneys and also gives rise to high blood pressure, which can further damage the already delicate blood vessels in the glomeruli – the filtering units of the kidneys.
Eliminate certain nutritional supplements from the diet, especially those containing potassium and large quantities of vitamin D. These can be hard on the kidneys.
Avoiding alcohol, nicotine, and recreational drugs will take a load off your kidneys. Castor oil packs are sometimes used to detoxify the body and protect the liver, which is vulnerable when the kidneys are not functioning well.
Avoid foods that contain large quantities of phosphorous. Dairy products red meat, sea foods, dark sodas, beans and nuts are all high in this mineral. Not only does it stress the kidneys, but when the kidneys are unable to filter enough phosphorous from food, this mineral goes back into the blood and the resulting imbalance will result in calcium being pulled from the bones to balance out the extra phosphorous. This, in turn, can lead to weakened bones and osteoporosis.
Keep fat consumption low, and avoid trans fats, such as margarines, corn oil and soy oils, completely. Some saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are necessary for continued health, and long term survival.
Do not overeat, but stop when still a little hungry. Excessive nutrients from food will also stress the kidneys, since they will need to work more to deal with the excess. As long as there is a natural appetite, it is bet to wait to eat until hunger is noted. Relax, eat slowly, and chew food well.
Find out what foods, if any, you are allergic and/or sensitive to, and avoid these. Examples could be gluten, soy, or dairy.
Some specific supplements can sometimes help slow the progress of kidney damage and disease. On the other hand, too many supplements will often over-tax the kidneys, so be careful regarding nutritional supplements. Some herbs, including licorice, cats-claw and wormwood are particularly hard on the kidneys. Some symptoms may be hypertension, fatigue and body aches. Nettles, on the other hand are almost always beneficial, as is fresh-squeezed lemon juice in water first thing in the morning and possibly throughout the day. High quality turmeric herb can be helpful for kidney health. A high quality pine bark extract can also be helpful for the kidneys. I personally use two products from Standard Process – Arginex and Renafood. However, depending on the severity of your kidney dysfunction, these two could possibly cause problems for you, so I urge you to work with a health care practitioner who has specific knowledge about kidney health and kidney disease. A diet or supplements to prevent or counteract kidney stones is vital when stones are a major causative factor. Individual with high risk for kidney stones may benefit from reducing or eliminating spinach, rhubarb, okra, beets, nut butters, fries, and potato chips from the diet. Daily apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in water, frequent consumption of basal and regular consumption of real sauerkraut all may be helpful in preventing kidney stones, as will losing weight, if needed, and sufficient hydration, with water.
This blog’s offer: feel free to contact me regarding anything in this article about which you have questions.