Kidney disorders

General characteristics

General characteristics

Kidney disease is a generalised term which encompasses any damage or disease condition which results in an under functioning of the kidney/s.
There are many causes and health conditions that lead to kidney disease, the most common being high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, genetic tendencies, infection and certain medications.
Kidneys can suffer silently for many years without producing symptoms of disease (chronic kidney disease) as a result of high blood pressure for example or can flare up quite rapidly and produce noticeable symptoms (acute kidney disease) as in an infection. Chronic kidney disorders include nephritis (inflammation of the kidney structures from infection), poly-cystic kidneys (multiple cysts grow in the kidney), renal acidosis, diabetic kidney disease, renal cancer and kidney stones. Acute diseases include nephritis, kidney abscess and problems caused by trauma to the kidneys.
Anything that causes a reduced blood flow to the kidneys, causes damage to the delicate kidney structures and tissues or blocks or restricts urine flow from the kidneys can eventually or rapidly lead to symptoms. When kidney function is impaired, waste products, fluids and salts accumulate in the blood which can lead to symptoms such as water retention (oedema) under the eyes or around the lower legs and ankles, body fatigue and tiredness, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, dry or itchy skin, pains in the back at waist level, fever, difficulty in concentrating, weakness in the legs, sleeplessness, high blood pressure, blood in the urine, excess protein in the urine, decreased flow of urine or foul smelling urine.
See also Kidneys (general health) for more information about kidney function and health.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

A Mediterranean type diet based around the consumption of copious amounts of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, raw salads and raw olive oil is shown to benefit the kidneys and contribute to their overall health and proper functioning. Freshness is key to the Mediterranean diet so avoid foods that are tinned or processed.

Use sesame seed oil as a dressing on foods.

Avoid refined carbohydrates, simple sugars and too many starchy foods like potatoes and white rice. Over reliance on these foods contributes to many of today's chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

Avoid too much red meat and organ meats. If you do eat meat it should be organic, fresh, local and unprocessed ideally.

Avoid drinking fizzy drinks, even carbonated water, as the phosphorous compounds contained in them leaches calcium from the bones and places an extra burden on the kidneys.

Don't use ordinary table salt as it is highly processed and damaging to health. Use sea salt or similar in very small amounts if you need to add salt to food.

Goji berries (also known as wolf berries) are beneficial to the kidneys, as well as the eyes, liver and immune system so try to eat a handful every couple of days or add dried berries to a muesli mix.

Flaxseeds/linseeds are also a good food for the kidneys so add to muesli mixes or munch a small handful.

Okra (ladys fingers), watermelon, parsley, garlic, onions, sweetcorn, dark green leaves, kidney beans, asparagus, berries, grapes and sprouted seeds and grains are all beneficial to the kidneys when eaten as part of a balanced diet.

Avoid too many caffeinated drinks as these increase urine output and can put strain on the kidneys over time.

Keep alcohol consumption to sensible levels.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

One of the finest kidney tonics in the herbal world is the mushroom Ganoderma lucidum or Reishi. It helps the kidneys to efficiently neutralise toxins, lowers the amount of protein in the urine, improves blood flow throughout the body, balances adrenal secretions, and enhances the immune system. It can be taken safely for long periods (years even) with no side effects at the correct medicinal dose (1-2g daily for maintenance of good health, up to 4g of powdered mushroom daily during sickness).
Herbs that increase urine output are called diuretics. They help to stimulate the kidneys into filtering and excreting more fluids, effectively draining any excess fluids from the body. They should not be used long term (a maximum of a couple of months at any one time) as they can exhaust and irritate the kidneys and cause a loss of potassium salts. In times when water retention is a problem they can be invaluable to help lower blood pressure and relieve the pressure placed on the heart when excess fluids are present. They also serve to dilute the urine and help flush through any infection in the kidneys or bladder. Dandelion root and leaves are perhaps the safest diuretics as they also contain lots of potassium; horsetail contains silica which strengthens and heals damaged tissues; buchu, uva ursi and juniper are all antiseptic diuretics which deal with infection in the kidneys or urinary passages; couchgrass, cornsilk, marshmallow root are diuretics that soothe and protect the kidney and urinary passageways, healing any tissue damage along the way.
Ground ivy has diuretic properties and cab help with various kidney disorders.
A good all-round kidney tea could contain yarrow, nettle, plantain and elder flowers. Use equal parts of each and drink 2 cups daily to help cleanse and detox the body and potentially strengthen kidney function.
Antispasmodic herbs such as crampbark and chamomile can help to ease the pain and spasm of renal colic.
The herb Rehmannia, or Chinese foxglove, has traditionally been used to aid overworked or underfunctioning kidneys and to build blood and vitality. Take a teaspoon of the tincture in water up to three times daily or add to herbal teas.
Slippery elm tea is very soothing to inflamed or irritated kidneys and passages.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Cider vinegar promotes digestion, assimilation and elimination and it helps neutralize toxic substances taken into the body. It is abundant in potassium, breaks down mucous and other wastes and can assist the kidneys in flushing through wastes and toxins. Take 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar (try to use those sold as 'with the mother', the original ferment, as pasteurised is not the same product) in a glass of water up to six times daily, start slow and build up over weeks if needed.
Keep the body, especially the back and around the waist, warm and cosy. Kidneys don't like feeling cold.
Grate some fresh ginger and place it over the kidneys, followed by a warm cloth and leave on for as long as its warm. Ginger enhances blood flow to the kidney area and contains pain killing substances.

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