The kidneys are one of the body’s critical filters, supporting water and fluid balance, blood pressure regulation, and waste elimination. Maintaining good kidney health is of the utmost importance if one’s goal is to live a long and healthy life.
Natural interventions like vitamin D, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and N-acetyl L-cysteine (NAC) help protect the kidneys.
Common Diseases of the Kidney
- Chronic kidney disease (most commonly caused by high blood pressure and diabetes)
- Acute kidney injury
- Kidney stones
Note: Most people do not think twice about taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). But overuse of these drugs can cause severe acute kidney injury or lead to progression of chronic kidney disease.
Factors that Compromise Kidney Health
- Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance
- High blood pressure (see note about telmisartan [Micardis])
- Dysbiosis (imbalance of good and bad intestinal microorganisms)
Note: Telmisartan is a unique drug for high blood pressure. Not only does it help reduce blood pressure, but it also activates peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR-γ), which helps regulate glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Additionally, telmisartan provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action in the kidneys.
Monitoring Kidney Health
Laboratory evaluation may be the only way that poor kidney function and disease can be discovered in their initial phases.
- Blood tests include:
- Glomerular filtration rate (GFR), the most important measure of kidney function and one that declines with age
- Creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN)
- Cystatin C, a more sensitive indicator of GFR than creatinine that Life Extension reported on nearly a decade ago
- Urine tests include:
- Urine output, osmolality, and specific gravity: designed to measure how much urine is made and how concentrated it is
- Urine protein, as the presence of elevated amounts in patients with diabetes, hypertension, or other diseases is a powerful predictor of chronic kidney disease progression
Dietary and Lifestyle Considerations
- Avoid or minimize the use of NSAIDs by using the lowest effective dose for the shortest period of time
- Eat a Mediterranean-style diet or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that is low in animal protein and high-glycemic carbohydrates, and high in vegetables, fruits, unsaturated fats, and fiber
- Increase dietary potassium and decrease dietary sodium
- Make sure to get enough vitamin D, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12
Note: Patients with advanced kidney disease should consult with their physician before making any dietary changes.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D may exert a protective effect on the kidneys. Clinical trials in chronic kidney disease patients who received vitamin D showed improved kidney and heart function.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in humans will decrease the prevalence of chronic kidney disease, as well as reduce blood pressure, excess protein in the urine, and inflammation and triglycerides in those with kidney disease.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): CoQ10 helps keep blood pressure levels healthy and decrease hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), both strong risk factors for kidney disease.
- Pre- and Probiotics: Improving the balance of bacteria and microorganisms in the digestive tract has shown promise in preventing formation and assisting removal of toxins that promote kidney disease from the blood. A trial of a combination of pre- and probiotics is currently underway in patients with moderate-to-severe chronic kidney disease.
- N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC): In a group of hemodialysis patients, NAC resulted in significant reductions in some serum markers of inflammation, possibly through an enhancement of renal glutathione.