The kidneys, like the liver, is required for the removal of toxins from the body before cellular processes become out of sync. Whereas the liver can transform toxins to become less harmful, the kidneys can only extract them for elimination, but it is still a vital organ that directs toxins directly down the elimination pathways.
The main parts of the kidney that filter the blood are the tons of nephrons that filter the wastes from the blood that will pass out into the urine after going through the papillary ducts and kidney reservoirs. Urine typically includes “many by-products of metabolism, like ureas, ammonia, hydrogen ions, creatinine, chemical toxins, medications, synthetic vitamins, and minerals, etc.” (1), but there are many other toxic substances that the kidneys filter from the body.
Some of these toxic substances can, in themselves, damage the kidneys, as they enter the filtering process. Another function of the kidneys is maintaining acid-base balance and preventing ph abnormalities which can lead to many further health issues. Maintaining a predominantly alkaline balance in the body (around 7), is requisite to prevent potential damage to the kidneys. “Acid-inducing diets are believed to impact the kidney through ‘tubular toxicity,’ damage to the tiny, delicate, urine-making tubes in the kidneys” (2). Homeostasis is central to a healthy body!
There are many different ways to ascertain the level of alkalinity or acidity in your body, including assessing your health (many minor to major conditions are linked to acidity in the body) and eating purple cabbage. Urine will be more pink if your body is acidic and greener if your body is more alkaline after consuming purple cabbage!
There are many indicators of an over-acidic body and kidney issues. Some symptoms include pain, urinating often, urine discoloration, swollen body parts, and, even, cardiovascular problems. Heart function is also closely linked to kidney function in that toxin accumulation impacts this organ’s processes, as toxin-filled blood is continually pumped back to the heart.
“If your kidneys do not function properly, metabolic waste products can accumulate in the blood and eventually lead to such symptoms as weakness, shortness of breath, confusion, and abnormal heart rhythms.” (3)
This waste accumulation can be fueled by an acidic diet and toxic chemical consumption!
There are various amounts of evidence that a plant-based high fibre diet with lots of fruits and vegetables sustains kidney health much better than a diet incorporating animal meat. There could be numerous reasons for adopting a plant-based unprocessed diet including the lower amounts of acidic protein, high alkalinity, high amounts of antioxidants, and a lower prevalence of inflammation. Dozens of studies have shown that plant protein is preferable to prevent kidney decline (2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). Meat is highly acidic containing sulfuric acid and uric acid, carcinogenic nitrites, cholesterol, and saturated fat that all alter kidney health. A high-fat diet, in particular, can harm kidney health.
“This concept of lipid nephrotoxicity, or the idea that fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream could be toxic to the kidneys, has since been formalized, based in part on studies that found plugs of fat clogging up the works in autopsied kidneys” (12)
Another form of fat that is inevitably damaging to the kidneys is trans fats found in processed foods like donuts, pastries, ice cream, pizza, fried chicken, and margarine.
Moreover, sugar and high-fructose corn syrup may cause kidney damage also. They can directly damage filtration systems (13), as well as weakening the immune system and increasing inflammation.
“The endogenous production of fructose from glucose (fructogenesis), and the subsequent reduction in ATP and increase in uric acid, contributes to high glucose-induced inflammation (inflammatory cytokine and chemokine expression) and increased macrophage infiltration in the kidney.” (14, 15)
The additional acidity strains the kidneys which struggle to maintain acid-base balance and causes unnatural immune processes.
Kidney damage from extracted chemical and toxin consumption can also be ample in terms of the effect on multiple kidney factions. These include an impact on blood flow, cellular function, and tissue integrity leading to tissue damage (16). These are commonly consumed in processed foods or from other toxic products.
A list of these includes:
- heavy metals: cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, platinum, and uranium
- fluorinated hydrocarbons (e.g. non-stick teflon pans)
- smoking (cadmium and nicotine)
- salt consumption
- hidden phosphates in additives (e.g. acid balancing, anti-caking, and flavourings)
- harmful minerals
- excess vitamins from supplements
- EDTA (body care products)
Two more habits for kidney health include drinking lots of water and consuming abundant amounts of fruit. Water and fresh fruit assist to cleanse and detox the kidneys by helping with toxin elimination.
“When there isn’t enough water in the body, waste flowing through the kidneys is concentrated. The concentrated waste damages the kidneys and reduces their ability to properly filter waste.” (18)
Fruit has a high percentage of water, so all fruit will wash through the kidneys with additional antioxidants and phytochemicals that heal, improve, and strengthen them, such as anthocyanins, lycopene, beta-carotene, and flavonoids!
As well as this, a range of herbs are helpful to detox the kidneys including:
- rhubarb root
- saw palmetto
- poke root
(1) Morse, R., 2004. The Detox Miracle Sourcebook. 1st ed. Chino Valley, AZ: Kalindi Press.
(2) Greger, M., 2018. How not to die. 3rd ed. London: Pan Books: 193
(3) Greger, M., 2018. How not to die. 3rd ed. London: Pan Books: 190
(4) Moore, J., 2021. Whole-Food Low-Protein Plant-Based Nutrition to Prevent or Slow Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease. Patient Education, [online] 31(2). Available at: <https://www.jrnjournal.org/article/S1051-2276(20)30082-0/fulltext> [Accessed 21 May 2021].
(5) Azadbakht L, Shakerhosseini R, Atabak S, Jamshidian M, Mehrabi Y, Esmaill-Zadeh A. Beneficiary effect of dietary soy protein on lowering plasma levels of lipid and improving kidney function in type II diabetes with nephropathy. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003; 57 (10): 1292-4
(6) Kontessis PA, Bossinakou I, Sarika L, et al. Renal, metabolic, and hormonal responses to proteins of different origin in normotensive, nonprotienuric type I diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 1995; 18 (9): 1233-40.
(7) Teixera SR, Tappenden KA, Carson L, et al. Isolated soy protein consumption reduces urinary albumin excretion and improves the serum lipid profile in men with type 2 diabetes mellitus and nephropathy. J Nutr. 2004; 134 (8): 1874-80.
(8) Stephenson TJ, Setchell KD, Kendall CW, Jenkins DJ, Anderson JW, Fanti P. Effect of soy protein-rich diet on renal function in young adults with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Clin Nephrol. 2005; 64 (1): 1-11.
(9) Jibani MM, Bloodworth LL, Foden E, Griffiths KD, Galpin OP. Predominantly vegetarian diet in patients with incipient and early clinical diabetic nephropathy affects on albumin excretion rate and nutritional status. Diabet Med. 1991; 8 (10): 949-53
(10) Bosch JP, Saccaggi A, Lauer A, Ronco C, Belledonne M, Glabman S. Renal functional reserve in humans. Effect of protein intake on glomerular filtration rate. Am J Med. 1983; 75 (6): 943-50.
(11) Liu ZM, Ho SC, Chen YM, Tang N, Woo J. Effect of whole soy and purified isoflavone daidzein on renal function – a 6-month randomized controlled trial in equol-producing postmenopausal women with prehypertension. Clin Biochem. 2014; 47 (13-14): 1250-6.
(12) Greger, M., 2018. How not to die. 3rd ed. London: Pan Books: 191
(13) Diabetes UK. 2021. Diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease). [online] Available at: <https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications/kidneys_nephropathy#:~:text=High%20blood%20glucose%20(sugar)%20levels,your%20body%20in%20your%20urine.> [Accessed 21 May 2021].
(14) DiNicolantonio, J., Bhutani, J. and O’Keefe, J., 2016. Added sugars drive chronic kidney disease and its consequences: A comprehensive review. [online] Insulinresistance.org. Available at: <https://insulinresistance.org/index.php/jir/article/view/3/4#CIT0021_3> [Accessed 21 May 2021].
(15) Lanaspa MA, Ishimoto T, Cicerchi C, et al. Endogenous fructose production and fructokinase activation mediate renal injury in diabetic nephropathy. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2014;25:2526–2538. http://dx.doi.org/10.1681/ASN.2013080901
(16) Pizzorno, J., 2015. The Kidney Dysfunction Epidemic, Part 1: Causes. Integr Med (Encinitas)., [online] 14(6), pp.8-13. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4718206/#:~:text=The%20kidney%20excretes%20toxins%20through,well%20as%20into%20the%20urine> [Accessed 21 May 2021].
(17) Crystalrunhealthcare.com. 2021. Kidneys & The Bladder Work Together To Remove Toxins. [online] Available at: <https://www.crystalrunhealthcare.com/articles/how-kidneys-and-the-bladder-work-together-to-remove-toxins> [Accessed 21 May 2021].
(18) Aniys, A., 2017. Alkaline Plant Based Diet. 1st ed. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform: 81.