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Healthy

  Kidney Weakness / Disease  
 
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Signs, symptoms and indicators | Conditions that suggest it | Contributing risk factors | Other conditions that may be present | It can lead to... | Recommendations

 

There are many kinds of kidney disease, most of which are potentially serious. Whether you get kidney disease is mostly due to bad luck, but whether it progresses to end-stage kidney failure does depend largely on what is done about it. When the kidneys become diseased or damaged, they can suddenly or gradually lose their ability to perform their vital functions. Waste products and excess fluid then build up inside the body, causing a variety of symptoms, particularly swelling of the hands and feet, shortness of breath, and a frequent urge to urinate. If left untreated, diseased kidneys may eventually stop functioning. Loss of kidney function is a very serious and potentially fatal condition. Some kidney diseases are genetic, such as Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). The kidneys become filled with cysts, which cause the kidneys to become less effective, and eventually leads to kidney failure. A variant of PKD is not usually detected until adulthood. This is known as "adult PKD", as the symptoms usually do not occur until patients are well into adulthood. However, with advances in diagnostic imaging technology, doctors are gradually becoming able to detect these conditions before symptoms appear.

The kidneys, two fist-sized organs weighing about 150gm each, are located on either side of the spine just above the waist and perform a life-sustaining role. They cleanse the blood and help regulate blood pressure. Each adult kidney is composed of about 1 million nephrons that drain about 14 calyces.

The kidneys make renin and erythropoietin, and convert vitamin D into its useful form. More importantly, by forming urine they perform three key functions:

  1. The kidneys excrete the waste products of metabolism. A patient with any sort of impaired kidney function will have increased creatinine and urea nitrogen in the blood, or azotemia. If the kidney is adequately perfused, is itself normal, and its outflow not obstructed, blood urea nitrogen levels will remain within normal limits.
  2. The kidneys regulate the body's content of water, sodium, and potassium. Hypertension, edema, and/or hyperkalemia may develop in renal disease. Renal edema is first visible around the patient's eyes.
  3. The kidneys maintain the appropriate acid-base balance of plasma. Metabolic acidosis is characteristic of severe renal failure.
High blood pressure, anemia, and bone demineralization are common in serious kidney disease. Renal insufficiency due to underperfusion (dehydration, shock or a failing heart) or due to obstruction is extremely common. High blood pressure commonly results from kidney problems, and always damages the kidneys to some extent.

Once the kidney is damaged to a certain degree, it continues to deteriorate (i.e., undergo more scarring, notably glomerular sclerosis) even if the underlying disease is cured. [Lancet 338: pp.419 & 423, 1991]
 

 
 

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Kidney Weakness / Disease:
 
 
Lab Values - Cells  Elevated ESR or High ESR

Lab Values - Common

  High systolic blood pressure
 High blood pressure commonly results from kidney problems, and often damages the small blood vessels in the kidneys. When this happens, the blood vessels cannot filter toxins from the blood as easily.

  High diastolic blood pressure

Symptoms - Food - General

  Weak appetite
 Loss of appetite is a possible symptom of kidney disease.

Symptoms - General

  Constant fatigue

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular

  Dark areas under eyes

Symptoms - Head - Mouth/Oral

  Abnormal tastes in mouth
 An unpleasant taste in the mouth is a possible symptom of kidney disease.

Symptoms - Metabolic

  Foot odor/sweating

Counter-indicators:
  Absence of foot odor/sweating

Symptoms - Skin - General

  Itchy skin
 Excessively dry, persistently itchy skin is a possible symptom of kidney disease.

  Excess perspiration
  Lighter/paler skin color
 Pale skin is a possible symptom of kidney disease.

  Pale facial coloring
 Pale skin is a possible symptom of kidney disease.

Symptoms - Urinary

  Infrequent daytime urination
  Strong-smelling urine
  Frequent nighttime urination
 Changes in the frequency of urination, especially at night, may indicate kidney disease.

  (Very) painful urination
  Kidney pain

Counter-indicators:
  Absence of urine odor
 
 

Conditions that suggest Kidney Weakness / Disease:
 
 
Lab Values - Common  Medium-term/long-term hypertension

Counter-indicators:
  Recent onset hypertension

Metabolic

  Hyperkalemia (Elevated Serum Potassium)
  Edema (Water Retention)

Musculo-Skeletal

  Gout / Hyperuricemia
 Hyperuricemia is caused by a variety of means, one of which is abnormal kidney function.

Nutrients

  Hypokalemia / Potassium Need

Organ Health

  Uremia

Skin-Hair-Nails

  Body Odor
  Dry skin
 Excessively dry, persistently itchy skin is a possible symptom of kidney disease.
 
 

Risk factors for Kidney Weakness / Disease:
 
 
Autoimmune  Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis) / Risk
 Diverse kidney problems can arise from the deposition of circulating immune complexes in the kidneys. Lupus, being an auto-immune disease, causes the immune system to attack the body's own tissues. The commonly affected organs/tissues are skin, joints, nervous system and kidneys.

Circulation

  Congestive Heart Failure
 Renal insufficiency due to underperfusion from a failing heart is more widespread than commonly thought.

Diet

  Dehydration
 Renal insufficiency can occur from underperfusion due to dehydration.

Environment / Toxicity

  Mercury Toxicity / Amalgam Illness
 Kidney disease, including kidney failure, is a possible symptom of mercury toxicity. A yearly or more frequent mercury detox program is advised as long as this is a suspected or confirmed problem.

  Gulf War Illness

Lab Values - Chemistries

  Elevated creatinine
  Elevated BUN

Counter-indicators:
  Normal creatinine

Metabolic

  Anorexia / Starvation Tendency
 The common medical complications of being severely underweight include kidney damage.

Organ Health

  Kidney Stones (Urolithiasis)
 A kidney stone that is obstructing will cause damage to the kidneys in the long run if left untreated and may even lead to end stage kidney failure. Anyone with a past history of kidney stones should have regular screening performed as the recurrence rate is high.

  Cirrhosis of the Liver
 Liver Cirrhosis can lead to kidney dysfunction and failure.

Supplements and Medications

  (Past) heroin/morphine use
 Heroin use often leads to heroin nephropathy.

  Pain medication use
 Some non-prescription medications - especially painkillers - can potentially cause damage to the kidneys. This includes traditional Chinese 'herbal' medications.
 
 

Kidney Weakness / Disease suggests the following may be present:
 
 
Autoimmune  Lupus, SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythromatosis) / Risk
 Diverse kidney problems can arise from the deposition of circulating immune complexes in the kidneys. Lupus, being an auto-immune disease, causes the immune system to attack the body's own tissues. The commonly affected organs/tissues are skin, joints, nervous system and kidneys.

Circulation

  Congestive Heart Failure
 Renal insufficiency due to underperfusion from a failing heart is more widespread than commonly thought.

Metabolic

  Anorexia / Starvation Tendency
 The common medical complications of being severely underweight include kidney damage.

Organ Health

  Cirrhosis of the Liver
 Liver Cirrhosis can lead to kidney dysfunction and failure.

  Kidney Stones (Urolithiasis)
 A kidney stone that is obstructing will cause damage to the kidneys in the long run if left untreated and may even lead to end stage kidney failure. Anyone with a past history of kidney stones should have regular screening performed as the recurrence rate is high.
 
 

Kidney Weakness / Disease can lead to:
 
 
Musculo-Skeletal  Gout / Hyperuricemia
 Hyperuricemia is caused by a variety of means, one of which is abnormal kidney function.
 
 

Recommendations for Kidney Weakness / Disease:
 
 
Botanical  Kidney Cleanse
  Goldenrod (Solidago Species)
 Golden Rod encourages proper kidney function and was used extensively by the Indians for most kidney disorders.

  Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
 Parsley contains essential oils; the most important one, apiole, is a kidney stimulant.

  Bearberry (Uva ursi)
 Uva ursi soothes, strengthens, and tightens irritated and inflamed tissues and supports the urinary system by promoting healthy bladder, liver and kidney functions. Uva ursi neutralizes acidity in the urine and increases urine flow and may reduce bloating and water retention.

  Herbal Combinations
 The use of Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Six Flavor Tea Pill has shown a decrease of fatalities due to kidney disease.

Detoxification

Not recommended:
  Chelation Therapy

Diet

  Fructose Avoidance/reduction
 The metabolic syndrome has recently been recognized as a risk factor for kidney disease, but the mechanisms mediating this risk remain unclear. High fructose consumption by animals produces a model of the metabolic syndrome with hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and insulin resistance. The present study was conducted to test the hypothesis that consumption of a high-fructose diet could accelerate the progression of chronic kidney disease. Consumption of a high-fructose diet greatly accelerates progression of chronic kidney disease in the rat remnant kidney model. [Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 293: F1256-F1261, 2007. First published August 1, 2007]

This study is consistant with others showing that kidney damage is induced from high fructose intake. A diet high in fructose can result in high blood pressure and continuing kidney damage.


Not recommended:
  Therapeutic Fasting
 It is important to determine if there is any known pathology with regard to kidney issues. Water fasting or urine fasting may be appropriate in some cases. This is a condition where checking with your Naturopath is advised.

Mineral

Not recommended:
  Magnesium
 If you have kidney problems, taking magnesium supplements may make you accumulate the mineral too quickly, which could be toxic.
 
 


KEY
Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Weakly counter-indicative
Strongly counter-indicative
May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended
May have adverse consequences







GLOSSARY

Anemia:  A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.

Azotemia:  Increased levels of urea in blood.

Chronic Renal Failure:  (CRF) Irreversible, progressive impaired kidney function. The early stage, when the kidneys no longer function properly but do not yet require dialysis, is known as Chronic Renal Insufficiency (CRI). CRI can be difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are not usually apparent until kidney disease has progressed significantly. Common symptoms include a frequent need to urinate and swelling, as well as possible anemia, fatigue, weakness, headaches and loss of appetite. As the disease progresses, other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bad breath and itchy skin may develop as toxic metabolites, normally filtered out of the blood by the kidneys, build up to harmful levels. Over time (up to 10 or 20 years), CRF generally progresses from CRI to End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD, also known as Kidney Failure). Patients with ESRD no longer have kidney function adequate to sustain life and require dialysis or kidney transplantation. Without proper treatment, ESRD is fatal.

Cirrhosis:  A long-term disease in which the liver becomes covered with fiber-like tissue. This causes the liver tissue to break down and become filled with fat. All functions of the liver then decrease, including the production of glucose, processing drugs and alcohol, and vitamin absorption. Stomach and bowel function, and the making of hormones are also affected.

Cysts:  A closed pocket or pouch of tissue; a cyst may form within any tissue in the body and can be filled with air, fluid, pus, or other material. Cysts within the lung generally are air filled, while cysts involving the lymph system or kidneys are fluid filled. Cysts under the skin are benign, extremely common, movable lumps. These may develop as a result of infection, clogging of sebaceous glands, developmental abnormalities or around foreign bodies.

Edema:  Abnormal accumulation of fluids within tissues resulting in swelling.

Gram:  (gm): A metric unit of weight, there being approximately 28 grams in one ounce.

Hypertension:  High blood pressure. Hypertension increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure because it adds to the workload of the heart, causing it to enlarge and, over time, to weaken; in addition, it may damage the walls of the arteries.

Immune System:  A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.

Kidney Stone:  A stone (concretion) in the kidney. If the stone is large enough to block the tube (ureter) and stop the flow of urine from the kidney, it must be removed by surgery or other methods. Also called Renal Calculus. Symptoms usually begin with intense waves of pain as a stone moves in the urinary tract. Typically, a person feels a sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area of the kidney or in the lower abdomen. Sometimes nausea and vomiting occur. Later, pain may spread to the groin. The pain may continue if the stone is too large to pass; blood may appear in the urine and there may be the need to urinate more often or a burning sensation during urination. If fever and chills accompany any of these symptoms, an infection may be present and a doctor should be seen immediately.

Metabolism:  The chemical processes of living cells in which energy is produced in order to replace and repair tissues and maintain a healthy body. Responsible for the production of energy, biosynthesis of important substances, and degradation of various compounds.

Nervous System:  A system in the body that is comprised of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, ganglia and parts of the receptor organs that receive and interpret stimuli and transmit impulses to effector organs.

Potassium:  A mineral that serves as an electrolyte and is involved in the balance of fluid within the body. Our bodies contain more than twice as much potassium as sodium (typically 9oz versus 4oz). About 98% of total body potassium is inside our cells. Potassium is the principal cation (positive ion) of the fluid within cells and is important in controlling the activity of the heart, muscles, nervous system and just about every cell in the body. Potassium regulates the water balance and acid-base balance in the blood and tissues. Evidence is showing that potassium is also involved in bone calcification. Potassium is a cofactor in many reactions, especially those involving energy production and muscle building.

Sodium:  An essential mineral that our bodies regulate and conserve. Excess sodium retention increases the fluid volume (edema) and low sodium leads to less fluid and relative dehydration. The adult body averages a total content of over 100 grams of sodium, of which a surprising one-third is in bone. A small amount of sodium does get into cell interiors, but this represents only about ten percent of the body content. The remaining 57 percent or so of the body sodium content is in the fluid immediately surrounding the cells, where it is the major cation (positive ion). The role of sodium in the extracellular fluid is maintaining osmotic equilibrium (the proper difference in ions dissolved in the fluids inside and outside the cell) and extracellular fluid volume. Sodium is also involved in nerve impulse transmission, muscle tone and nutrient transport. All of these functions are interrelated with potassium.

Vitamin D:  A fat-soluble vitamin essential to one's health. Regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the blood by improving their absorption and utilization. Necessary for normal growth and formation of bones and teeth. For Vitamin D only, 1mcg translates to 40 IU.