NATURAL TREATMENT OF KIDNEY DISEASE- PART 1
Kidney disease is quite common in the United States population as well as many other countries, especially among people with diabetes. It is one of the essential organs of the body, the kidneys play a crucial role in maintaining good health. They are subject to various diseases, perhaps because their kidneys account for about a fourth of the blood supply put out by the heart each minute. Kidney disease comes in various flavors. Acute kidney injury, kidney stones, kidney infections, tumors and cancers of the kidney. But the most widespread kidney disease of them all is chronic kidney disease or CKD.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) has been defined as “abnormalities of kidney function or structure present for more than 3 months, with implications for health.” Chronic kidney disease is both common and serious. In fact, more than 35% of people aged 20 years or older with diabetes have chronic kidney disease. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure accounting for about 44% of new cases.
Hypertension is the second leading cause of CKD. The prevalence (number of people who carry the diagnosis at any point in time) of hypertension is very high. In the United States, the prevalence of hypertension among adults 20 years and older is about 33.5%. In other words, about a third of the US population are believed to have various degrees of hypertension.
Kidney function declines naturally with age. Thus, the older you grow, the greater the decline in your kidney function. This reduction is regardless of whether the person has CKD or conditions that make them prone to CKD. This rate of decline is said to be about 1 ml/min/year. This refers to the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) which is measured in ml/min/1.73 meter squared.
Given how common diabetes and hypertension are, it is no surprise that chronic kidney disease is also very common. Chronic kidney disease has been called an “epidemic” in recent times. In addition, CKD often goes undiagnosed for years because there are often no symptoms. Here is a little known fact; one can lose up to 70-75% of kidney function before any symptoms appear. Chronic kidney disease is, therefore, usually diagnosed on routine blood work in people without symptoms.
What is the treatment for CKD?
The tragic thing about CKD is that conventional medicine does not have any cure for it. In addition, most of the available treatments are not very effective. That is probably why more and more people are trying to find ways to treat kidney disease naturally. After they are diagnosed with CKD, many people are asking: can I improve my kidney function? Others are asking: can I improve my kidney function naturally? People are asking these questions because they have heard from their doctor that CKD has no cure. I believe that you and I can improve CKD using natural methods and remedies.
Even though there is a surge of interest in improving kidney function naturally, it is not easy to obtain accurate and reliable information on such natural remedies for kidney disease in general and CKD in particular. For those who have decided to research into how to treat kidney disease naturally, it is important to find information from an authoritative source. At Natural Medicine Ninja, our goal is to be that authoritative source.
Can You Really Improve Kidney Function?
This is a question many have asked and continue to ask. There is general scientific and medical consensus that you can improve kidney function in those who suffer from ‘acute kidney injury’ (AKI). This means that if there is any insult (reduced blood flow, infection, trauma etc) to the kidneys that results in a decline in kidney function, that function can improve if the insult lasts less than 3 months. Such a recovery may be full or partial. This improvement in kidney function may be manifested as a better urine output. It can also show up as improved laboratory markers of kidney function such as serum creatinine or blood urea nitrogen (BUN).
In the case of chronic kidney disease, the consensus is the opposite. Most experts believe that you cannot improve kidney function in someone with CKD, when the underlying cause of CKD has been there for more than 3 months. However, most of the same experts agree that you can ‘slow down the progression’ of CKD by various means. This can lead to an improvement in creatinine levels. These methods include taking certain medications such as angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). There are also non-drug methods including diet and simple remedies such as baking soda. In a previous post, I made the case that there are simple natural remedies for CKD.
How to treat Chronic Kidney Disease With Baking Soda
Baking soda has been used for various conditions for many centuries. As far back as 3500 BC it was used as a cleaning agent by the ancient Egyptians and to make mummies! In modern times it has been used for baking and also still for cleaning purposes. The use of baking soda was popularized after the Arm & Hammer brand was created in 1846.
Baking soda remains popular as a cleaning agent and is found in toothpaste, deodorants and detergents. But there are medical uses of baking soda. The most common medical use of baking soda is for heartburn. But our main goal in this post is to explore ways of treating kidney disease with baking soda.
Sodium bicarbonate is the only ingredient in baking soda. As such baking soda should not be confused with baking powder which has only about 25% baking soda and 75% acid and cornstarch. When using baking soda to treat kidney disease naturally, it is crucial to ensure that the product being used is pure baking soda.
The reason why baking soda is effective in the treatment of chronic kidney disease is because of its alkalinity. Therefore, any acid or cornstarch mixed with baking soda is likely to render it ineffective. I will be using baking soda and sodium bicarbonate interchangeably in the rest of the blog up.
BAKING SODA AND CKD
How and Why does Baking Soda improve kidney function?
How and why can a compound as simple and available as baking soda improve kidney function? The utility of baking soda lies almost exclusively in the fact that it makes the body more alkaline. Or to put it in another way- baking soda makes the body less acidic. It is a physiologic fact that the body operates ideally within a pH of 7.35 to 7.45.
What is pH? It stands for “potenz (German for power or potential) of Hydrogen” and measures the acidity or alkalinity of a solution on a logarithmic scale. Another way to measure the body’s acidity and alkalinity is to assess the concentration of bicarbonate in venous blood. This is known as serum CO2 level and a normal range is 22-28 mEq/L depending on the particular laboratory.
The pH is a complicated mathematical concept. But the important things to note are the following: the pH scale goes from 1 to 14 and pH 7 is neutral. A pH of 1 is highly acidic and a pH of 14 is highly alkaline. The body works best/ideally at a pH range from 7.35-7.45. The reason is that most of the enzymes in the body work best in this range of pH.
It follows that things that make the body alkaline tend to be better for the body and acid-producing agents/foods are likely to make the body less healthy or more sick. In fact, it has been said that: ‘an acidic body is a sick body’. This usually goes for most of the organs of the body. The exception is the stomach which needs a very acidic milieu to enable digestion.
The reason why sodium bicarbonate therapy is so effective in making kidney function better also has to do with the important role the kidneys play in regulating body acid. The majority of the alkali/base produced in the body is done in the pancreas. The exocrine pancreas produces sodium bicarbonate that is transported to the first part of the duodenum mostly to neutralize the acidic contents coming from the stomach during digestion.
But the kidneys play a crucial role in the regulation of acid-base balance. The kidneys regulate the hydrogen ion concentration (acidity) of the blood, and hence of the tissues, in two ways. These are the reabsorption of bicarbonate which has been filtered, and the generation of new bicarbonate.
Can I improve kidney function with baking soda? The Evidence.
I will not be going into detailed physiology of how the kidneys regulate acid/base balance. But it is important to point out that metabolic acidosis in patients with CKD has been found to be associated with increased mortality. And correction or prevention of acidosis has a demonstrable survival benefit. For those who are unfortunate to have CKD, if taking baking soda can help improve kidney function and make you live longer, why would you not take it?
In a study of 1240 patients with various stages of CKD those with serum CO2 below 22 had the highest mortality. Those with serum CO2 between 26 and 29 had the lowest mortality. Interestingly, those with a high CO2 level >29 had high mortality like the ones with CO2 below 22. Similar results were obtained in a large Cleveland Clinic study involving 41749 patients. The researchers found that all causes of mortality in those patients with CKD stage 3 and stage 4 without diabetes was highest in those with serum CO2 <23 and > 32 and lowest in those with CO2 between 23 and 32.
What these two studies demonstrated is that those patients with CKD who treat or prevent metabolic acidosis by taking sodium bicarbonate are less likely to die from all causes.
Other researchers have shown that taking sodium bicarbonate can slow down the progression of CKD and even improve nutritional status. Others also have found that correcting metabolic acidosis with bicarbonate improves bone metabolism. This is important because people with metabolic acidosis, even without CKD are more prone to osteoporosis.
Several more studies could be cited to demonstrate the efficacy of sodium bicarbonate but this post is already long so I will urge the reader who wants to read more on the evidence to do a simple search of the literature. My goal for citing the scientific and medical literature is to dispel any notion that the effectiveness of baking soda as a treatment for kidney disease is based just on anecdotes. In fact, sodium bicarbonate is prescribed in conventional medicine for many patients with CKD.
In this post about how to treat kidney disease naturally I have made a case that you can improve kidney function with baking soda. I have provided the physiologic basis for this salutary effect and given quoted some medical and scientific studies in support. I am sure there are questions like: how much baking soda can I take? What are the possible side effects of taking baking soda?
As you may have inferred, you can have too much baking soda. If you do, you may develop metabolic alkalosis. This means your blood can be too alkaline and you may suffer side effects related to that. A safe dose would be 1/2 teaspoonful to 1 teaspoonful mixed in about 8 ounces of water twice a day. It is strongly advised that you get your medical provider to check your blood regularly to make sure you are not developing metabolic alkalosis.
The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and not meant to treat or prevent any disease. Please consult your own medical doctor or provider for specific diagnoses or treatments.
In subsequent posts I will tell you how to improve kidney function, reduce your serum creatinine and improve your kidney function using natural remedies.
Until next time, this is the Natural Medicine Ninja signing off. ADIOS!
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