Dr. Ingrid Pincott, ND
The kidneys are two bean shaped organs located against the back muscles which are protected by the posterior rib cage. They are one of the “emunctory” organs of the body which means they help eliminate waste products. The other emunctory organs include the liver, the bowels, the lungs and the skin.
There are over 100 different waste products that the kidneys need to filter, including creatinine a by-product of the breakdown of muscle. A measurement in the blood called eGFR is used to evaluate the filtration rate of the kidneys. It is derived from serum creatinine and age. A value of eGFR greater than 60 in considered normal—however it’s best to have a value over 90. This will change with age so a 20-year old should have a value of 116 and an average 75 year old an eGFR value of around 75. These figures according to Dr. Jenna Henderson, an ND in Connecticut, who has had chronic kidney disease (CKD) and a kidney transplant; through years of personal and professional experience she has become an expert in the holistic approach to kidney health. Her blog is here. Henderson indicates that eGFRs in the range of 60-89 indicate a second stage of CKD, stage 3 is 30-59, Stage 4 is 15-29 and stage 5 is less than 15 (which indicates renal failure). Most MDs will not be worried until a patient’s eGFR is less than 30.
Steps to maintaining good kidney function
- Maintain healthy blood pressure. The key to healthy blood pressure is healthy kidneys. There are one million nephrons per kidney at birth but with age they break down. High blood pressure increases the breakdown of nephrons. If your blood pressure is increasing over time, purchase your own BP cuff so that you can monitor your BP at varying times of the day. Try to maintain a healthy weight. Avoid very salty foods (e.g., canned soups and processed foods). Avoid high fructose corn syrup as it is an independent risk factor for high blood pressure. Don’t limit potassium as healthy potassium will keep blood pressure normal. (Only patients with advanced kidney disease have to limit potassium.) Magnesium and green tea both lower blood pressure; in addition, eating celery helps to keep blood pressure in check because of a unique compound called 3nB.
- Make an effort to prevent diabetes: don’t let your HbA1c creep up past 6.0 and keep your weight below obesity range and, most importantly, get active! If you wear a FitBit, aim for 10,000 steps per day. Being overweight stresses the kidneys to work harder.
- Control inflammation (nephritis) of the kidneys; if your urine is foamy this may indicate a loss of protein in the urine and can be a sign of inflammation. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet containing a variety of fruits and vegetables such as is found in the Mediterranean Diet; a healthy diet can help lower inflammation in the kidneys.
- Getting plenty of sleep is important for the kidneys as it can help improve kidney function and even alleviate dark circles under the eyes. The emunctory organs do their best detoxification during a healthy sleep cycle.
Nutrients Specific for the Kidneys:
- Drink plenty of purified alkaline water.
- Green tea provides bioflavonoids as well as helps with the filtering of waste products.
- Vitamin D: have 25(OH) measured and aim for the 150nmol/L range as a general anti-inflammatory and preventive of autoimmune disease.
- Eat healthy fats. The kidneys are one of the fattiest tissues of the body. Omega 3 EPA/DHA blends found in sardine and anchovies, flax oil containing linoleic and linolenic acid, and coconut oil are other examples of healthy fats.
- Avoid GMO foods, artificial sweeteners and gluten (for IgA nephropathy).
- Eat a diet high in anti-oxidant rich foods such as blueberries, grapes, cherries, pomegranates, apples and beets.
- Avoid “kidney toxic” drugs such as statins, PPIs, aspirin, non steroidal anti-inflammatories (aka NSAIDS), antibiotics and steroids.
- Herbs that can be helpful for kidney health include nettles, hawthorne and milk thistle.
Consult with your licensed naturopathic doctor for appropriate testing and for a personalized health protocol.