Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

March 5, 2017 | Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

Send to a friend

* Required fields

  or  Cancel

Keep Your Kidneys Healthy
Our body has a very sophisticated trash collector and hormone factory system found within our kidneys. These two remarkable bean-shaped organs work daily to diligently purify about 200 quarts of blood to remove nearly two quarts of waste products and water. They also make several different hormones. Kidney function is amazing, yet often little thought is given to keep these organs healthy until something goes wrong. Kidneys require some basic TLC and certain nutrients to keep them working effectively. Don’t wait for kidney problems to develop before you think about their health.

[Jump to: Nutritional Options]

Kidney Basics

Each kidney is comprised of about one million nephrons. Nephrons are microscopic filters that cleanse the blood. They also produce or affect several hormones such as aldosterone, renin, atrial natriuretic peptide, erythropoietin, parathyroid, norepinephrine, and argipressin. It is estimated that one can lose up to 90% of kidney function from nephron damage without experiencing significant symptoms. But, by the time symptoms are showing, the damage is done and often irreversible. It is projected that over 26 million American adults have chronic kidney disease and most are unaware of their issue.

Symptoms of kidney stress may include fatigue, trouble concentrating, and weakness and even sleep problems from toxins building up in the blood. Kidney disease can cause anemia, dry, itchy skin, increased urination, blood in the urine, swollen ankles and feet, poor appetite, muscle cramps, persistent puffiness around the eyes, and even foamy urine. Lab tests like GFR, creatinine, BUN levels, and urinalysis may be used to evaluate essential kidney function.

Kidney Daily Needs

When it comes to the question of how to support kidney health, several thoughts pertaining to fundamentals come to mind. Basic needs include hydration, keeping the body alkaline, and exercise. Ensuring adequate antioxidant status is also important for protecting the kidneys. These common-sense principles are essential for general health, and play a profound role in maintaining effective kidney function.


Good hydration is required for kidneys to flush out toxins. Without this single element, kidney nephron function becomes stressed and injured and results in magnified toxin effects. Dehydration can even lead to acute and chronic kidney disease. Chronic mild dehydration is now considered a risk factor for the progression of all types of chronic kidney disease. The general rule for water intake is eight - 8 ounce glasses or 8 x 8 or about two liters per day. Those who limit water intake because of bladder concerns or are elderly, or consume high amounts soft drinks or other caffeinated beverages are at a greater risk for dehydration. Individual needs also vary based on exercise, sweating, environmental temperature, breast-feeding, and illness. If you have severe kidney failure, work with your medical provider to determine your needs.

Alkaline Diet

Acid waste products stress the kidneys like road salt that creates rust on a car. Acid forming foods include common western diet staples such as white flour, white sugar, wheat, beef, pork, shellfish, dairy products, beer, soft drinks, cottonseed oil, fried foods, soy, cocoa, and peanuts. Excess intake of protein may affect this balance too; however, a diet rich in magnesium and antioxidants from richly colored fruits and vegetables buffers the acidic effect of protein. If your diet lacks the recommended 5-13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, then acid waste build-up occurs and can silently erode health similar to lactic acid build-up with exercise intolerance or poor fitness.


Physical activity and exercise is another essential element of kidney health. Research shows that better muscle fitness is protective to the kidneys and reduces morbidity and mortality in chronic kidney disease patients. Kidney disease worsens with loss of physical activity and muscle mass. Exercise offsets the progression of kidney disease that leads to other co-morbid disorders like heart disease.

Higher Risk Populations

Certain groups of individuals need to be more proactive in strategies to protect the kidneys. Individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at especially high risk for kidney damage. It is estimated that 1 in 4 individuals with diabetes has kidney disease. Obesity, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease also increase the oxidative stress effect on kidneys, which leads to chronic kidney disease.

Premature birth, especially when born earlier than 37 weeks, affects kidney health. A full-term pregnancy of 38-42 weeks allows full development of the kidneys in the infant. An average infant can have one million nephrons per kidney, whereas a premature infant may only have 500,000. Children born prematurely also have a higher likelihood of chronic low grade kidney disease and hypertension as an adult.

The kidneys are high energy organs, rich in mitochondria. Genetic mitochondrial disorders and acquired mitochondrial dysfunction plays a profound role in the development of kidney disease. Drugs that are toxic to mitochondria may markedly increase the risk for kidney injury and damage. Drugs noted as particularly harmful to kidney mitochondria include barbiturates/Phenobarbital, biguanides/Metformin, glucocorticoids/Prednisone, and cholesterol lowering statins.

Tocotrienols Rescue Kidneys from Mitochondria and Cholesterol Stress

Beyond the basic needs of hydration, alkaline diet, and exercise, several nutrients protect the kidneys from stress and toxins. Tocotrienols, a powerful form of vitamin E, are especially beneficial for kidney health. Traditionally used for heart, blood pressure, and cholesterol support, they also provide powerful protection for nephrons and mitochondria in the kidneys. Tocotrienols block the production of highly damaging ROS free radicals that injure the delicate parts of the kidneys and prevent kidney cells from breaking apart and dying under stress. This antioxidant prevented further damage to kidney mitochondria and helped kidney tissue maintain energy and function even when injured.

If we look at patients with chronic kidney disease, there is often a struggle with heart disease and high cholesterol. It is often a two-way street with heart disease causing chronic kidney disease and vice versa. Animal studies show that tocotrienols can prevent chronic kidney disease caused by cholesterol concerns. Other research shows that tocotrienols can help patients who are on dialysis achieve a healthy total cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL levels much better than those who did not use the vitamin E. Any of these findings are noteworthy, but clearly tocotrienols offer remarkable full-spectrum kidney protection.

Quality Calcium Reduces Risk of Kidney Stones

Caused by stress to the kidneys, kidney stones are another preventable concern. Those who consume high amounts of spinach, especially in green drinks, may be at higher risk of kidney stones. Spinach is a food rich in oxalates, and when consumed regularly or in large amounts, oxalates can build up and lead to the development of kidney stones. Recent research demonstrates that high quality calcium consumed at the same time as the spinach safely reduced the risk of oxalate kidney stone formation. Calcium bound the oxalates and prevented them from being absorbed.

Protection for Kidney Mitochondria

Kidneys are a high energy tissue and are rich in mitochondria, which makes them vulnerable to stress. Protection of kidney mitochondria is essential to help preserve kidney function, especially if you are in the one or more of the higher risk groups listed above. Coenzyme Q10, resveratrol, NAC, and omega-3 oils DHA and EPA, and glutathione are recognized as agents for potential treatments of kidney disease caused by mitochondrial injury. Cholesterol lowering statin drugs adversely affect kidneys, as they deplete the critical nutrient coenzyme Q10. Coenzyme Q10 is critical for mitochondria throughout the body, especially the heart and kidneys. To help offset and protect against statin drug injury, consider using at least 200 mg of coenzyme Q10 and 400 mg of resveratrol per day.

Protection for Diabetic Kidney Stress

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure and need for dialysis. Several nutrients may help protect against the ravages of elevated blood sugar damage and inflammation. In this case, an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure. Lipoic Acid, carnosine, tocotrienols, coenzyme Q10, grape seed extract, and curcumin are excellent choices for kidney health. Curcumin may provide promising treatment for diabetic kidney damage. A recent study showed the curcumin used in diabetic mice blocked the effects of several damaging inflammatory compounds that normally scar kidney tissue. Curcumin use reduced kidney swelling and diminished the loss of protein in the urine. Protein in urine is a hallmark of diabetic kidney damage. When that occurs, it is usually followed by progressive loss of kidney function. In this diabetic animal study, curcumin lessened protein loss, which was a very positive sign of kidney protection.

Chronic kidney disease is on the rise, and we all need to be aware of the risks and needed daily support. Individuals with diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, or those who were born prematurely have higher demands placed on kidney function and need to be especially vigilant A quality alkalizing diet, exercise, hydration, and adequate antioxidants are all basics that should be part of our daily routine. Daily struggle with fatigue, fluid retention, and brain fog from mild kidney stress are difficult enough, let alone kidney dialysis because of kidney failure. Just like our eyes, teeth, joints, heart, brain, skin, gut, etc., kidneys need ongoing support. March is National Kidney Month. Have you given your kidneys some TLC today?

Nutritional Options

Tocotrienols: This super form of vitamin E provides great antioxidant protection. It is about 70 times more potent than tocopherols. The benefits of tocotrienols are far reaching. Research shows benefit for heart, brain, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Now include kidney support.

Calcium: High quality calcium, not low quality forms like calcium carbonate, was found to bind onto kidney stone forming oxalates. Using calcium forms like MCHC or coral calcium may help reduce the formation of painful kidney stones. Calcium may not have been thought of for kidney health, but add that to your arsenal of support when consuming oxalate-rich foods. It also helps keep our tissues alkaline.

Curcumin: Curcumin is one of the most prized antioxidants in nutrition today. It positively affects blood sugar, heart disease, blood pressure, mitochondria, exercise ability, and obesity and helps alkalize the body which affect kidney stress. This super spice provides natural, powerful antioxidant benefits and reduces inflammatory stress to the kidneys and throughout the body.

Lipoic Acid: This antioxidant provides critical protection against elevated blood sugar that affects delicate tissues like the kidney nephrons and nerves. Lipoic acid also helps protect mitochondria from injury and stress. Lipoic acid also helps make energy and helps detoxify toxins.

Carnosine: Carnosine is an amino acid that helps protect against the effects of elevated blood sugar. It works synergistically with other nutrients like lipoic acid to protect kidney cells from stress and inflammation.

Search thousands of health news articles!