One of our body’s primary detoxification organs, the kidneys, filter wastes from your blood between 20 and 25 times per day. The estimated filtering capacity of a pair of adult kidneys is between 120 and 150 quarts each day! These amazing organs, often referred to as our renal system, are critical to our health, so wouldn’t we want to take care of them the very best we can? In today’s article, we will review kidney function, kidney disease risk factors, and look at the best ways to support the health of your kidneys.
The process of filtering the blood has two phases:
- Blood moves through the kidneys. Large molecules, like proteins and blood cells, stay in the blood vessel. Small molecules, like waste and fluid, pass into the tubules.
- Tubules remove wastes while also returning needed substances back to the bloodstream.
But that’s not all the kidneys do! Another extremely important task of the renal system is electrolyte and water regulation. Electrolytes are important minerals that encourage the transport of electrical impulses throughout your body, while also balancing the amount of fluid in the body. The electrolytes found in our bodies are:
The process of the kidneys regulating fluid and electrolyte moving is called osmoregulation. Each of the electrolytes play a role in hydrating the body. When you sweat, you lose not just water, but also the electrolytes that allow you hang onto that water. Water is so critical to the body that 99% of it is reabsorbed back into circulation. When you are dehydrated, your urine output becomes super concentrated. And when you have had too much fluid, the kidneys produce excess urine to flush it out of the body quickly.
The average person will get enough electrolytes in their diet. However, those who do intense or long workouts (and therefore sweat excessively), may find themselves low in electrolytes. Also, those who eat a ketogenic diet may have trouble hanging onto electrolytes due to a low amount of insulin usage. Insulin signals the kidneys to hang onto electrolytes, so a reduction in insulin may disrupt that signaling.
Finally, the kidneys help convert Vitamin D into a usable form and produce hormones that assist in red blood cell creation.
When the kidneys begin to suffer, the symptoms may be transitory, or they may be a sign of a more chronic kidney issue. In either case, symptoms of kidney failure may include:
- Kidney pain: may be referred to as flank pain; throbbing or tenderness below the ribcage or on the back
- Frequent urination
- Less urine production
- Change in the color of the urine, or the presence of blood in the urine
- High blood pressure
- Fluid retention or edema in the lower extremities
- Digestive changes such as indigestion, nausea or vomiting, or loss of appetite
- Mood or cognitive changes, which are caused by shifting electrolytes and dehydration
Kidney failure is very serious but may not be permanent. If one can determine the underlying problem causing the kidney issue, it may be treatable before permanent damage takes place. Even patients who are in the early stages of kidney disease may be able to halt its progression by both supporting kidney function and treating the health issue(s) that caused the damage initially. The reasons for kidney failure are complex, but the primary causes include:
- Dehydration (which impacts electrolyte levels)
- Severe blood loss due to acute injury
- Blockages in the blood vessels leading to and from the kidneys, or decreased blood flow to the kidneys
- Reactions to medication or other ingested toxins
If you have ever known someone who suffered from kidney failure, you know that prevention of kidney disease is far preferable to treating it after the fact. One way to do this is to empower yourself to know the risk factors for developing kidney disease:
- Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or failure, or anemia – each affect blood flow to the kidneys
- Unhealthy diet which may result in electrolyte imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, higher inflammation, or blood pressure changes
- Being overweight or obese
- Kidney stones
- Prostate disease, liver damage or liver disease. Each of these impact the body’s ability to remove waste and process toxins
- Increasing age
- Sudden trauma or injury to the kidneys
- Medication use such as pain killers, blood pressure drugs (including ACE inhibitors), or antibiotics
Now that we have reviewed the common causes and risk factors, let’s look at ways we can support our kidneys, whether we currently have normal kidney function or impaired kidney function.
Whether you are supporting kidney health or dealing with already-occurring kidney disease, the recommended dietary changes will be as unique as the individual, and we always recommend making dietary changes in partnership with your health practitioner. Kidney disease will alter your body’s ability to metabolize water, proteins, and several electrolytes. While electrolytes are extremely important to maintain kidney health, they may also be problematic and need to be limited in the case of someone who suffers from chronic kidney disease. At a minimum, processed foods which are high in sugars and seed oils, do not support healthy kidneys. Typically, unprocessed, nutrient-dense, whole foods are always the best route, but even certain whole foods may need to be limited in the case of kidney disease. If you are interested in an eating plan that supports kidney health and that is unique to your needs, contact us today to schedule a nutrition consultation!
There are dozens of medications that are known to cause kidney damage, but the most common classes of drugs to be aware of include:
- Calcineurin Inhibitors
- Cardiovascular Agents
- Contrast Dyes
- Herbals – specifically those that contain aristolochic acid
- Proton Pump Inhibitors
If you are taking a long-term medication that falls in this list, at a minimum, your kidney function should be assessed by regular lab work. We recommend a discussion with your physician about ongoing implications, and any other options that may be available.
As with all bodily systems, the condition of your spine and Central Nervous System also impacts renal health. Messages from your brain inspire your kidneys to do the good work they do, so when those messages are disrupted, so is the effectiveness of your kidneys’ ability to filter. If you would like to experience the way proper spinal alignment can support your health from the ground up, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.
Supplements to Support Kidney Health:
If you already have diagnosed kidney failure, we recommend consulting your health practitioner before starting any supplements. However, there are supplements that can support the work your kidneys do, and we are pleased to feature the following 3 Standard Process Supplements for 10% off for the month of December:
- Standard Process Renafood – Nutritional support for those with kidney failure, compromised kidney function, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and kidney-related high blood pressure. Supports detoxification and healthy kidney function.
- Standard Process Arginex – Nutritional support for patients who experience kidney and bladder problems, water retention and edema, urinary tract infections, toxic overload and more. Supports the detoxification process in the kidneys and liver.
- Standard Process AC Carbamide – Nutritional support for patients with edema and urinary tract problems. Supports optimal urinary flow and fluid balance.
Additional supplements (no discount, but available in our office) that support water balance include:
- Hyalogic HylaTears
- Hyalogic Hyaluronic Acid Liquid Joints, Skin, Eyes
At Body in Harmony, our whole-person healthcare philosophy often focuses on the body’s natural ability to detoxify. The renal system, being a crucial part of the detoxification process, is worthy of our attention and support. If you would like to learn more about how to support your kidneys from the ground up, contact us today for a consultation!