Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): Probiotics Are a Missing Key

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a global problem. When I started researching kidney disease and probiotics, I was delighted to see that the second tab on the National Kidney Foundation’s website, after the Home tab, was a Prevention tab. Prevention is what I’m all about, in my personal life, in my nutrition practice and on the website. However, I was sad to see that an important key in kidney health was missing on that tab.

What I found out when I clicked on that Prevention tab was disheartening. One in 3 American adults is at risk for kidney disease. Worldwide, 10% of the population is affected by chronic kidney disease (CKD). In people aged 65 through 74 worldwide, it is estimated that 20% of men and 25% of women have CKD. Estimates from the UK’s National Kidney Federation are even gloomier for people over 75 years of age with CKD present in 50%.

Dialysis, a procedure to filter toxins out of the blood when the kidneys are unable to do it, and kidney replacement, are expensive and not without risks. Even in countries we may not routinely hear about, such as in Uruguay, the annual cost of dialysis is 30% of the budget of the National Resources Fund for specialized therapies.

It is worth our while as individuals as well as countries to do what we can to prevent chronic kidney disease and to care for, not destroy, our kidneys. Ways to do that are presented at the end of this article.

What the Kidneys Do and Why They Are So Important?

Your kidneys are bean-shaped organs located in your abdomen in your lower mid-back. They are very important because they have 3 main, critical functions in the body:

  1. Secretory (hormonal for vitamin D activation, red blood cell production, blood pressure regulation, and the production of other local and systemic hormones)
  2. Regulatory (water/electrolyte balance)
  3. Excretory (blood filtration of toxins and wastes and urine elimination)

Based on these 3 functions, some of the problems chronic kidney disease can cause are:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Weak bones
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Anemia or low red blood cell count
  • Kidney failure (end-stage renal disease, or ESRD)
  • Death

A decrease in kidney function affects every part of the body.

Definition of Chronic Kidney Disease, Risk Factors and Early Signs

To read about how chronic kidney disease is assessed, what the risk factors are and what the early signs are, please see this page.

What Are Ways to Care for the Kidneys?

Chronic kidney disease treatment typically focuses on reducing the toxic burden on the kidneys. A low-protein diet is often recommended. Sometimes amino or keto acid supplements in the place of food proteins or a special form of activated charcoal to absorb toxins are recommended. These measures lessen the toxic load the kidneys need to filter. Drugs are often prescribed to address confounding factors in CKD. There is still a missing component.

Ways to care for your kidneys and possibly prevent chronic kidney disease are similar to ways to prevent other chronic health conditions. Some of these listed by reputable medical institutions include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Maintain blood sugar control
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure level
  • Stay hydrated with water
  • Take care of your heart and cardiovascular risk factors
  • Eat a “healthy diet”
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol
  • Avoid unnecessary medications listed previously, especially over-the-counter ones such as aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen

What is missing from most treatment and prevention strategies from most trusted sources is to maintain a balanced microbiota.  Probiotics are a key part of kidney health because they can do what typical treatment and prevention strategies cannot. Stool analysis studies show that patients with kidney problems frequently show an imbalance in microbes in both the small intestine as well as the colon. Probiotics and beneficial microbes in fermented foods and drinks and targeted probiotic supplements have the capabilities to balance the microbiota to not only reduce the toxic load that the kidneys have to filter, but ALSO to lessen the amount of kidney-damaging inflammatory molecules caused by pathogens.

A 2019 study using a model of cisplatin-induced CKD in Lanyu pigs showed that Lactobacillus plantarum subsp. plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei subsp. paracasei, and Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus prevented renal injury. The probiotics led to decreased inflammation and kidney cell death, with lower incidences of lesions, including atrophy, mononuclear inflammation, cell infiltration, and interstitial fibrosis in renal tubules.

I can help you work towards a balanced microbiota to reduce your kidneys’ toxic load as well as protect them from inflammatory molecules through nutritional consultations.

One of the probiotic supplements that has research specifically for helping to lessen the toxic load on the kidneys in humans and animals is Renadyl. Read my review of Renadyl and what the research shows on this page. Renadyl contains unmodified probiotics, unlike products in the near-future which contain genetically-modified bacteria based on studies such as this one.

Don't ignore what your gut microbiota may be doing to your kidneys.

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