How To Maintain & Improve Healthy Kidney Function
Kidney diseases are among top ten common health conditions and cause of death based on statistics provided by NKUDIC. Kidney diseases sometimes can go unnoticed for a long time affecting the kidney tissue gradually without manifesting any symptoms or problems up until they are at only 10 % of their performance. In recent years the number of cases with kidney disease has doubled which is partly related to an increase in conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes that damage the kidney's tiny blood vessels. The good news is that routine checkups, dietary adjustment, and integrative medicine can be helpful to optimize kidneys health.
The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs with the size of your fist, located on the both sides of the spine in the back of the abdominal cavity near the base of the ribcage.
Kidneys are one of the critical biological filtration systems in the body. Kidneys filter the blood, remove the wastes from it and adjust blood's minerals, electrolytes (such as Sodium and Potassium), and water to be kept within precise levels necessary to support normal physiology. Kidneys are curtail in balancing water and fluid levels, regulating blood pressure, eliminating waste, producing hormones, maintaining PH, and metabolising toxins and drugs. All of the blood in the body passes through kidneys several times a day.
Impairment in kidney function can be the potential cause of other systemic conditions, thus keeping good kidney health would be one of the important aspects of a living long and healthy life.
Kidneys' curtail functions
The main structure units of kidneys are called nephron. Each kidney contains about 1 million of these units. Nephrons act as filters which allow some minerals, certain small molecules and water pass while stop bigger molecules, proteins and blood cells. What has passed through the first phase of filtration, will get to the next part called renal tubules; here specialized cells re-absorb needed electrolytes and some water, while let go of the waste, remaining water, and electrolytes as urine to the collecting ducts and eventually to the bladder.
Healthy Kidneys maintain blood volume and optimal tissues hydration by retaining or excreting water and electrolytes. Dehydration triggers central nervous system to produce antidiuretic hormone signaling kidneys to retain water, on the other hand; high volume of water in the blood will stop production of this hormone so kidneys excrete the extra water.
Our body at all time requires to maintain very specific level of electrolytes and minerals including sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, calcium, and bicarbonate to maintain proper functions including but not limited to nerve signaling, muscle contractions, bone and skeletal strength, and variety of enzymatic reactions. Highly specialized cells in renal tubules are responsible to selectively absorb, excrete, or exchange electrolytes to keep proper balance of electrolytes in the blood.
Regulating blood pressure is also dependent on proper kidney function. Low blood pressure is detected by a group of specialized cells in kidneys and triggers them to produce a hormone called renin. Renin consequently promotes production of two other hormones, Angiotensin II which constricts blood vessels elevating blood pressure, and Aldosterone by Adrenal glands to encourage re-absorption of sodium and water increasing blood volume and pressure.
Kidneys are the final activating site for vitamin D. Vitamin D from food source or skin synthesis is biologically inactive. the active form of Vitamin D ( D3) is produced via two steps enzymatic conversion (hydroxylation) first in the liver and then in the kidneys. Most mammals are able to synthesize Vitamin D at the exposure of sufficient sunlight. D3 is hormone like vitamin playing a major role in regulating calcium and phosphorus concentration, promoting healthy growth, bone and teeth formation and strength, normal cell growth, neuromuscular activities, immune function , and reducing inflammation.
Kidneys are also involved in blood cell formation. Kidneys produce erythropoietin hormone which signals the bone marrow to produce red blood cells.
Kidneys filter and provide the ultimate excretion of other wastes, such as excess hormones, vitamins, toxins, and drug metabolites. Kidneys' Tubule cells contain many of the same detoxification enzymes as liver cells.
What can affect the health of the kidneys?
Cause number one to the kidney disease is diabetes regardless of being type 1 or type 2. High blood sugar naturally results in high level of sugar metabolites that are impacting the molecular shapes of proteins, lipids and nucleic acids; plus, exhibiting inflammatory and oxidative activities. These metabolites gradually damage the specialized cells of nephrons and nephrons' sensitive circulatory system just like other arteries and veins across the body. Studies support that minimizing the formation of these metabolites substantially will delay and reduce the kidney dysfunction and nephropathy.
Second most damaging cause to the kidney is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). High blood pressure damages blood vessels in the kidneys which compromises filtration process. At the same time the damaged kidneys become less and less capable of regulating blood pressure, and that further worsens the hypertension.
Metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and obesity are all are underlying causes of kidney disease. Metabolic syndrome consists of a combination of conditions that cause cardiovascular disease, kidney diseases as well as increased inflammation and oxidative effects. These conditions include obesity, high blood pressure, improper blood lipid profile (High LDL cholesterol, High triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol), insulin resistance, border line diabetes or high fast blood sugar. Statistical studies show that individuals with metabolic syndrome are as twice likely to develop kidney disease. Obesity is considered as an independent risk factor to the kidney disease regardless of presence of high blood pressure and diabetes. Kidney disease progress much rapidly in obese individuals, however studies suggest those damages might be reversible by weight loss.
Low thyroid function or Hypothyroidism also impacts the kidneys' function by lowering the kidney circulation and altering filtration of sodium. Hypothyroid cases without symptoms of hypothyroidism may benefit more from boosting their thyroid function.
Over active Adrenal and high cortisol level, also negatively impacts the kidneys. High cortisol level is associated with salt and water retention. This may interfere with high blood pressure treatment as well. High cortisol is shown to cause other urine abnormalities, and it may encourage kidney stone formation.
Gastrointestinal health plays an important role in maintaining healthy kidneys. Imbalance intestinal microflora (disbiosis) may cause an increase in the amount of uremic toxins. Such uremic toxins not only affect the kidneys, but also cause an increase in intestinal permeability so more toxins and allergens get through the blood, and initiate inflammation, allergies, immunity concerns, cardiovascular conditions and more. Population of Intestinal microflora adapts to the type of diet and food consumed. Higher fiber foods and alkaline diet will help to improve microbiom. Based on the studies Probiotics and prebiotics help with elimination of uremic toxins.
Certain medications such as anti inflammatory drugs, certain antibiotics, and chemotherapy are all impacting the health of kidneys. Acetaminophen is a widely used over the counter anti inflammatory medication which has been shown to damage the kidneys' filtration and blood vessels.
The agricultural toxins such as pesticides, toxic solvents, and some heavy metals including mercury, cadmium, and lead cause damage to the kidneys. This is particularly should be very important for those who work in such environments, often consume food with those contaminations, or suffer from kidney disease at some level.
Consuming foods that cause higher acidity metabolites in the blood can negatively impact the kidney's health. As mentioned earlier one of the important jobs of the kidneys is to maintain the blood PH level at the optimal range at all time. So kidneys must eliminate the those acidic metabolites and that over time cause damage to the kidneys. Taking alkaline foods from vegetable and fruits, or alkalizing formulas will help to reduce the acid load, and neutralize some of those acidic metabolites.
What can help to promote kidney health?
Adjusting to a diet low in fat, dairy, red meat, salt and sugar, limiting the protein intake while increasing plant base foods and vegetables are a few important factors for maintaining healthy kidney function. Limiting dietary sodium is one of the main keys in kidney related conditions.
Glucose, fructose and sucrose are highly damaging to the kidneys. Fructose also contributes to higher uric acid which compromise the kidneys. Based on studies those with diets high in saturated fats has lost more of their kidney function than those with low saturated fat diets. Mono-saturated fats promote healthier blood lipid profile, modulate blood pressure, and improve blood sugar.
Animal protein is richer in phosphorus which is not suitable for kidney health, however; taking moderate amount of calcium helps to increase the blood ratio of calcium to phosphorus reducing the negative impacts phosphorus. Animal protein is also results in high acidic metabolites that should be eliminated by kidneys.
Active form of vitamin B6, Pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (P5P), prevents the formation of sugar metabolites. Sugar metabolites as it was mentioned above cause damage to kidneys' circulation, and able to create inflammation and oxidative stress. P5P may help maintain kidney health in diabetics. In diabetic animal models, P5P administration reduced those end metabolites, protein loss from urine, tissue fibrosis of kidneys, and progression of diabetic kidney disease.
Benfotiamine (active fat soluble form of vitamin B1) is found to be able to block formation of sugar metabolites, and reduce the impacts of high blood sugar on kidneys, nerves, and eyes. Benfotiamine reduces the urine albumin(protein) and the toxic effects of drugs and chemotherapy on kidneys.
CoQ10 has shown to be beneficial for kidneys. CoQ10 modulates blood pressure. Results from different trails are indicative of supplementation with Coq10 at 100-120 mg daily within 4-12 weeks helped to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. 200 mg intake of CoQ10 in diabetic participant showed reduction in blood pressure and Hemoglobin A1c (Diabetes indicator). In other studies CoQ10 provided protective function for kidneys against toxins. Coq10 performs as an antioxidant and reduce the oxidative effects on the kidney tissue and participants showed mild reduction in Creatinine Clearance Rate.
In animal studies, administration of NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) helped reducing the kidney damage caused by heavy metal toxicity by improving the renal circulation and lowering the urine protein. In human studies patients undergoing haemodialysis were given 600mg of NAC twice daily for 12 weeks and showed significant reduction in their serum inflammatory markers. Other data suggest that NAC may be helpful in reducing the effects of chemo toxicity on kidneys.
Magnesium along with potassium citrate considered as urine alkalizers and used to prevent renal stone formation. Magnesium also helps to improve blood pressure. Magnesium deficiency is commonly observed in diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
L-Carnitine deficiency is a common condition for those under dialysis disturbing function of the heart muscle and other muscles which is often demonstrated as severe fatigue. Usually the intravenous L Carnitine is used to prevent its deficiency. Studies show intravenous or oral intake of L carnitine equally is beneficial, plus it reduces the blood inflammatory markers such as CRP as well as the LDL.
Kidneys convert vitamin D to its active form, so kidney disease can lead to vitamin D deficiency. In animal studies vitamin D showed protective effect on the kidneys by decreasing kidney inflammation, fibrosis, and cell death. In humans, vitamin D may reduce protein loss in urine and improve immune function.
Higher dosed of omega 3 essential fatty acids are found to be effective a in reducing blood pressure. Other evidence from patients with chronic kidney disease showed that omega-3 fatty acids could reduce the urine protein, reduce inflammation and serum triglycerides.
Improving population of intestinal micro flora has been proven to prevent formation of uremic toxins and promote their removal from the blood. Uremic toxins negatively impact kidney function, and cause kidney damage in chronic kidney disease.
Silymarin an active compound extracted from milk thistle exhibited a protective effect against renal toxicity by drugs, other toxins, and chemotherapy. Silymarin also found to be effective against the oxidative damage caused by high blood sugar in diabetes.
Variety of research suggest antioxidants such as resveratrol, green tea extract ( EGCG), curcumin, alpha lipoic acid, and vitamin E provide protection against oxidative damage caused by high blood sugar, improve renal circulation, reduce affects of toxins on kidneys (nephrotoxicity), and lower inflammatory markers.
What are the usual indicators of kidney conditions?
Early detection and treatment of kidney disease are the keys to delay or stop the its progression to the advanced stages. Some simple tests for kidneys are performed to detect any abnormality. It is especially important that people who have an increased risk for chronic kidney disease require these tests. You may have an increased risk for kidney disease if you are older, have diabetes, have high blood pressure, or have a family member who has chronic kidney disease.
If the kidneys' ability to filter the blood is seriously damaged by disease, wastes and excess fluid starts building up in the body. Although many forms of kidney disease do not exhibit symptoms until late in the course of the disease, there are some signs of kidney disease that should be taken seriously including; high blood pressure, abnormal kidney function indicators such as creatinine, urea, blood or protein in the urine, frequent urinary infection, painful urination, frequent urination, puffiness around the eyes and swelling of hands or feet.
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