What Is It?
Kidney disease is an umbrella term used for any dysfunction involving the kidneys. For ease of understanding, we are referring to any disease that causes a diminishment in kidney function, which is most. This diminished kidney function can also be called chronic kidney disease, diminished kidney reserve, kidney insufficiency, kidney failure (which technically is end-stage kidney disease), and renal failure.
Our focus is to provide a treatment program for those suffering from a loss of kidney function at any of the varying stages of kidney disease e.g. mild, moderate and severe kidney function loss (kidney failure). Our treatment plans will focus on ways to improve your overall quality of life (e.g. feeling of wellness and increased energy) even for those of you who are on dialysis or in need of a transplant.
Kidney failure (or stage 5 kidney disease) is when the kidneys are functioning at only 15% (or less) of their maximum potential. Kidney failure can be divided into two subcategories: acute kidney failure, which is sudden and normally a transient condition, and chronic kidney failure, which has developed slowly over time.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that are situated towards the back of the abdominal cavity, just above your waist. A trick to find them is to place your hands on your hips. Your kidneys are just below where your thumbs are located. Kidneys are bigger than most people realize. They are the size of your fists. On the other hand, for computer freaks, they are about the size of a conventional computer mouse.
Of course, this size varies between individuals, so the range is 10 to 13 cm (4 to 5 inches) long and about 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 inches) wide and about 3 cm (1inch) deep. A kidney weighs approximately 150 grams (5.28 ounces).
The kidneys are crucial to our survival and overall health, unlike some other organs that we can still survive without (e.g. the gallbladder and spleen), yet they are probably our most ignored organ. Kidneys provide the following functions and benefits for our body.
As a generalisation, the kidneys are your body’s ‘removal’ tool. They act as a filter to remove harmful substances such as
metabolic by-products, hormones, drugs, toxins, and water from the body via the blood. Once filtered, the resulting urine is taken via the ureters (thin tubes) and collected in the bladder, ready for urination.
Regulation is the way the body keeps itself in balance. With all the external and internal changes (e.g. foods, beverage consumption, external heat and cold, internal metabolic processes, drugs, etc.) that are being applied to the body, it needs to keep itself in balance (aka homeostasis). One of the ways in which the kidneys do this is by regulating the natural balance of chemicals (e.g. water, amino acids, glucose, fatty acids, salt, potassium, phosphorus, acid, and many other components) within the blood to cope with the varying demands and stressors. The kidneys separate what is necessary and what is not necessary to best aid the body. If this intricate balance is disturbed in any way – if the body is unable to self-adjust and regulate the changes – a disease process will initiate. The body is very particular about its blood composition; there it is not a large window for fluctuation. The body analyses and detects its status with mind-blowing accuracy. If anything is even just a smidgen out, the body will get the kidneys to clear it out, kind of like a bouncer at a dance club. The bouncer allows a
certain number of people in, and a certain type of people in. If the body (bouncer) is not happy with someone in the dance club… you guessed it… they get booted out.
Regulation occurs on many levels:
- Blood pH
- Blood pressure
- Excretion of wastes and toxins
- Reabsorption of glucose and amino acids
Did you know the kidneys also produce four hormones and a nutrient? Well, they do. One such hormone is erythropoietin (aka EPO), which stimulates the bone marrow to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Vitamin D, which is involved in the absorption of calcium in the intestines, is also produced in its most active form, Calcitriol. You will also find antidiuretic hormone Renin being generated by the kidneys.
Natural Ways To Support Chronic Kidney Disease
The best solution is to treat the one common denominator of kidney disease that is easily treatable via diet. This solution will literally (within hours) take off the load from your kidneys and help improve not only your kidney disease but also every other conceivable condition that you may have. That common denominator is ACIDITY. Acidosis (as it is also known) can be described as a disturbance of the acid-alkaline balance within the body (pH); this then creates an accumulation of excess acid in the tissues and the bloodstream, essentially suffocating your body. Alkaline diets are beneficial for diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular damage, weight gain, obesity, bladder conditions, kidney stones, immune deficiency, free radical damage, hormonal problems, premature aging, gout, osteoporosis, joint pain, aching muscles, lactic acid build-up, low energy and chronic fatigue, slow digestion, headaches and, of course, kidney disease!
The body sometimes forgets what to do and needs a helping hand. Herbal medicine can retrain the body and facilitate natural bodily processes. Therefore in disease, when the body completely shuts down or becomes confused, herbal medicine might be the answer. Herbal medicine is used in treatments the world over (in fact, herbal medicine is the most widely used form of medicine today). In many cases, it provides the same degree of therapeutic value as drugs (if not better), with virtually no side effects. Herbal medicine and I am stating the obvious, is of course natural, growing everywhere, every day. Herbal medicine is so powerful that it is estimated that 30% of the drugs out on the market today are based on natural substances found within plants! There are thousands of herbal remedies indicated in the health and support of the kidneys. By identifying your individual drivers of Kidney Disease, Emily & Fiona can choose the right herbal remedies to nourish and support healthy kidney function.
Nutrition can be seen as the core building blocks of life. It is quite logical when you think about it. If we take a step back and assess what we are, we will realise that we are essentially a trillion cells neatly packed together. A cell is primarily made up of fat, protein, water, carbohydrates, cholesterol (yes, cholesterol is good for us too) and sprinklings of vitamins and minerals. As they say, “You are what you eat”. Therefore, it is necessary to consume a vast, broad and diversified diet rich in natural organic compounds (i.e. vitamins & minerals) found in fruit and vegetables each day. No one vitamin or mineral has the answer. Health is complete; health is holistic, not one mineral taken on its own. There are hundreds of scientific articles pointing to specific nutrients that nourish and support healthy kidney function. It is with this knowledge and through treating the cause of your kidney disease that we can tailor the right nutritional support for you as an individual.
When you are diagnosed with a chronic disease it is easy to feel that all you want to do is hide away from the world and not interact with it. But there are so many amazing things that exercises does for us, including, reduces inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, reducing blood pressure, improves cholesterol status, and recent studies have shown that exercise was associated with lower rises of renal function decline and the development of CKD as well as decreasing overall mortality associated with kidney disease.
Signs & Symptoms of Kidney Disease
- High blood pressure
- Decrease in mental function and possibly coma
- Fluid retention/swelling
- High acidity in the body (metabolic acidosis) due to the inability of the body to produce bicarbonate. This will change oxygen and enzyme metabolism, leading to organ failure.
- High potassium levels in the blood (hyperkalemia): is related to heart arrhythmias.
- High urea levels in the blood (uremia): can affect brain health, increase tissue inflammation and reduce muscular function
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Abnormally dark or light skin
- Blood in the vomit or stools
- Breath odour
- Decreased alertness, including drowsiness, delirium
- Decreased sensation in the hands, feet, or other areas
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Excessive night-time urination
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent hiccups
- General ill feeling
- Generalized itching (pruritus)
- Increased or decreased urine output
- Muscle twitching or cramps
- Nail abnormalities
- Unintentional weight loss
- White crystals in and on the skin
- Abdominal pain
- Body swelling
- Decreased urine production
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Nausea, vomiting
- Problems concentrating
- Seizures and coma may occur in very severe acute kidney failure
How Would I Get Kidney Disease?
- Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney disease, present in a staggering 43.8% of all cases!
- High Blood Pressure is the second leading cause of Chronic Kidney Disease
- Glomerulonephritis – inflammation of the kidney tissue
- Viral Infections
- Goodpasture’s syndrome:
- Alport’s Syndrome: an inherited condition that affects the DNA coding of collagen and protein structures within the kidneys, eyes, and ears, causing inflammation.
- Auto-immune diseases e.g. Lupus,
- Connective tissue disease: This is a group of diseases that cause damage to connective tissue, such as fat, bone and cartilage.
- Pharmaceutical drugs: NSAIDs, analgesics, antibiotics, gout medications, diuretics.
- Exposure to hydrocarbon solvents
- Genetics: Several forms of kidney disease have a genetic link, including polycystic kidney disease, Alport’s syndrome and FSGS.
- Heavy metals: This form of injury can be acute, but is often seen as causing chronic damage from long-term exposure, such as to workplace or environmental toxins.
- Infections, particularly strep. Post streptococcus glomerulonephritis is a form of kidney damage that occurs after infection with streptococcus bacteria.
- Kidney stones
- Liver cirrhosis: This can cause kidney damage directly, but also commonly leads to Type II Diabetes, which is the leading cause of kidney damage.
- Oxalate deposits: Oxalates are naturally occurring substances found in many foods.
- Polycystic Kidney Disease: PKD is a condition where multiple cysts form in the kidneys, which disrupt the structure of the filtering units, leading to a decrease in kidney function.
- Prostate Disease
- Reflux nephropathy: Backflow of urine into the kidneys causes damage over time, which can eventually lead to scarring of the kidneys and kidney disease.
Pathology Testing & Kidney Disease
- Creatinine and urea (BUN) in the blood
- Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) – The GFR is the benchmark test to assess kidney disease. The rate for a typical healthy male ranges between 90-125 ml/min, and for an average healthy female, it’s between 90-115 ml/min. As kidney disease advances, GFR falls below 90 and continues to fall.
- Estimated GFR (eGFR) – The estimated GFR is worked out by your doctor from the results gained by analysing your blood.
- Electrolyte levels
- Blood pH
- Iron Studies
Kidney Disease Treatment
How Can Emily Help Me If I Have Kidney Disease?
Emily works with clients at all stages of kidney disease no matter the cause. Treatment and treatment priorities will change depending on where you are in your diagnosis and the stage of kidney disease that you have. Using research-informed recommendations, the primary goals are to:
- Reduce inflammation and oxidative damage to the kidneys
- Treat the driver and cause of kidney disease such as diabetes and heart disease
- Enhance the efficacy and outcomes of conventional treatment
- Support your overall health and wellbeing
- Support the healthy function of the kidneys
- Improve the health and quality of kidney cells
Find out more about The Kidney Disease Solution by heading over to www.kidneycoach.com or jump onto our YouTube Channel and listen to Emily & Fiona talk about all things, Kidney.
The Kidney Disease Solution – By Duncan Capicchiano & Fiona Chin
A step by step guide to overcoming Kidney disease
Moonface – A story about love, kidney transplants and live with dialysis
Resilience – Alonzo’s story of his journey with kidney disease
Chronically Happy – Lori Hartwell shares her remarkable story and introduces the principles she’s relied on to thrive while living with a chronic disease.