Is dialysis something you envision in your future?
Kidney disease and dialysis are not what you are thinking about as you go about your life in your 20’s and 30’s or ever… until you have a problem. Because of the high toxic load we are experiencing today, 30- 50% of our kidneys’ function is lost by age 90. The development of kidney disease over time can also explain why almost everyone becomes sicker with age.
The kidneys filter toxins from the blood. When kidneys are overloaded and malfunction, toxins remain in circulation and damage tissues throughout the body.
We understand now, better than ever before, how we can avoid kidney damage by making better choices. We can get the most immediate benefit from avoiding toxins such as phosphates, excessive salt, and drugs such as NSAIDs. (1)
The leading causes of kidney malfunction are poor blood flow, reduced water intake, and excessive toxic load. We can improve our kidneys function by regularly drinking enough water, sweating (!), and including certain foods and herbs which protect from inflammation, oxidative stress, obstructed microcirculation, and help detoxify.
Kidneys are damaged by:
- Inadequate blood flow
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Overload by high total level of toxins
- Indirectly by toxins that cause general tissue damage
- Directly by toxins that are specifically harmful to kidney tissue.
Choices you can make to reduce kidney damage are
- Drink more water.
- Aggressively reduce exposure to nephrotoxins:
- Reduce using toxic drugs such as NSAIDS.
- Avoid nonorganic GMO foods.
- Reduce excessive salt and phosphates in foods.
- Avoid nephrotoxic heavy metals such as cadmium from smoking (2) and conventionally grown foods.
- Avoid cooking with Teflon and other coated cookware (3)
- Increase microcirculation to kidneys - choose foods and herbs that help
- Protect from oxidative stress by avoiding toxins and eating healthful foods.
Herbs and foods that have been shown to be helpful are:
1. Beetroot, Gotu kola, (a Chinese herb used traditionally to treat kidney disease) and chocolate all help improve microcirculation, as do melons and garlic.
2. Blueberries help protect from oxidative stress and gut-derived endotoxins (4), (Something you’ll hear more about)
3. Gingko also improves blood flow and protects against endotoxins, glyphosate (5), heavy metals (6), and chemical toxins.
4. Ginger helps protect from many toxins, oxidative stress and in ‘epigenetic downregulation of pro-inflammatory genes.’
The causes of kidney damage are apparent: toxins from the environment, from within, and by choice. Nutritional and botanical medicines have been shown to protect kidneys from damage and at least partially restore function. As more human studies are done, the results will be clearer.
All of this provides yet another reason to make better life choices, including eating clean organically grown foods, and actively ensuring that the environment we live in is safe for ourselves and our children’s children’s children.
(1) NSAIDS - known to cause irreversible analgesic nephropathy, Most Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were available only by prescription initially. When their patents ran out, they were made available over the counter! Safety studies undertaken during research and development of these drugs were very short term, and now the toxic effects are showing up in population studies. Chronic consumption, greater than 3 years, causes typically irreversible analgesic nephropathy, yet stopping NSAIDS can improve function in patients with kidney failure.
(2) Smoking: Cadmium toxicity as well as nicotine. Nicotine constricts blood vessels and decreases glomerular filtration and also increases reactive oxygen species and fibrosis.
3. Phosphates and sodium. Phosphates damage the tubules, increasing fibrosis, and disrupt hormonal regulation of minerals and Vitamin D. “Hidden” phosphates are found in many processed foods. Sodium was not as readily available in our diets as our bodies evolved, and now the excess impairs our ability to eliminate other toxins.
(4) Toxins from the gut called endotoxins, contribute to the toxic load for kidneys to filter.
5. Persistent Organic pollutants – POPs are new-to-nature molecules specifically designed for special purposes and difficult to break down. Ranging from herbicides to non-stick coatings and fire retardants, they are mostly fat soluble and they damage kidneys.
Proportional sources of POPs: food (70%), water (10%), house and yard chemicals (10%), air (5%) and health and beauty aids (5%
POP’s have half-lives measured in months to years, thus they are difficult to detoxify or excrete, and remain in our kidneys for years.
Examples of POP’s are :
1. (3) Fluorinated Hydrocarbons – used in Teflon, waterproof clothing, carpet stain prevention. When heated to high temperatures on a stove, they emit toxic gasses. Work commissioned by the Environmental Working Group shows that within 2 minutes on a hot stove, the nonstick coatings start to release toxic gasses. These damage kidneys by passive diffusion into tubules where they poison mitochondria, the energy-producing part of the cell, resulting in inadequate energy production so that excretion is impaired, oxidative stress increases and eventual cell death.
2. (5) Glyphosate – herbicide (Roundup) that causes kidney damage at very low dosage. Its increase in our bodies is because of presence in water and soil. The European standard for water contamination is 0.1 PPB, in the US, EPA standard is 700 PPB. The recent increase in glyphosate is because GMO foods are specifically modified to be resistant to glyphosate, so more is sprayed on the food we eat. It ends up in food, water, and breast milk.
(6). Heavy Metals
Cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, platinum, and uranium are heavy metals that damage the kidneys directly.
One of the most dangerous toxins is Cadmium. Cadmium has a ½ life of more than 10 years. Which means in 5 years, ½ of any cadmium exposure remains in the body. Cadmium binds to metallothioneins, substances supposed to detoxify them. These are then cleared through the kidney’s glomeruli, but are reabsorbed through tubules where the cadmium becomes stuck. As these tubules slowly degrade, cadmium is released causing oxidative stress to the tubules.
Cadmium damage prevents the kidneys’ activating vitamin D and so contributes to 20% of osteoporosis. Besides being unable to excrete toxins, the kidneys are less able to perform their other functions.
The main sources of cadmium are cigarette smoking and soybeans grown conventionally with high phosphate fertilizers contaminated with cadmium.
Sweating helps excrete cadmium through the skin.
Mercury is another heavy metal that builds up in the kidneys. Within hours of exposure, 50% of mercury in the blood ends up in the kidneys, damaging both glomeruli and tubules. The primary sources are silver fillings and large fish.
Condensed notes from:
The Kidney Dysfunction Epidemic, Part 1& 2 : causes by Joe Pizzorno, ND, Editor in Chief. Integrative Medicine, Vol. 14, No. 6. December 2015, and Vol 15, No 1. February 2016